From Wimbledon to the Charles River: Girls, Women, Tennis, NBA, and Crew

Photo from the  Underwood Archives

Photo from the Underwood Archives

How Empowering Girls to Confront Conflict and Buck Perfection Helps Their Well-Being

Girls, more than boys, are socialized to feel the pressure to please people in their lives, to seek perfection, and to do what they can to avoid conflict, which means they don't learn, as boys do, how to "fight" back in ways that can lead them to constructive outcomes. Here's a story by KQED's Mindshift that presents parents and educators with ways to help young girls to "engage in productive conflict, acknowledge and grow from mistakes, develop emotional intelligence and take responsibility for the role they each play in social situations." By the age of six, girls are less likely than boys to identify their own gender as being "really, really smart." 

Marriage and Motherhood at Wimbledon

From  The   New York Times , July 4, 2018

From The New York Times, July 4, 2018

First marriage:

If Serena Williams wins Wimbledon this week, she'll be a married woman champion. That means her name as champion will switch from Miss S. Williams, which is what it's been, to Mrs. A. Williams, though she neither goes by Mrs. nor is Williams her husband's surname (Alexis Ohanian), which are the only two ways that would befit putting a Mrs. in front of it. Tradition dictates, however, that this is how her name would be recorded, just as it was for Chrissy Evert (Mrs. J.M. Lloyd) and Billie Jean King (Mrs. L.W. King). Fortunately, the club has a compendium that logs the marital history of every woman who has reached the semifinals or finals, except for Martina Navartilova who married a female spouse.

If you don’t know who Mrs. R. Cawley is, you can consult a glossary in the Wimbledon Compendium, an exhaustive record of the tournament’s history. Compiled by the Wimbledon librarian, the compendium also logs the marriage history — husband, wedding date and location — of any woman who has reached the semifinals or final. No such record is kept for the men who have graced the tournament’s final four. Nor does the book appear to include any same-sex marriages, like the nine-time singles champion Martina Navratilova’s 2014 union to Julia Lemigova.
— The New York Times, July 4, 2018

Now motherhood:

It was nearly 30 years after Evonne Goolagong won the Wimbledon singles in 1980 that another mother, Kim Clijsters, became a Grand Slam champion. She  won the 2009 United States Open, the first of three Grand Slam titles that she collected after the birth of her first child. This year six mothers were in the Wimbledon draw, compared with 20 players who are fathers. Now Serena and other moms are speaking out about having nurseries at tournament sites.

‘When I was younger, I was thinking by the age of 27 I would be so tired of tennis that I wouldn’t want to do it,’ said Vera Zvonareva, who is now 33 years old. ‘That was the first thought. The second thought was if I have a family, then for sure my career is over.’

Williams and Azarenka, two of Wimbledon’s newer moms, have clout, and no reservations about exercising it. Azarenka, 28, a member of the WTA Player Council, has championed giving top players returning from their maternity leaves seeding consideration at tournaments.

Wimbledon broke with the status quo by granting the 183rd-ranked Williams the No. 25 seeding here, and the United States Open last month announced it would revise its approach to seeding players coming back from pregnancy.
— New York Times, July 9, 2018

Serena Williams has shared with the public her postpartum depression and what it took to fight herself back into world-class competitive shape. Then, this week from Wimbledon she tweeted about crying when she heard her daughter took her first steps and she wasn't there to see her.

Serena's Tweet about Daughter's First Steps.jpeg

Moms throughout the world empathized with her feelings and tweeted her back with stories of baby and toddler milestones they'd missed, too.

Then, there's the issue of how the media treats motherhood in the context of tournament coverage. When it happened that two moms played each other The Globe and Mail’s headline read: “Serena Williams to play Evgeniya Rodina in battle of the moms at Wimbledon," to which many tweeters replied as these two did:

Huff Post: ‘Battle Of The Moms’ Headline For Serena Williams-Evgeniya Rodina Game Causes Uproar

Huff Post: ‘Battle Of The Moms’ Headline For Serena Williams-Evgeniya Rodina Game Causes Uproar


Finally, the Ball Girls

It was in 1977 that Wimbledon first invited girls to try out to be ball girls. Here's how UPI reported this news:

The All‐England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon bowed to the women’s liberation movement today and said It would permit ballgirls for the first time at this summer’s annual tennis tournament. The club has agreed to employ 10 girls from schools in the Wimbledon area to help the 70 boys it will hire for the championships. The girls will wear the same purple and green shirts as the boys, but with skirts instead of shorts. The club board’s decision resulted from a campaign by girls at Pelham High School and supported by their games’ supervisor, Liz Kelly.
— The New York Times, March 26, 1977

Not until three years later did Wimbledon mix ball boys and girls on a team (1980), and five years would pass again before ball girls appeared on Centre Court for the first time.

Wimbledon website

Wimbledon website

How ballgirls and ballboys are selected today for Wimbledon.

Gender and Referees:

How two black women referees expanded the conversation about representation in sports

Referees have been left out of the conversation

Lots of eyes turned toward Danielle Scott and Angelica Suffren, two black women referees, when they showed up at an NBA Summer League game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. It's the first year that the NBA recruited women to officiate at their training ground program like the NBPA Top 100 Camp. In 2017, a third of the referees in its minor league basketball program were women.

Building a pipeline?

Women referees in NBA Summer games.jpeg

Closer to Home: From Rower to Cox

Gained new appreciation for coxswains who more often than not are women given our lighter weight. In my case, me being cox was not about lesser weight but only because I volunteered to take on this role for a 1,000 meter race on Sunday morning on the Charles River. There is a lot of multitasking involved – the cox is motivator-in-chief, primary steerer, stroke rate watcher, and the person in charge of 8 rowers whose adrenaline kicks in. It's the cox's job to focus them on setting a powerful, sustainable rhythm that means catching together to start each stroke, pushing back with power from their feet/legs, and never losing focus in the competition of a sprint race. Here's photos taken of us during the race and on the dock upon our return:

The Cronwell Cup, July 8, 2018, Charles River

The Cronwell Cup, July 8, 2018, Charles River

Cronwell Cup 2.JPG
Back home at the CRI dock, Cronwell Cup 8

Back home at the CRI dock, Cronwell Cup 8








Play it Again, Sam(antha): Highlights from a Week of Low Lights

A Woman's Work: Home Economics* (*I took Woodworking Instead) drawings and story by Carolita Johnson

A Woman's Work: Home Economics* (*I took Woodworking Instead) drawings and story by Carolita Johnson

The girls in my 7th grade year were the first to be allowed to take woodworking at my junior high school in Amherst, MA. Before us, before the very early 1960s, boys went to woodworking classes while girls went to home economics. There, we learned to sew and cook and about how babies are made, but we did that only when the black shades were fully drawn on basement windows to be sure nobody (the boys) looked while we were being taught what girls needed to know.

Perhaps its why Carolita Johnson's story leapt out, grabbed me, and tugged me in.

Published on  Longreads

Published on Longreads

Carolita never did write about woodworking class, but that didn't matter. With every scene of her tale about her marriage, I sensed I knew precisely what she said she felt. It was as though she was writing what could have been my life. Why not? Our girlhoods – woodworking and lots more opportunities some girls in our generation had – gave us the same running start. Oh, by the way, the first thing I made in my woodworking class was a shoe shine kit for my dad. I still have the shoe shine kit – along with gratitude to my father for always pushing me to live my dreams no matter how unlikely their success or how few women shared them.

My dad and me.

My dad and me.

This is first of what I hope will be my weekly blogs spotlighting stories that stick with me through the week. Focus will be on lives of girls and women and most weeks I'll shoot for having at least some highlight women in sports. I'll annotate each story with my insights and thoughts that come out of life experiences. Hoping you'll comment so we can open up a dialogue about these stories – and events and opinions they bring to mind. 

                    – Melissa Ludtke, author of forthcoming memoir,  "Locker Women Talk: A Woman's Struggle to Get Inside"


Mercury 13: The Women Who Weren't Astronauts

Look magazine cover, Feb. 2, 1960

Look magazine cover, Feb. 2, 1960

I was eight years old when this magazine cover was published. The idea of a "girl" going into space seemed unimaginable and I wasn't the only one thinking that way.  Despite passing every one of the tests, physical and psychological, that the Mercury 7 astronauts (all men) passed, Betty Skelton (pictured on the LOOK cover), NASA declared that neither she nor any of the other 13 women who'd taken the astronaut tests would go into space. It would be 23 years before Sally Ride would blast off in the Challenger space shuttle, becoming the first American woman in space.

