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Print out the materials for a Gallery Walk activity, set up your classroom, then have students go to the three designated stations, adding their reflections at each stop. If students are unsure about what to write in their comments, prompt them with a few questions:
- What do you notice about how women are being portrayed here?
- Using your prior knowledge about the state of women’s rights at this time, what stands out to you?
After your students have added their reflections at each station, come together as a class and ask the following questions to generate discussion. Have students identify which station gave them their answers.
Questions for Students:
- What was the danger Philip K. Wrigley perceived?
- What was the solution that Wrigley and his team came up with to address that danger?
- How is Wrigley’s solution related to the “Rosie the Riveter” phenomenon? Can you draw some historical parallels?
- What does Wrigley emphasize in his statement regarding the character of the players in the AAGPBL?
- How do the photographs in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 reinforce Wrigley’s insistent statement about the “femininity” of the female baseball players?
- What strikes you about the name of the league itself and the names of the various teams? Was the men’s equivalent league a “Boys” league?
- Why do you think there were such efforts to “feminize” the women who played baseball?
- What do you think happened to the AAGPBL after the war ended?
To the teacher:
1. Station #1: Wrigley feared that Major League Baseball parks would collapse financially due to the war.
2. Station #1: Wrigley founded the AAGBPL.
3. Women were taking traditionally male jobs, whether in industry or sports, to cover for enlisted men.
4. Station #1: Wrigley insists the players be inherently feminine.
5. Station #3: The photographs depict the players partaking in what would have been considered feminine activities such as skipping and putting on makeup.
6. Station #2: The league name refers to its players as “girls” as opposed to “women.” The team names were also “feminine.”
7. Some have argued that there was anxiety, resentment, even anger about women taking on male roles, whether in industry or sport, and this effort to “feminize” female ballplayers was one way of controlling the entrance of women into a traditionally male sphere.
8. Let students have an open, opinion-driven discussion around this last question, which will be answered in the clip that follows.
Show clip #3 from Ken Burns’s Baseball series. Ask students to take notes as the clip plays. Following that, consider the following questions as a class.
Questions for Students:
- As the clip makes clear, less than a decade after the end of World War II women were “banned from playing at any level of professional baseball.” Why do you think this was so? How do you think it affected the women involved?
- Look again at Fig. 2 from Handout #1 to answer the questions that follow: Women in industry as a percentage of all production workers.
- What happened to the number of women in the workforce after the end of the war in 1945? Compare the percentages in 1944 to 1950.
- Why do you think the numbers dropped so dramatically? In what industries were the changes greatest and why?
- How do you think that affected the women involved?
Read aloud the following quote about World War II and women in the workforce from Elaine Tyler May, Professor of American History, University of Minnesota:
“Women made airplanes and warships, munitions and tanks, working in technical and scientific fields for the first time. They enjoyed the work, the good pay, the opportunities for advancement, and the excitement of working with other women and men on important jobs that needed to be done for the war.
Most wanted to continue working after the war ended. But, of course, millions of men came back from serving in the military . . . Women were asked to do their part by leaving the job market. Many were fired from their jobs so the returning veterans could be re-employed . . . [The wartime role of women in the workplace] caused huge anxiety.”
—Elaine Tyler May
Questions for Students:
- In what ways might the changing roles of men and women in the workplace have generated “anxiety”?
- What does Elaine Tyler May say about what happened to women in the workplace after the soldiers returned home following the war?
Making Connections: Do you know any women in your family who had to leave the workforce for one reason or another? Was it hard to adjust to the change? Why? How do their experiences relate to those of the women who played baseball during World War II?
Organize your class into two groups. Assign each group an opposing position on the following question: do you think the changes in women’s roles during World War II were a positive experience for females in the U.S. or not? Ask them to support their arguments with information from the pre-lesson timeline and the materials shared in the lesson. Think about this question in relation to women’s roles both during and after the war.
Following the debate, have an open discussion about the same question. Ask students to support their viewpoints with reference to what was learned in the lesson.
Reflection Question for Key Terms:
Write a short paragraph about women in baseball, making use of the Key Terms from the pre-lesson activity.
- Do a research project on women in the workforce in the United States from 1950 to the present. Was there an increase in women workers? How do you explain any changes that took place?
- Create a presentation about a particular woman who did something to alter the course of women’s roles in the workplace. In many vocational areas dominated by a male presence, individual women have had to be the first, establishing a presence that allowed other women to come after them. Your presentation could take the form of a classroom display, a powerpoint presentation, a short play, or any other form that lends itself to the subject.
- Have your students read Martha Ackmann’s Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, The First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League. After reading the book, have a class-wide discussion about Toni Stone’s exceptional situation.
- How is Toni Stone’s experience in the Negro League different from that of the players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League?
- Is Toni Stone a better model for how gender in sports should be handled?
- Does Toni Stone’s story suggest ways that sports can approach gender issues today?
- Is there a Toni Stone in contemporary sports?