Women’s History Month Profile – The Girls of Summer

Celebrating Women’s History Month doesn’t always mean honoring women in politics, science or social justice. In fact sometimes it doesn’t even mean honoring a woman, sometimes it’s about a 12 year-old girl named Tubby who loved to play baseball.

In 1950 twelve year old Kathryn Johnston decided that she wanted play Little League with her brother. She loved the game and wanted to play so when tryouts came to Corning, NY she decided to go for it. There was one small obstacle though, Kathryn was afraid that they wouldn’t let her play because she was a girl. Though there was no official rule barring girls from playing in Little League, none had ever done it.

So Kathryn cut her hair and joined her brother for tryouts, pretending to be a boy. She called herself, Tubby.

Tubby made the team and began playing first base. But after two weeks she came clean with her coach after she realized there was no way she’d be able to keep her secret the entire season. Her coach, who understood a god first baseman had nothing to with gender and everything to do with talent, told Kathryn she could keep playing, as herself. Johnston finished out the season paying ball, as a girl.

Unfortunately Little League officials didn’t like the idea and in 1951 passed a ruling barring girls from playing Little League at all.

That ruling would stay in effect for 20 years.

It wasn’t until the National Association of Women (NOW) backed up another 12-year-old SheHero, Maria Pepe who challenged the rule when she tried out for and made the Young Democrats team of Hoboken, New Jersey. The Young Democrats were told that if they let Pepe play, they’d be removed from the charter.

But with Pepe’s unwillingness to give up and the power of NOW behind her, by 1974 the ruling was changed and girls were finally allowed to play ball, officially.

So remember the next time you’re out on the Little League field and you see a few girls out there playing, that the reason they’re out there is because a couple of twelve year old girls just really wanted to play ball.

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month all month long! Is there a woman in history who means something special to you? Tell us about her!

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