Betty died in 2011, but many of the Mercury 13 women pilots who tried out to be astronauts share their stories in this magnificent documentary Mercury 13, a Netflix original

SYNOPSIS: Mercury 13 is a remarkable story of the women who were tested for spaceflight in 1961 before their dreams were dashed in being the first to make the trip beyond Earth. NASA’s ‘man in space’ program, dubbed ‘Project Mercury’ began in 1958. The men chosen – all military test pilots – became known as The Mercury 7. But away from the glare of the media, behind firmly closed doors, female pilots were also screened. Thirteen of them passed and, in some cases, performed better than the men. They were called the Mercury 13 and had the ‘right stuff’ but were, unfortunately, the wrong gender. Underneath the obsession of the space race that gripped America, the women were aviation pioneers who emerged thirsty for a new frontier, but whose time would have to wait. The film tells the definitive story of thirteen truly remarkable women who reached for the stars but were ahead of their time. A Netflix original documentary directed by David Sington (The Fear of 13) and Heather Walsh.
— Film Review: Netflix’s Mercury 13 Shows The Cosmic Cruelty of Sexism

Women Sports Reporters: Sexism at the World Cup

‘I prefer to hear a male voice’: Female commentators find harsh judgment at World Cup

Washington Post, June 26, 2018

Washington Post, June 26, 2018

Category: Happens All The Time:

A man complains about the sound of a woman's voice invading what he considers "his" space. Happened again this week when Vicki Sparks became the first woman to broadcast a World Cup game on British TV. Didn't take long a British soccer player to go on national TV to say he didn't think her voice belonged there. Good news: So many pushed back against his comment on Good Morning Britain,  that by afternoon he had to apologize, and he did. So, too, did a few of the men who groped and kissed three on-air women reporters at the World Cup after the women called them out on their gross, sexist behavior.

“Don’t do this! Never do this again,” Ms Guimaraes shouted at the man, who can be heard apologising in the video.

”Don’t do this, I don’t allow you to do this, never, OK? This is not polite, this is not right.

”Never do this to a woman, OK? Respect.”
— BBC News: World Cup reporter Julia Guimaraes' fury at on-camera kiss attempt

Of course, this happens in other realms, too, like politics, really any place a woman challenges the presumed power of men. In no time at all, she's being told about the irritating pitch of her voice. Remember Hillary Clinton and how The Atlantic did a scientific investigation of her sound. 

And Getty Images faced published a photo album, World Cup 2018: The Sexiest Fans” that featured images of only female fans. After receiving a lot of backlash for this photo album, Getty apologized and removed the album, saying that it did not meet “editorial standards.”

Nudity and Athletes = Women's Empowerment

From Jessica Mendoza's Twitter feed

From Jessica Mendoza's Twitter feed

Once upon a time – back in the 1970s when I was a reporter at Sports Illustrated – my magazine published its swimsuit issue as soon as the professional football season ended. Hey, the guys needed something to look at and women with as little clothes on as possible proved to be the best-selling answer. Now SI's swimsuit issue also features women athletes like Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Simone Biles posing in bikinis and displaying women's muscularity.

Just as I admire today's women sportswriters and broadcasters for speaking up and pushing back against the vile things said on social media about them, I get how showing strength in a woman's body and breaking out of the male gaze expectations is empowering, and I applaud these athletes for pushing boundaries by showing who they are as women. Here's my recent blog post about SI's most popular issue. 

ESPN does, too, in its annual body issue, featuring male and female athletes, all posing nude, with their private parts creatively concealed. See gallery below for photos on Twitter feeds sent out about the ESPN Body Issue, primarily featuring softball star Lauren Chamberlain.

Toni Stone: Woman Player in Negro League

From story published by  Timeline

From story published by Timeline

This woman shattered the gender barrier in pro baseball

When Toni Stone joined the Negro League, she became the first woman regular on a big-league team

‘There’s always got to be a first in everything,’ Toni Stone told Ebony in 1953. She knew what she was talking about. By that point, Stone had been the first in a lot of things: the first girl on her church’s baseball team; the first on a traveling barnstorming team; and, now, she had just become the first woman to play Negro League baseball, breaking the gender line at the same time Major League Baseball was making strides with racial integration. Stone felt the sting of both racism and sexism in her journey to becoming a professional in the sport she’d loved since childhood.
— Ashawnta Jackson, writing on Timeline

History is a great reminder that long before women marched for their rights, there were women like Toni Stone, who in doing what she loved the best, was carving paths into places that girls and women didn't usually go. Even nationally syndicated columnist Dorothy Kilgallen took note of her singular success, praising her with these words: “She belts home runs as easily as most girls catch stitches in their knitting, and the sports boys are goggle-eyed.”Here's a video about Toni Stone, narrated by Martha Ackmann, the author of "Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone."

Trans women migrate to escape violence and stay alive:

Reporter Alice Driver takes on the journey with one of them.

As dawn arrives, Marfil Estrella looks out the window of the bus that will take her from San Salvador, El Salvador to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Photos by  Danielle Villasana .

As dawn arrives, Marfil Estrella looks out the window of the bus that will take her from San Salvador, El Salvador to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Photos by Danielle Villasana.

We return to Longreads for Alice Driver's evocative and elegantly written story about the journey north undertaken by a trans woman who will seek asylum in the United States in an attempt to save her life.

At Mister Donut, I sat across the table from Avelar and asked Marfil Estrella if I could join her on her journey to the United States. Marfil Estrella, who had tried to migrate before but had faced violence, said my presence would make her feel safer. I agreed to accompany her to Tapachula, Mexico, via bus, then she planned to spend a few months there getting her papers in order to legally pass through Mexico. Avelar, who had helped Marfil Estrella in the process of preparing paperwork for asylum, said she remembered that Marfil Estella had said to her when they first met, ‘I want to leave here because the streets right now are a time bomb. I don’t want to be left lying in the street, as so many have been left. I want to seek freedom. I want to seek peace.’
— The Road to Asylum Trans women migrate to escape violence and stay alive. Alice Driver accompanied one of these women on her journey, byAlice Driver










So Long High Heels: Hello Equality, Once Again

Pink high heel.jpeg

I made a mistake. I wore heels. Not stilettos. Mine weren't even close to high enough that my heel looked brittle enough to snap. Slender at its point, my heels were not so pointy as to render me tipsy or tippy. Instead, I swayed, since I'd soon discovered that the cushiony cover on the heel tip was gone so what met the floor was a thin, metal spike. I felt like a tap dancer trying not to tap but only to remain upright as I walked gingerly across the slippery airport floor. 

Gail Sheehy wrote "Passages" – about the predictable crises of adult life. I don't remember reading about this one, though it's certainly one that could be predicted. Won't there come a time in every woman's life – born out of pain – when her body rebels and she sends a message to Self: "Self, I've worn the last high heeled shoes of my life."

Last Wednesday night, when hobbled by foot pain, I left my plane in stocking feet. I walked through the airport, my shoes dangling from my hand, and then to the the parking lot to await my Lyft ride home, and up the stairs into my room where the shoes fell to the floor, never to be worn again.

My last high heels.

My last high heels.


It's flats from now on. I never did wear heels all that much, but now I'm really done.

My mid-sixties heels' passage got me to wondering what embodiment of youth I will next throw over to age? Tight fitted waists on pants are fading fast. Bungee jumping is definitely out, though I'm not at all sure that in my younger years I would have done that. Not much else I can think of, yet.

What's comforting about ditching my heels is realizing I'm catching a wave of feminist #MeToo rebellion, and not just among peers. Here's a headline on a story I love:

This Unspoken Rule About Heels Is the Reason Kristen Stewart Ditched Her Shoes at Cannes

Kristen Stewart at Cannes.jpeg
Kristen Stewart made headlines at the Cannes Film Festival this week for taking her shoes off on the red carpet. And if you look back into the archives, you’ll realize she did almost the same thing in 2016 when she swapped her black Christian Louboutins for blue Vans sneakers. Her decision is not just about comfort — it’s about making a statement against the Cannes policy that requires women to wear high heels. Although the policy is more of an unspoken rule and isn’t etched in stone like other parts of the Cannes dress code, it’s become clear that women wearing heels are more welcome than those wearing flats.
— Popsugar, May 18, 2018

And this one

How High Heels Became a Feminist Issue at Cannes

Outrage ensued after a group of women wearing flat shoes was turned away from a Cannes red carpet. Why is the high heel such a charged piece of clothing?

The controversy at Cannes reflects a longstanding debate about feminism and high heels.

Indeed, the high heel—as the Brooklyn Museum’s Killer Heels exhibition revealed—is fraught with historical baggage.

From Chinese women teetering on foot-binding wedges to Marilyn Monroe wiggling in her stilettos, high heels have symbolized femininity, sex, power, and submission—sometimes all at once.

They can never be neutral. Women who wear them know this, whether they do so to express their own feelings of power and control or to look and feel sexy. ... Still some feminists insist women can’t be taken seriously in four-inch platforms. Writing in the anthology Fifty Shades of Feminism, Sandi Toksvig, the Danish writer and actress, argues that women ‘will never meet men on an equal footing … while they literally can’t stand up for themselves.’
— Daily Beast, May 19, 2015

After finally ditching my high heels, it's fun to feel part of what's become a broader cultural rebellion in which what women wear (or don't wear) on their feel sends a signal about our freedom.

Here's to flats and freedom!

It may seem somewhat overblown to declare the seemingly trivial act of wearing flats to a formal event as an act of resistance, but the potential impact is truly significant. After all, it’s not that long ago that women were forbidden from wearing pants in public,” says Juliet Williams, an associate professor of gender studies and associate dean of social sciences at UCLA. “By this logic, the expectation (if not formal compulsion) that women wear high heels may be seen as one more shackle that needs to be cast off if women are ever to truly compete, toe-to-comfortable-toe, with men.
— The history of the high heel – and what it says about women today, The Boston Globe, June 28, 2015

For a history of high heels – and what they tell us about women's lives, check out this Boston Globe story.

