N4L 133: "Dust Bowl Girls" by Lydia Reeder

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By Janet Perry, Janet Perry: blogger, and Nonfiction book lover. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

SUMMARY

In her first book, Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory, Lydia Reeder captures the gripping true story of an underdog women’s championship basketball team. Boxes of family history documents introduced Reeder to Sam Babb, her great uncle and the underdog team’s coach during the Depression. An exceptional recruiter, Babb targeted talented, hard-working, strong, smart young women—many off the farm, many of Native American descent. By offering them basketball scholarships to Oklahoma Presbyterian College (OPC), Babb also gave them not only a chance to get an education while playing a sport they loved but also a shot at a better life. In time, he helped them “stop seeing themselves as small-town high school athletes and start imagining victory.”

Although powerful political figures, as well as medical and educational professionals, denounced the “unladylike” sport, these female trailblazers paved the way for future generations of women basketball players. More than just a captivating sports story, Dust Bowl Girls also layers in the history of women’s rights and women’s sports, the Depression, along with several personal stories of struggle and triumph.

KEY CHALLENGES

  • Poverty – families needed young women to stay home and help work the farms
  • Homesickness – living away from home, especially during the holidays, affects the players on a Christmastime road trip
  • Victorian-era modesty restrictions – long skirts, bustles, hoops, and corsets
  • Male chauvinism and feminine expectations
  • Special rules – e.g., coaching from the sidelines was disallowed
  • Other women and women’s physical education organizations – e.g., Blanche Trilling, Lou Henry Hoover
  • False scientific beliefs – e.g., women’s reproductive organs would be damaged through playing sports

KEY QUOTES

  • “Most country girls loved basketball. At school, friends and teachers didn’t give a second thought to girls picking cotton or running the buck rakes…so no one ever bothered to consider if it was unfeminine for them to play basketball. They practiced on dirt patches behind barns or on playgrounds, in small schoolrooms, or in large converted warehouses.”
  • “God forbid a cherished daughter would practice softball or track-and-field over dancing the foxtrot…But the worst game a girl could ever get good at was basketball.”
  • “A girl shouldn’t work too hard to get good at anything because by her very nature she didn’t have, and would never develop, the courage, power, and self-knowledge to succeed. This dark philosophy grew from the deep-seated belief that women were God’s rejects.”

BUY Dust Bowl Girls: A Team's Quest for Basketball Glory (Thorndike Press Large Print Popular and Narrative Nonfiction)

RECOMMENDATION BUY Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

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