Her Mom Dies and a Daughter's Hockey Play Helps to Heal a Family's Grief

Wulf family.jpeg

My friend and colleague at Sports Illustrated, Steve Wulfwrote about Elizabeth, his hockey-playing daughter who is ending a remarkable on-ice career at Middlebury College, and his late wife, Bambi Bachman Wulf, a friend, too, since our days at Sports Illustrated, and Elizabeth's three siblings and other family member and friends who encircled her after her mother died early in her college years. With their presence, they infused her mom's fiercely spirited devotion to sports into the games Elizabeth played – and by gathering at this rink, together they began to heal their grief. 

This story's title – "As Strong As Mom: How sports helped a family heal" – hints at the essence of Steve's evocative tale about loss and the power of sports to knit together his family with newly found strength. Steve shows how his family, holding sports at its core, summons through Elizabeth's hockey the joy of family being together in their deep and abiding love for Bambi, who left their lives through illness much too soon. They settle into the familiarity of family rituals at the rink as Steve, his grown children, and his and Bambi's first grandchild, root for Elizabeth and her team. In their togetherness, woven by the threads of love they share for sports, they honor and remember their missing family member whose spirit resides in them.

Here's how Steve describes the first game of Elizabeth's hockey season after her mother had died during that summer:

For that first game of the season, Friday, Nov. 17, we descended upon Middlebury from many different directions. John and Abby flew up from Washington, Bo drove up from Philadelphia, Eve hightailed it out of Bristol and my sister Karen headed west from Cape Cod. Me, I was in a such a hurry that I got a speeding ticket for going too fast through Hubbardton, Vermont.

Bo put a HERE WE ARE placard in the seat adjacent to Bambi’s. We waited for the introductions of the starting lineups and heard announcer Liza Sacheli summon “No. 7, from Larchmont, New York, Elizabeth Wulf” out to the center spot. She fist-bumped goalie Lin Han first, then the rest of the starters.

What was different about the introductions this time was that the players all had stickers affixed to the backs of their helmets. On them was a beautiful logo designed by Maddie Winslow’s mother, Olivia — a heart with wings and the initials JBW, Jane Bachman Wulf.

After the anthems, we scurried to the other side of the rink, to the less comfortable concrete steps on the offensive end. It’s a routine borne of both superstition and a better view of Elizabeth at work. Not so weird, really. What is strange is that we don’t sit together, I guess because we don’t want to contract each other’s anxiety.
— ESPN W, As Strong As Mom: How sports helped a family heal
Elizabeth Wulf.jpeg

A bit later in his story, Steve delivers us to the team's championship game.

Kenyon Arena was fairly packed on Sunday to see if Middlebury could win another NESCAC title, Mandigo’s 10th, and the team’s third straight — a feat that had never before been accomplished in NESCAC. I savored Elizabeth’s last spin around home ice. (Sigh.)

She later told me that just before they took the ice for the introductions, Mandigo tugged on her ponytail and said, “Bambi’s gonna help us out today.”

For one final time at Kenyon Arena, we listened to “from Larchmont, New York,” and watched her touch the other starters with her glove. Then, like hardwired birds, we made our roosts on the concrete seats at the other end of the rink. The Mammoths came out strong, dominating the first half of the first period. But Lin Han made some clutch saves, and Middlebury revived itself. At the end of the first period, the score was 0-0.
— ESPNW, As Strong As Mom: How sports helped a family heal

I urge you to read Steve's story to find out how this game ends – and Elizabeth's role in its score.

To end my own blog post, there is only one image to share. Its words speak volumes about the young woman I knew at Sports Illustrated when we worked together in the 1970s. Known to us as Bambi, she was Jane at birth, and in her happiest days she was known as Mom.

This is the seat where Bambi always sat in to watch Elizabeth warm up on the home ice of Kenyon Arena.

This is the seat where Bambi always sat in to watch Elizabeth warm up on the home ice of Kenyon Arena.

I choose to have Steve"s opening paragraph end my blog post: 

A few hours before the opening game of the 2017-18 Middlebury College women’s hockey season, a senior center for the team sat in Kenyon Arena’s Seat 7, Row AA. It was the same seat that her mother liked to sit in while watching warm-ups, and the coach of the Panthers, Bill Mandigo, had just shown her the plaque he had affixed to it in tribute to her mother, who had died between last season and the one about to start. The plaque read: ALWAYS WATCHING.
— ESPNW, As Strong as Mom: How sports helped a family heal

In Memory of Christina-Taylor Green: A Girl Who Loved Baseball

Christina-Taylor Green watched over her younger brother, reading to him as a big sister does. in her memory, this sculpture was dedicated and stands in sad remembrance of this girl who was born on 9/11, who died from when bullets aimed at Representative Gabby Giffords hit her. That was on a morning when Christina, who was nine year old, awakened feeling excited that her neighbor was taking her to meet a woman she admired in politics.

Christina-Taylor Green watched over her younger brother, reading to him as a big sister does. in her memory, this sculpture was dedicated and stands in sad remembrance of this girl who was born on 9/11, who died from when bullets aimed at Representative Gabby Giffords hit her. That was on a morning when Christina, who was nine year old, awakened feeling excited that her neighbor was taking her to meet a woman she admired in politics.

Christina-Taylor had just been elected her class president at Mesa Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. Her plans were to start a club at her school to help her less fortunate classmates. I knew none of this about her or much about her aunt Kim Green, when in my last blog I shared the photograph of Kim as a girl wearing a baseball glove who then was just about the same age as Christina when she died. Kim had tried to play on her town's Little League Baseball team, but she couldn't because she was a girl. When Christina was nine, she was the only girl playing baseball on her Little League team. She put her glove on to play second base.

Girls in Baseball 1974 Kim Green.jpeg

When Christina was nine, she was the only girl playing baseball on her Little League team. She put her glove on to play second base.

Christina-Taylor Green

Christina-Taylor Green

Two days after I published my blog, "Play Ball," this comment arrived from Perry Barber. I didn't know Perry then, but I know I lot more about her now – and this tells me why she wrote to me about Christina-Taylor. More on Perry later. Now the words Perry shared with me:

Kim Green, the little girl shown in the photo from 1974, is the sister of Roxanna Green and aunt to Roxanna’s daughter, another baseball-loving little girl whose name was Christina-Taylor Green.

Christina was murdered in the same Arizona shooting that severely injured then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords back in 2011. Christina was honored at the very first Baseball For All Nationals tournament in Kissimmee, Florida in 2013; the more than two hundred baseball-playing girls from all over the globe who participated in the tournament, organized by BFA founder Justine Siegal, wore armbands with Christina’s initials in her memory. Christina’s spirit continues to inspire other girls who play and love baseball the way she did, the way her aunt and her whole family has done for generations. 

I wrote these words to Perry: 

How remarkable, Perry Barber, for you to introduce me to Christina-Taylor Green and to share her remarkable life with me – a life of such extraordinary promise, beauty and heart, a life which so sadly was shortened by the violence that’s all too horribly visited on children in America today. And to learn from you about her love of baseball, how Baseball for All honored her at its National Tournament, and how the girls playing in it wore armbands in her memory. Your words are leading me to write another blog post that I will be sharing soon, words of mine in honor of Christina-Taylor, a girl I wish I’d had the pleasure of meeting, a girl whose memory will stay within me forever. With gratitude for you enabling me to know her. Melissa

And then I put Perry Barber's name into Google search and before long I knew why Perry toook the moments she did to write to me about Christina-Taylor. With this girl and woman, baseball became a shared passion.

Perry Barber, MSBL umpire

Perry Barber, MSBL umpire

Soon, I came upon this story, "Perry Barber: Renaissance Umpire," published by the Men’s Senior Baseball League (MSBL)/Men’s Adult Baseball League (MABL), and is my introduction – now yours – to Perry Barber:

Perry Barber is a very extraordinary lady. This 61 year old dynamo is a Jeopardy game show champion from 1972 when Art Flemming paved the way for Alex Trebek and is also a musician who’s talent took her to the same stage as the ‘Boss’, Bruce Springsteen, as his opening act. She is also an MSBL umpire in her third year of working the MSBL World Series down here in the warm sun of Arizona.
— Perry Barber: Renaissance Umpire

How remarkable that by reading about a threat allegedly made about an 11-year old girl who wanted to play baseball in New Hampshire, I start this magical chain reaction with stories of girls and baseball. How magnificent, too, that Justine Siegal, who in 2009 was the first female coach of a Major League baseball team (the Oakland A's) after she'd founded Baseball for All at the age of 23, was the person to introduce me to Karen Zerby Buzzelle, the mom who'd founded the all girls baseball team, the Boston Slammers. So when the 11-year old girl from New Hampshire came to scrimmage with the Boston Slammers and inspired me to write a blog post about her, I came to learn about Kim Green's long-ago passion to play baseball and how in 1974 her mom Sheila made it happen for Kim and lots of other girls, as moms like Karen still do. Then, I thought about how 1974 had been the year when I followed my passion for baseball and other sports to becoming a researcher and reporter at Sports Illustrated, and in this job I'd become the first woman to cover Major League Baseball full-time and four years later in 1978 I'd win a federal court case to give women equal access to report on baseball.

For Perry Barber to be the one to introduce me to Christina–Taylor, this girl who loved baseball, is fitting. Feeling Now connected with Christina and with the youthful Kim and her childhood friend Alice, and with Perry, makes me wish for the day when our shared passion won't be a story told only by a few of us who love this game and possess the inner drive to want to share it with others. Instead, my dream is that one day, soon, when more girls and women play baseball that the crowds cheering them on and the media telling their stories will be the equal in size and yes, in passion, to those who gather to watch and report on the boys and men.

Now in my mid-60s I'm writing this blog, my first, and I am writing my memoir, Locker Room Talk, about the time in America's history when I was in my mid-20s and women in America marched to fight back against gender discrimination. I want my 21-year old daughter Maya to know how I was able to play a small role in this social movement for gender equality by opening the baseball's locker room doors to the girls and women whose job it was then – and one day would be – to report on baseball.

These doors, I am happy to say, are ones that many women have walked through. 

Play Ball!

Boston Slammers Batter.jpg

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about an 11-year old girl who loves to play baseball. In New Hampshire, where she lives, she ended up in the midst of a controversy created by adult coaches, after a coach allegedly threatened to "bean" her as a tactic to get her to quit playing.

Here is that girl at bat in a scrimmage of the Boston Slammers, an all-girl baseball team. After the Slammers' coaches heard about her situation with her New Hampshire league, where she was the only girl in her age group, the Boston Slammers invited her to play on their team. On Sunday afternoon, she did. Her father, Dan, drove her an hour and a half from Southern New Hampshire to Boston to practice with the Slammers, and while expressing his gratitude for their invitation, he told me that until the Slammers called he hadn't known that all girls baseball teams and leagues existed. Instead of being the only girl on a team, his daughter is now surrounded by girls her age who love playing baseball as much as she does.

The girls' bats, backpacks and batting helmet.

The girls' bats, backpacks and batting helmet.

Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, the Oyster River Youth Association, who oversees sports activities for youth in this three-town region of Southern New Hampshire, completed their own "independent" investigation of the alleged coaches' threat – that they said they would instruct a player to “bean” this player.  Other coaches had brought this information to the attention of the girl's father. After the association president claimed in a newspaper was false, he arranged for the investigation to take place. On May 2, the association released their findings.  The coach found to have made a comment regarding wanting this player to quit – though he denied proposing that any physical harm be done to her – was dismissed.

Still pending is what will happen in the wake of these investigative findings. In Durham, one of the three towns whose youth play sports through this association, the town council voted to withhold funds until the report was issued.

The town council in Durham unanimously adopted a resolution Monday night [April 16] that withholds already approved funding for the Oyster River Youth Association pending the outcome of an investigation into a claim that a baseball coach threatened to have a child ‘bean’ an 11-year-old girl.
— New Hampshire Union Leader

For now the Boston Slammers are this 11-year old's new team.

On first base in her first scrimmage with the Boston Slammers.

On first base in her first scrimmage with the Boston Slammers.

On May 18 the Boston Slammers, fielding two full teams, will travel to New Jersey for the regional Baseball for All tournament named after Maria Pepe, whose 1974 legal action made it possible for girls to play Little League Baseball in New Jersey. In neighboring Delaware, two girls, Kim Green and Alice Weldin heard that girls were playing Little League and they wanted to do the same. When they discovered the ruling didn't apply to them, Kim's mother, Sylvia, threatened legal action and then started a Little League team all their own. The girls' team was called the Angels. Kim's father, Dallas, then the Phillies’ director of minor leagues and scouting and would become the Phillies manager in 1979, was asked about his daughter playing Little League with the boys, "he told them if a girl was good enough to compete with the boys, she should be allowed to do it," according to the Washington Post. 

Girls in Baseball 1974 Kim Green.jpeg
Sylvia plastered notices around the school and the area: She would hold tryouts for an all-girls Little League team, players ages 8 and 9. ‘One hundred-something girls came out,’ she remembered. ‘Then the first one picked up a hard ball and threw to another one who couldn’t catch a hard ball and boom, smack in the head.’

Sylvia suddenly appreciated the benefits of Little League’s insurance coverage but stuck with her vision and whittled the group down to a team of players with talent and experience, anchored by Kim and her friends. In uniforms of powder blue — not pink — the Angels charged through Midway’s Little League competition. They won the first eight games of the 1974 season against all-boys teams.

Kim’s best friend, Alice Weldin, who has since died of cancer, was the Angels’ catcher. From her spot behind the plate, she could hear the disgruntled mumbling of batters and the angry chatter of boys in the opposing dugout, most often the phrase ‘she plays pretty good for a girl.’

’We changed a lot of reactions,’ Kim said. ‘Parents thinking if a little girl can hit like this, she can play. Nobody was purposely mean about it, but I think it was an educational thing.’

The Angels finished second in the league.
— The Washington Post

A baseball player's mom, Karen Zerby Buzzelle, founded the Boston Slammers. When I hung out along the sidelines yesterday afternoon and watched the girls scrimmage, it was mostly moms who were sitting with me. Then, there was one dad from New Hampshire who had brought his 11-year old daughter to this neighboring state so she could play baseball with girls. This strikes me as not so different than what happened in 1974 when girls from the neighboring states of New Jersey and Delaware wanted to play baseball, and inspired by each other, they did.

Baseball: A Sport Girls Love. A Sport Girls Play.

12-year old Michaela Silher was the only girl playing on her Little League team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. "It's hard being a girl and going into baseball because you don't get the respect sometimes that you want," Sihler told the TC Palm, on a day when she was also the only girl on any team in the baseball tournament,

12-year old Michaela Silher was the only girl playing on her Little League team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. "It's hard being a girl and going into baseball because you don't get the respect sometimes that you want," Sihler told the TC Palm, on a day when she was also the only girl on any team in the baseball tournament,

This headline stopped me cold:

Report: New Hampshire Youth Baseball Coaches Planned To Bean Their League's Lone Girl Player Into Quitting

A girl playing baseball is so threatening to a team or league that hitting her in the head with a pitched baseball seems a good idea? Even verbalizing such an idea, even if you don't intend to go through with it is dangerous and extremely worrisome.  

I read of this threat in Deadspin, in a story picked up from Foster's Daily Democrat, a local newspaper near the girl's hometown, Madbury, New Hampshire. An 11-year-old girl's father had contacted the local baseball association officials to say that "two coaches said they would instruct a player to 'bean' his daughter — strike her in the head with a baseball during practice — in order to intimidate her into leaving the baseball program." His allegation was based on what he'd been told by other coaches who attended the meeting where the plan was discussed.

His daughter is the only girl playing in her age-bracket of this baseball league. She was also reportedly the last player drafted when the coaches met to select their teams. She's played T-ball and baseball baseball and T-ball with teams in this region since 2012, mostly without incident. At younger ages, several other girls were with her on baseball teams, but as they reached their pre-teen years, her female peers switched to softball – while she stayed with baseball.

The matter is being investigated, according to the story, but it is unclear what the investigation revealed or what steps, if any, are being taken to remedy the situation.

My reading of this story coincided with an invitation to spend a few hours on a splendid Sunday afternoon at the Boston Slammers practice. The Slammers are three all-girls' baseball teams – 11 years old upper age, 13 years old and 18 years old – organized by Karen Zerby Buzzelle. a mom. The teams' summer season include a bunch of scrimmages, mostly against boys' teams, and a regional girls' baseball tournament in New Jersey in honor of Marie Pepe.

Maria Pepe.jpeg
Girls can play baseball today because Maria Pepe stood up for their right to play,” said Ms. Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach with a Major League Baseball organization and founder of Baseball for All.

“Maria Pepe, at that time, was a little girl that did not realize what the future would hold as far as playing little league baseball and the controversy it would bring. With her ability to play baseball and her determination, she stood up to the controversy. Because of Maria’s courage and fortitude, she won the court case,” says James Farina, her Little League coach.

In 1972, Maria Pepe, then 12-years old, was selected for her Hoboken, NJ Little League team. After playing three games as a starting pitcher, she was told she could not continue to play under Little League rules dating from 1951 that prohibited girls from playing Little League baseball. With support from her coach, James Farina, Maria Pepe fought for the right to play. The National Organization for Women filed a gender discrimination case on her behalf and won. Her case led to the nationwide acceptance of the right for girls and women to play sports, which aided the passage of the 1975 federal regulations that ensured equal rights to sports in education in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
— Baseball for All press release about Maria Pepe girls' baseball tournament

In the first week of August, the Boston Slammers will travel to Rockford, Illinois, the one-time home of the Rockford Peaches in the  All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, for the national girls' baseball championship.

So meet the Boston Slammers – with a few photos and videos from their indoor practice on Sunday. I'll be hanging out with the girls through the summer, so stay tuned. More stories to share ahead. But first a shout out to Justine Siegal who founded Baseball for All so girls could play the game they love, for steering me to my new hometown baseball team, the Slammers.

I was 13-years-old the first time I was told I shouldn’t play baseball because I was a girl.

My coach explained to me that he didn’t want me on his baseball team and that I should play softball instead. It didn’t matter that I was one of the best players on the team, that I loved baseball, or that I practiced way more than any of my male friends. It only mattered that I was a girl.

The day my coach told me to quit was that day I decided to play baseball forever.

Too many girls are still told they can’t play baseball because they are girls. I founded Baseball For All to empower girls to believe in themselves and to keep playing the game they love. I fear if you tell a girl she can’t play baseball what else will she think she can’t do? I then worry what else boys will think girls can’t do?

Baseball For All is leveling the playing field for girls across America by addressing the social justice issue of gender inequality. I want girls to know they can follow their passions. That they have no limits. That their dreams matter.
— Baseball for All, message from Justine Siegal

Meet the Boston Slammers

Pitch Like a Girl, the Boston Slammers

Pitch Like a Girl, the Boston Slammers

Catch Like a Girl, Boston Slammers

Catch Like a Girl, Boston Slammers

Two hour practice begins with drills.

Two hour practice begins with drills.




Locker Rooms and Women Reporters: A to Z by Julie DiCaro

Melissa Ludtke in her Sports Illustrated office in 1978

Melissa Ludtke in her Sports Illustrated office in 1978

It's my great pleasure to share Julie DiCaro's well-crafted narrative that she wrote for this podcast. It is simply the best short history of women sports reporters' locker room struggles. With her use of revealing details and poignant examples, Julie narrates a magnificent story of what it was like to be a woman reporting on sports who ran into barriers – both structural and attitudinal – when it came to equal access they needed to interview athletes as male reporters do. Since interviews in baseball took place, by tradition, in locker rooms, access to locker rooms was the focus of my federal lawsuit, Ludtke v. Kuhn, and the locus of media attention.

Episode 6: Women in Pro Locker Rooms

Welcome to this week’s episode of Stick to Pods. I’m your host, Julie DiCaro.

Last week, Sports Illustrated published a piece on the culture of sexual harassment and abuse taking place inside the Dallas Mavericks organization, written by Jon Wertheim and the amazing Jessica Luther.

As many women who work in sports will tell you, we’ve made in-roads, but still have so far to go, particularly when it comes to handling harassment online and in our workplaces. And having to constantly deal with those issues keeps us from focusing on bigger issues, like getting more women in decision-making positions in sports and sports media. To their credit, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hired a woman to take over at CEO of his team, and one with a background in HR at that.

But women still aren’t the norm in sports. Back in 2015, Graham Watson, a writer for Yahoo Sports, was barred from entering the Indianapolis Colts locker room by a male usher. And in 2017, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton pointed out in a press conference that he felt it was “weird” to hear a woman asking him a question about routes following an interaction with sportswriter Jordan Rodrique.

I also happened to FINALLY see the movie The Post this week, about 3 months AFTER a movie where Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham should have had me in the theater, and the movie takes great pains to show just how often Graham walked into a room where she was the only woman.

All of this story got me thinking about how much women still have to deal with in the world of sports, and what it must have been like for those who blazed the trial for us back in the 70s and 80s. And that let me to this week’s topic: This is the story of the first women into pro sports locker rooms.

It’s tough to say who the first woman across the thresh hold into a pro sports locker room was, as several women were pushing for access in different sports around the same time. But back in 1975, Robin Herman, a 23-year old reporter for the New York Times, had been trying to get NHL teams to allow her access to locker rooms for a year, with no success.

Gordon Robertson, locker room guard, stops Robin Herman from entering the Chicago Black Hawks locker room (January 1975).   

Gordon Robertson, locker room guard, stops Robin Herman from entering the Chicago Black Hawks locker room (January 1975).


Robin Herman interviews Ken Hodges in the locker room.

Robin Herman interviews Ken Hodges in the locker room.

Back then, almost all sports reporters were men, and access to the players as soon as they came off the ice was important to every sports writer, because that’s when the most genuine reactions and quotes were gotten. For women covering sports, going in locker room was never about nudity. It was about access to the players. And sometimes, also about basic human dignity. At Fenway Park in the 1970s, the women were not allowed to eat in the same area as the male sports writers, even though they were doing the same job.

Then, the 1975 All-Star game happened. During the pre-game press conference, someone asked the two coaches if they were going to allow women into the locker room. The coaches looked at each other, shrugged, and said “sure, they can come in.” So into the locker room went Robin Herman and her colleague Marcel St. Cyr.

Herman says, looking back, she was only allowed access that night because responsibility is diffused in an all-star game, with coaches managing guys that aren’t usually on their roster. Herman says the coaches opened the door on a whim, maybe even a dare. But that whim changed the course of history for women in sportswriting.

Upon entering the locker room, Herman says the cameras and microphones immediately swung in her direction, with someone yelling “there’s a girl in the locker room!” Though she insisted the game, not she, was the story, it was hard to convince her male colleagues that was the case. Said Herman, “the game was boring. A girl in the locker room was the story.” And if you need a reminder of how recent this was in the annals of history, Robin Hermann was in the first class of women admitted to Princeton – and that was in 1969.

Of course, some of the players responded exactly as you would expect pro athletes to. As Herman interviewed player Denis Potvin, another player yanked Potvin’s towel off, leaving him completely exposed.

Still, Herman said later “My post-locker room quotations showed patience and good cheer. I was 23-years old and fairly new to my job, and not yet beaten down by the abuse and slamming of doors that would follow this one-time opening.” Herman went on to say that wasn’t the end of the story. Owners and coaches in other cities continued to block locker room access to women, sometimes physically, sometimes using police. But once the barrier was broken, things started to change for women in sports.

At the same time Herman, the only woman in the sports department at the New York Times, was breaking the NHL barrier, Jane Gross was doing the same with NBA teams, while covering the Long Island Nets. The daughter of a sportswriter, Gross is the first to admit she got her job as the result of nepotism, but her timing was astute.

In 1974, women filed a class action law suit against the New York Times, titled Elizabeth Boylan v. New York Times.

Women who worked for The New York Times and in 1974 sued the newspaper for gender discrimination

Women who worked for The New York Times and in 1974 sued the newspaper for gender discrimination

It’s well-worth reading the whole story behind the lawsuit in Nan Robertson’s excellent book: The Girls In the Balcony: Women, Men, and the New York Times. Robertson writes:

“There were forty women reporters to three hundred and eighty-five men reporters, and eleven of those women were in family/style. Of twenty-two national correspondents, not one was a woman. Of thirty-three foreign correspondents, only three were women. There was only one woman bureau chief, just appointed to Paris. In the Washington bureau, with thirty-five reporters, only three were women; the number had not gone up in nine years, although the staff had nearly doubled in that time. There were no women photographers. Of thirty-one critics in culture news, only four were women. Reviewers of drama, music, movies, television and books were all male. The sports department had one woman and twenty-three men. There were no women on the editorial board, which had eleven members. There were no women columnists. Of the seventy-five copy editors on the daily paper, four were women. Almost all the lower-paying, lower-ranking jobs were confined to women.”

Girls in the Balcony.jpeg


The New York Times suit was eventually settled in 1978, and the Times were forced to hire more women. Reading the writing on the wall, other newspapers began hiring women as well, and some of those women wanted to write about sports. By the mid 1970s, newspapers were resigned to the fact that they had to hire women reporters across the board, and that led to the hiring of some of the true giants in the industry, women like Christine Brennan, Lesley Visser, Claire Smith, and Michele Himmelberg. And we’ll touch on their stories as well a bit later.

But back to the locker rooms. To this point, no one had challenged MLB to open up their locker rooms to women. Enter Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Ludtke. Melissa grew up in a family of 5 children, to a baseball -loving mother and college football loving father.

Melissa Ludtke's family, 1962, Melissa is standing, far right

Melissa Ludtke's family, 1962, Melissa is standing, far right

In 1977, Ludtke was assigned by Sports Illustrated to cover the World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. Concerned about having access to players immediately following the games, Ludtke had been slowly and quietly lobbying the players for access to the locker room in the World Series. Having secured permission from the Yankees, Tommy John took Ludtke’s case to the Dodgers’ locker room. John told Ludtke, “I’m not going to tell you it was unanimous, but we know you have a job to do, so come on in.”

It’s worth noting that, until this time, women sportswriters, typically made up of a grand total of one at any given game, were forced to wait in the hallway outside the locker room while their colleagues talked to players immediately following the game. The women had to request access to a player, then wait for a team PR rep to bring the players out to speak to her, usually quite a long time after the player had spoken to male sports reporters. And after they had already told their story at least once to other reporters. As Betty Cuniberti, the first woman in the Dodgers’ press box said “Half the human race was shut out of this profession for no good reason.” She goes on to point out that, at the time women were trying to gain locker room access, there were no women in the US Senate and no women on the US Supreme Court. Any room with any kind of power at all was usually all men.

Yankees Manager Billy Martin had been allowing Ludtke to enter the locker room through a side entrance and sit on the couch in his office, which Ludtke later described as being like having a bleacher seat to what was going on at the players’ lockers.

As Ludtke describes in the terrific ESPN documentary “Let Them Wear Towels,” which you can find on Youtube, the 1977 Yankees locker room was filled with drama and large personalities, like Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, and Reggie Jackson. The on-going name-calling and war of words WAS the story in 1977. And all that was taking place in the locker room – making access to the players immediately post-game vital to covering the team.

ESPN's Let Them Wear Towels, a documentary about women in sports media from the 1970s

ESPN's Let Them Wear Towels, a documentary about women in sports media from the 1970s

MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn got word that Ludtke had been lobbying teams for access – and even though MLB hadn’t been directly challenged on their locker room policies, it was clear they’d been thinking about how to handle it when they were.

The commissioner’s office reached out preemptively to Ludtke, telling her they didn’t care what the Yankees and Dodgers said, that they controlled the locker rooms, and she would not be allowed in post-world series. Instead, she would wait in another area and players would be brought out to her after they had dressed – putting her at a huge disadvantage in covering the team. When she asked why the Commissioner’s office was making that decision, she was told the Commissioner’s office hadn’t polled the players’ wives about allowing women into the locker room and that the players’ children would be ridiculed at school. Publicly, Commissioner Kuhn said that having women in the locker room was unfair to players, other reporter, and fans.

And, just like that, Melissa Ludkte was shut out from the biggest sporting event of the year.

In Game 6 of the World Series, the Yankees’ Reggie Jackson, who had been sparring with coaching and management all season, hit three homeruns on three consecutive pitches. Ludtke stood in the hallway and watched as all her colleagues made their way into the locker room for the post-game reaction. For an hour and 45 minutes, Ludtke waited for Reggie Jackson to be brought to her for an interview. When Jackson finally did emerge from the locker room, he was dressed. He told Ludtke, “Melissa, I’m exhausted, I’m going down town. Sorry.”

Ludtke’s bosses at Sports Illustrated decided they weren’t going to allow Kuhn’s decision to stand. In 1977, they filed a lawsuit in federal court, under the title Melissa Ludtke and Time Inc (the parent company of Sports Illustrated) vs. Bowie Kuhn, Commissioner of MLB et al. There’s great video (27 minutes into the YouTube video) of a 26-year old Melissa Ludtke sitting with Howard Cosell and explaining why she needed access to locker rooms.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Melissa Ludtke talked baseball – specifically about her legal action against Major League Baseball – on ABC Sports.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Melissa Ludtke talked baseball – specifically about her legal action against Major League Baseball – on ABC Sports.

The decision came down on September 25, 1978, with the federal district could finding that Kuhn’s decision violated Ludtke’s 14th Amendment Rights of Equal Protection and due process, including her right to pursue her profession. The court held that Ludtke had been treated differently from her colleagues based solely on her gender. That decision applied only to the New York Yankees and Yankee stadium, but it put other MLB teams on notice that their policies had to change. When Peter Ueberroth took over as  Commissioner in 1984, he opened up MLB locker rooms to women across the board.

Not that being IN the locker rooms was always easy or fun. Sports are weird in that they are the only beat in which reporters are expected to interview players in various states of undress. And they’re usually cramped, smelly, humid – definitely not the kind of place anyone would choose to hang out. And though pro sports leagues were starting to mandate that women have locker room access, that doesn’t mean the players were on board. And while pro sports teams had to allow women into the locker rooms, they didn’t control what happened once they got in there.

While playing for the Detroit Tigers in 1990, Jack Morris infamously said to the Free Press’s Jennifer Frey, “I don’t talk to people when I’m naked, especially women, unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them.”

Lisa Saxon, who covered the Angels for the LA Daily News remembers “"Going in the locker room, knots would get in my stomach," Lisa says. "It actually is a physically uncomfortable thing to do because you didn’t know what you would face. And at the very least you would have jockstraps thrown at you and dirty undergarments. And that was an everyday occurrence, and then you would just build onto that what might happen. And you just hoped for the best when you went in."

Lisa Nehus Saxon, right, Melissa Ludtke, center, Maya Ludtke (Melissa's daughter), left at the Baseball Hall of Fame's baseball diamond for the hall's induction of Claire Smith. July 2018

Lisa Nehus Saxon, right, Melissa Ludtke, center, Maya Ludtke (Melissa's daughter), left at the Baseball Hall of Fame's baseball diamond for the hall's induction of Claire Smith. July 2018

The wonderful Claire Smith, the first woman in America to have an MLB beat (she covered the Yankees for the Hartford Courant), tells a story in the ESPN documentary Let Them Wear Towels about standing in the hallway crying after being sworn at and physically pushed out of the Padres locker room in 1984 while up against a deadline.

Melissa Ludtke, left, Claire Smith, center, Lisa Nehus Saxon, right, in the Baseball Hall of Fame, celebrating Claire Smith's induction as the first women to ever be inducted into the hall.

Melissa Ludtke, left, Claire Smith, center, Lisa Nehus Saxon, right, in the Baseball Hall of Fame, celebrating Claire Smith's induction as the first women to ever be inducted into the hall.

[Addition to Julie's narrative] For Only a Game (NPR) story about women reporters, Major League Baseball and locker rooms, go to this audio story on its podcast. It was recorded during Claire Smith's induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame, July 2018

Smith describes being denied access as “humiliating,” saying being barred from the locker room made it look and feel like she was trying to get into someplace she didn’t have a right to be, which was obviously not the case. She also tells a heart-warming story about Steve Garvey riding to her rescue- coming out into the hallway to give her the quotes she needed and vowing to stay as long as she needed him – as long as she stopped crying.

Dave Kingman dumped buckets of cold water over Jane Gross’s head one two separate occasions in the locker room, and once sent a rat in a corsage box (with a note saying “my name is sue”) to Susan Fornoff of the Sacramento Bee. NHL player Tiger Williams, after calling Lawrie Mifflin, the first woman sports writer for the NY Daily News a “cunt” from across the locker room,  picked her up and forcibly removed her from the locker room.

Cliff Johnson pours Champagne over Melissa Ludtke's head in the New York Yankees locker room, 1978 

Cliff Johnson pours Champagne over Melissa Ludtke's head in the New York Yankees locker room, 1978 

And things weren’t any better for the women covering the NFL and college football. Lesley Visser, who began covering sports in 1974 and who was the first woman to ever have an NFL beat, recalls that one of her credentials said right on it that it was invalid if presented by a woman or child.

Lesley Visser Book.jpeg


49ers head coach Bill Walsh refused to allow women into the locker room, and, when asked why, told Michele Himmelberg of the Sacramento Bee that she was “interfering with his season.” Himmelberg also had to go to court in 1981 to get access to the 49ers locker room.

Michele Himmelberg sues the San Francisco 49ers for locker room access, 1981

Michele Himmelberg sues the San Francisco 49ers for locker room access, 1981

Eventually, male newspaper editors backed their women reporters for the most part. And they began lobbying NFL and college teams to allow women the same access to players as the men had. Under pressure from the same papers that covered their team and gave them free advertising, the NFL was forced to give in.

Of course, once were women were allowed into locker rooms in any given sport, columinists, cartoonists, and the general public had a field day at their expense, portraying them as wanton women who just wanted to get a look at some naked guys. In truth, though, women never asked to go into locker rooms -they simply asked to have the same access to players that their male colleagues did. It was the sports themselves that decided post-game interviews should take place in the locker room, with lots of naked men roaming around.

If you think this issue was settled by the 1990s, think again. In 1990, Lisa Olson, who was covering the Patriots for the Boston Herald went public about being harassed by New England players in the locker room. Olson was confronted by several naked players, one of whom said “This is what you want. This is what you need. Want to take a bite out of this?” I’m leaving the names of the players out at Lisa’s request – she doesn’t want their reputations forever tarred because of that one bad day in her words, which is more generous than I would be able to be in her shoes.

Olson sued the team, which earned her being called a “classic bitch” by owner Victor Kiam. But Olson was vindicated when the players and team were fined by the league for their conduct. What followed for Olson were insults and death threats so severe, she wound up fleeing the country for Australia.

Dianemarie Collins interviews Lisa Olson in 2014 when the Association of Women in Sports Media presented its Mary Garber Award to her in recognition of her time as a pioneering sports reporter.

Dianemarie Collins interviews Lisa Olson in 2014 when the Association of Women in Sports Media presented its Mary Garber Award to her in recognition of her time as a pioneering sports reporter.

In Let them Wear Towels, many of the women featured talked about their sadness and loneliness because of the way they were treated by coaches, players, and their colleagues, and many went on to pursue other beats – most leaving sports altogether.

USA today’s Christine Brennan, the first woman to cover Washington’s NFL team, said in locker rooms, women have to smile and laugh and be a little bit deaf and a little bit blind, but stories persist to this day of players, some beloved by fans off the field, still engaging in harassing behavior towards women in the locker room. In the whisper network that exists among women sports reporter, everyone knows who those guys are, though the general public would probably be shocked at some of the names.

"In the field of sports journalism, female reporters have long been a rarity. The Washington Post stands out for assigning female journalists to lead its coverage of the four major Washington D.C. sports teams:  Liz Clarke  on the Redskins,  Candace Buckner  on the Wizards,  Isabelle Khurshudyan  on the Capitals and  Chelsea Janes  on the Nationals. They share what drew them to the male-dominated world of sports journalism and what the landscape looks like for women entering the field today." From  Washington Post , March 6, 2017

"In the field of sports journalism, female reporters have long been a rarity. The Washington Post stands out for assigning female journalists to lead its coverage of the four major Washington D.C. sports teams: Liz Clarke on the Redskins, Candace Buckner on the Wizards, Isabelle Khurshudyan on the Capitals and Chelsea Janes on the Nationals. They share what drew them to the male-dominated world of sports journalism and what the landscape looks like for women entering the field today." From Washington Post, March 6, 2017


I’m thrilled about our guest this week. Melissa Ludtke, former sports reporter for Sports Illustrated, sued for access to the Yankees’ locker room in 1978, and that case has long been considered a watershed moment for women in sports writing. Thanks so much for being here this week: 

The podcast.








Circling Home: Girls' Basketball Rekindles an Old Love

Dave Kindred with members of the Morton High School Lady Potters basketball team. (ESPN)

Dave Kindred with members of the Morton High School Lady Potters basketball team. (ESPN)

Is knowing Dave Kindred and admiring him and his sportswriting, as I do, what drew me to read this story? Perhaps. But if my curiosity about what Dave's doing these days wasn't my primary reason, then the headline would have pulled me in. 

Legendary sportswriter returns to roots by covering local girls' basketball

In an extraordinary career covering just about every major sports event there is to cover, Dave was awarded sports journalism's highest honor, the Red Smith Award. He's a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. Then, in 2010, he retired, and he and his wife circled back to where they'd grown up in rural Illinois, and there he's become the beat reporter covering the Morton High School Lady Potters basketball team. (His stories are in this blog on the team's website.) He receives no pay but the "job" comes with lots of spirit-reviving benefits.

Dave sits alone two rows behind the Lady Potter bench in mud-splattered hiking boots, blue jeans and a green Masters Tournament wind breaker. What’s left of his thinning gray hair sprays out from beneath a red 2017 Masters ball cap, the bill shading trained eyes that follow the ball up and down the court through wire-rimmed spectacles and occasionally glance down to scribble a basket or name or note in his handheld notebook.
— Story by Tony Rehagen, ESPNW

After reading Tony's story about Dave, I had to share it – in part because so few high school women's basketball teams receive any news coverage at all. With Dave writing their games, these young women have one of the most accomplished scribes. In writing about this girls' team, Dave is finding renewed joy in life as he copes with his wife's devastating illness.

Before I tell you more about Dave's life today, here's a bit about his career. He was "a columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionThe National Sports DailySporting News, and Golf Digest. He has written nine books. For "Around the World in 18 Holes," he flew 37,319 miles to 21 countries on four continents with his sports-writing pal, Tom Callahan. (I reported the 1984 Summer Olympics with Tom who wrote sports for Time magazine and I was a correspondent. From those Games, here's my story about Carl Lewis, who tied Jesse Owens' track and field record by winning four gold medals in those games.)

Despite the Lady Potters winning three Illinois High School Association Class 3A State Championships, as the smallest Illinois town (population 16,000) to ever win a 3A title in any sport, few people show up to watch these girls play.

The Lady Potters 2018 team, from the Morton basketball website

The Lady Potters 2018 team, from the Morton basketball website


Let's pick up Tony's narrative about the Lady Potters:

Few patrons take advantage of the hefty return on the free admission. The cozy Potterdome bleachers are only half-full on this frigid December Friday, and many of those parents and students have trickled in midway through this opening act to get good seats for the main event: The Potter varsity boys, whose lone banner is an Elite 8 showing back in 2011. The cheerleaders who bounce out onto the hardwood to try to keep folks engaged during intermissions are working their first Lady Potters game this year, as is the dance squad that will perform at halftime — of the boys’ game.

But the girls have one thing — besides the monopoly on space in the trophy case out front — that the boys don’t; something that really any team in any sport, male or female, amateur or professional, would be lucky to have: David Kindred. He’s not a player’s parent or grandparent, uncle or cousin. He’s not a teacher or administrator; not a coach or scout. He’s not technically even a reporter. In fact, few outside of the tight-knit Lady Potters community know his name — and most of them don’t fully grasp who he is, and even they don’t understand why he is here.
— Story by Tony Rehagen, ESPNW

Early on in Tony's story we learn that Cheryl, his life partner and Dave's high school sweetheart and wife of 55 years, suffered a catastrophic stroke in Dec. 2015. Each day Dave spends time at her bedside, though she remains unresponsive to his visits. One day soon after her stroke a visitor suggested to Dave that he step away from her bedside for a little while and go to back to watching the girls play basketball. He and Cheryl had gone to their games and Dave had begun to write about them. He's not missed one of their games since that day.

What he saw was simplicity. “There was nothing bad about it,” he says. “Everything was good. I didn’t care about the experience or the spectacle. I just watched the game. This is pure — it’s such a cliché — but these games are for the kids.” And why the girls? Sure, there’s the tired answer that the girls game is more rooted in the fundamentals. But Kindred’s answer goes deeper, back to a scene in his sister’s kitchen where his sister, Cheryl, a family friend, and her 12-year-old daughter, Carly, were talking about cheerleading. All three of the women had stood on the sidelines, waving their pompoms. Kindred wondered if Carly wanted to follow suit.

”No,” she said. “I’m going to be the one they cheer for.”

”She had me at ‘no,’” Kindred says.
— Story by Ton Rehagen, ESPNW

Years after my sportswriting career had ended and I was the editor of Nieman Reports, a magazine about journalism published by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, I reached out to Dave to ask him to write about sportswriting in the time of social media. I commend his story to you for in so many ways it is the anthesis of the kind of sports writing he's delighting in being able to do today.

As Dave told Peoria Public Radio in a story called "Dave Kindred's Search for the 'Essence of Sports,' he observed: “You get so caught up in the hoopla of a major sports event, you forget what matters . . . If you pay attention, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. If you work at it, you can make a girls’ high school basketball game as riveting as the Super Bowl.”

In that same collection of stories Marie Hardin wrote a story I titled "A Shrinking Sports Beat: Women’s Teams, Athletes," reminding us of the tough climb women athletes still face in trying to receive news coverage for their games. As her story made clear,

Women’s sports coverage is shrinking—not growing—even as more women and girls are competing in sports. A recent study of ESPN found that between 1999 and 2009 the time given to coverage of women’s sports on that network’s “SportsCenter” dropped from almost nothing to a bit less than almost nothing—from slightly more than 2 percent to less than 1.5 percent. What’s happened to the coverage of women’s sports during the past few years at newspapers, where there have been dramatic reductions and a reshuffling of staff as well as competitive pressures from bloggers, has not been systematically studied. But I feel safe in contending that women’s coverage hasn’t generally increased.
— Marie Hardin, Nieman Reports, Winter 2010

Need further proof of this downward trajectory, check out this video documentary produced by the University of Minnesota Tucker Center to describe findings from their report on Media Coverage & Female Athletics. A key finding –  "40 % of all athletes are women, but only 4% are represented in the media – and too often how they look is more important than their skills." 

I urge you to read Tony's story about Dave and the Lady Potters. And next time the girls are playing basketball at your local school, head over there. You might be surprised at how much you – and hopefully your kids will be with you – enjoy the show.



Girls & Sports: Life's Lessons in the Games We Play

Amherst Junior High School, author second from right

Amherst Junior High School, author second from right

In seventh grade I tried out for the cheerleading squad. It's what girls did, especially those who wanted to be popular. Girls rooted for the boys who played the games. On NFL sidelines and near midline of basketball arenas, scantily clad women still do. Perhaps this is why I like baseball best.

By eighth grade, I left cheerleading behind, forever, and was playing on the girls' basketball team. No one showed up to watch our games except an occasional mom. Mine arrived with younger siblings who could never sit still and sometimes ran onto the court, so my mom had to leave. We didn't have cheerleaders jumping up to spell A-M-H-E-R-S-T when our team took a time out. The cheerleaders only cheered for the boys.

In the memoir I'm writing, I reflect how the rules governing girls' play on the basketball court echoed through our lives as girls off the court. Let's start with how we had to play:

When I played on my junior high school’s basketball team, our rules dictated that before I dribbled the ball a fourth time, I had to stop to pass it. It was a silly rule, as were others, such as one that kept four teammates stuck in half of the court; they played “stationary” guard or forward, but never both at the same time, though two others on the team were allowed to be “rovers,” moving anywhere we liked. When boys played this same game, they switched effortlessly between guard and forward, depending on which team had the ball. Those who promulgated our rules wanted to be sure girls didn’t run too far, play too fast, or compete too fiercely. To compete wasn’t what girls did.
— Melissa Ludtke, forthcoming "Locker Room Talk"

Off the court, societal norms constricted us in similar ways, and with similar consequences:

A boy was free in ways I was not. He got to decide, much more than I did, where, what, how and when things happened in his life. On the basketball court, when a boy saw an opening, his path to the basket, he dribbled the ball for as long as made sense, zigzagging his way to get where he wanted to be. Rules weren’t the only thing holding girls back. Attitudes did, too. What grown-ups thought girls couldn’t do, we didn’t see ways to do. Still, I don’t remember us using the word ‘unfair’ to describe what was happening to us. We knew nothing different. It was just how things were, the natural order about which I heard few complaints. Nor did those older than I was appear upset that girls played by one set of rules and boys by another. So I wasn’t, either.
— Melissa Ludtke, forthcoming "Locker Room Talk"

Once I was on the basketball team, I never was a cheerleader again. From then on, I always played on one team or another – volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, tennis in the spring. In the summer I skippered our family's cat boat as the only girl at the helm in races against the guys. In college I discovered rowing – it's my passion, still – and became an inaugural member of Wellesley College's intercollegiate rowing team – in the same year Title IX was birthed.

Wellesley intercollegiate crew team, 1972. Author, second from left.

Wellesley intercollegiate crew team, 1972. Author, second from left.

With my own girlhood sports experiences, I was lucky. It was the 1960s and America was a decade away from Title IX opening opportunities for girls. As I found out later, back then few girls my age had sports teams they could play on. In my hometown of Amherst, MA, we did.

On the basketball court, we were the Lady Hurricanes. We won a few games each season, lost a few others. A scorekeeper tracked the points we scored and our fouls. Not many spectators came. I don't have a single photograph of me playing in a game, expect one in a yearbook I can no longer find. Nor can I go back to our school newspaper to find stories about our games. No one wrote about the Lady Hurricanes.

Until Maddy Blais did.

By then it was the mid-1990s and after just about being state champions for several years in a row, the Lady Hurricanes finally did win the state final in 1993. That season Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Maddy Blais, a journalism professor at the nearby University of Massachusetts, followed the Lady Hurricanes as they finally triumphed after the succession of soul-crusting defeats.

Maddy knew these girls' story was worth telling. She titled her book: "In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle," and I commend her book as a terrific read. 

In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle.jpeg

When she set out to write this story, it didn't matter to Maddy that the Lady Hurricanes played in gyms sparsely filled with spectators – until a championship seemed within their reach. She came to tell a story about athletes founding within themselves what it takes to overcome self-doubt, push through adversity, mend differences, and bond as a team to achieve their shared goal.

Theirs is a universal story, though one too often reserved as a narrative fit for male heroes, especially when it comes to sports. Yet this story echoes today as Americans celebrate the U.S. women's hockey team's gold medal. Four years ago some of these same women hockey players lost In a heartbreaking overtime game to Canada. While battling powers that be in their sport for the gender equity in pay, treatment and respect they felt they deserved, these women dug deep within themselves and built this team's mental fortitude so they'd not be defeated again.

In my next blog post I'll write about Dave Kindred, a sportswriter who covered every major sports event that a man of his generation could attend and received awards recognizing his excellence. Now in a small town in Illinois, Dave attends every game the Morton High School Lady Potters basketball team play and writes a story about each one.

Where These Young People Lead Us, I'm Going

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

One week after the Valentine's Day massacre that killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors will bring their #NeverAgain movement rally to Tallahassee, Florida's state capitol, and meet with legislators. "No more BS," they shouted, full-voiced at their rally on the Broward County courthouse steps.

When I was their age, I protested, too – against racial discrimination and the war in Vietnam. Their fight against the monopolistic and harmful power of the NRA came to them in the personal terror and horror of the murders that visited their school last week. They inspire me, and where they are leading, I'm going. These young people possess moral power, and their outrage paired with determination will bring about legislative changes we desperately need but stubbornly have withstood calls for action in the past.

The leaders of America’s suddenly reignited gun-control movement hold court with cable news networks in suburban parks, strategize in a headquarters at their parents’ house and in some cases are too young to vote or buy a gun. ... A group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School upper-classmen has turned their anguish into activism. Still grieving, they have launched an all-out assault on assault weapons, pledging that their school will be the last to become a slaughterhouse and warning politicians to get on board or get out of their way. ... They’ve given voice to a new generation of school shooting survivors and thrust themselves into the middle of a national controversy — a burden heavy for anyone, much less a group of mourning teenagers.
— Miami Herald, Turning anguish into activism, Parkland students push America’s gun-control movement
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student rally, Broward County, Florida

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student rally, Broward County, Florida

These young people belong to a generation in which more than 150,000 of their fellow students, attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools, have experienced a shooting on their campus since the killings at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, according to a tabulation by John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich.

These Florida students also embody the feisty, determined spirit of their activist namesake, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In 108 years of life, she had neither time nor interest in reflecting on questions about herself. when Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich once asked her if she'd ever been discouraged in her fight to protect the Everglades, Marjory responded:

‘What does it matter if I’ve been discouraged or encouraged over the years?’ she said, brusquely. ‘This thing’s got to be done. It’s not a question of how I feel from moment to moment.’
— Marjory Stoneman Douglas

These young people are emblematic of the fighter that Marjory was. She might never have used a hashtag for her campaigns, but she never gave in and never gave up as she took on causes and battled against powerful forces that daunted others.

She had battled governments, developers, engineers, sugar cane industrialists and the apathy of normal people. She had pushed so hard and for so long that the state had finally committed to preserving one of the world’s great wetlands. We have her to thank for Everglades National Park. ... As a young woman, born before women had the right to vote, she lobbied for women’s suffrage. She campaigned for civil rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. She fought for proper plumbing in Miami’s poor, black neighborhoods and worked on behalf of migrant workers.
— Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune

We'll hear these student's voices as more of us – old and young, Democrat and Republican – join their chorus. Let this #NeverAgain movement grow until even the most NRA-bought, gun-happy legislator can no longer hide from these young people's message. This week Florida legislators – a majority of whom are beholden to the NRA – must act as a first step in putting an end to our nation's mental instability when it comes to living in ways we do with our 2nd Amendment. 

Turns out Marjory and I have a few things in common, though I can only wish that my activism could be as consequential as hers. She and I were Wellesley College graduates, separated by six decades, and each inspired by the college's motto, Non Ministrari sed Ministrare"Not to be ministered unto, but to minister," not to be served, but to serve in ways that make the world a better place to live for others.

The Fool's Club at Wellesley College.  Marjory Stoneman, kneeling in the foreground as April's Fool.

The Fool's Club at Wellesley College.  Marjory Stoneman, kneeling in the foreground as April's Fool.

Marjory and I each married a man to whom we were ill suited, left our marriages soon after, and never married again. We were journalists and authors, with her book being The Everglades: River of Grass, first published in 1947. Preserving the Everglades is the fight for which she is best known; for me, it's climate change activism with Mothers Out Front, doing what I can to secure a livable climate for our children.

With climate change activism, young people are leading the way. Pause for a moment to take note of the youngsters who are in federal court accusing the federal government of violating their Constitutional rights by "knowing about the dangerous climate impacts of burning fossil fuels and supporting the developing of fossil fuel production anyway.

Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, Oregon

These youngsters filed their lawsuit in September 2015 and it remains in the federal court system. This week President Donald Trump was added as a defendant: This lawsuit, filed by 21 kids, challenges the federal government to slow climate change. 





Defying Stereotypes: It's What Girls and Women Do

Chloe Kim, gold medalist in snowboarding 2018 Winter Olympics

Chloe Kim, gold medalist in snowboarding 2018 Winter Olympics

As the White mother of my 21-year old Asian daughter, Maya, who was born in China during its one-child policy, I've learned a lot about the assumptions that Westerners too often make about Asian girls and women. We call it unconscious bias, a term describing how we perceive others even if we don't know that these biases are driving us to do so.

Because Maya has shared with me what it's like for her to move in the world, first as a girl, now a young woman with an Asian face, I've been able to learn how powerful Americans' unconscious biases are. This is especially true when it comes to labeling an Asian person based entirely on her Asian face. I'm offering a few words from an essay that Maya recently wrote touching on some challenges she has had in coming to terms with the duality of her identity as my daughter:

I struggled early on as I navigated my shifting sense of identity. My mere appearance presented challenges. Strangers would often assume my family was Chinese, and that I spoke Mandarin fluently. Small stories reinforced this daily. At a gas station with my mom, I was buckled into the back seat. My mom was talking with the man pumping gas when I heard her mention that I was her daughter. He laughed in disbelief. Yes, I do not look like my family, and my appearance has been made fun of. I think it helps explain why growing up I sometimes felt lonely.
— Maya Ludtke
Maya and her mom

Maya and her mom

Like any other Asian girl, growing up she dealt with assumptions made of her. People would presume that Maya had mastered a musical instrument – isn't that what Asian girls do? She didn't. Or that she excels in math; she doesn't. Or they think they know about her temperament just by seeing her face; they don't. A lot else is occasionally bundled with these most typical stereotypical assumptions.

All of this explains why I'm thrilled that Jiayang Fan's wrote her essay in The New Yorker in which she reminds us how sports can be a powerful vehicle for shifting our biased perceptions.

Kim Yo Jong, Chloe Kim, and the Shifting Images of Asian and Asian-American Women at the Olympics

Here her opening paragraph that kicks her essay into high gear, where it remains:

Whether she appears onscreen or in the popular imagination, the Asian woman tends to fall into one of several predictable archetypes: the evil temptress, obliging mistress, loyal servant, fanatical tiger mom, ruthless overachiever. This facile parsing offers the convenience of manageable stereotypes and feigned knowledge. One of the pleasures of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has been the number of Asian and Asian-American women defying the stereotypes. Among those who have most captivated audiences this past week are Chloe Kim, the teen-age snowboarder from Southern California who won a gold medal in the half-pipe; Mirai Nagasu, the first American woman to execute a triple axel at the Olympics; and Nagasu’s teammate Maia Shibutani, who, performing in the ice-dance competition with her brother, Alex, also helped the Americans win the team bronze medal. (Half of Team U.S.A.’s figure skaters are Asian-American.) On the other side, so to speak, are the North Korean women, whose presence has been used to reinforce some of the old categories: the ‘army of beauties’ cheerleaders and, especially, Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, whose appearance eventually managed to incite pretty much every stereotype on record.
— Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker

As I girl, I played sports. As a young woman, I wrote sports. I know the power of sports to push societal change and alter societal perceptions – witness Jackie Robinson in baseball, the end of apartheid in South Africa, propelled by a global sports boycott, and the raised fists on Olympic podium in 1968 Summer Games.

Of course, let's give thanks to American girls and women's greatest lever of all, Title IX.

How Title IX First Changed the World of Women's Sports, Time magazine


Title IX Time magazine cover.jpeg



Sexy Sports Illustrated Hijacks #MeToo: Thumbs Down on the Result

SI Model Robyn Lawley.jpeg

Six years I reported on sports such as baseball and basketball at Sports Illustrated. Those six years the SI Swimsuit issue was published in mid-February. Still is. Gotta snap the men out of their winter doldrums. No more NFL where they can watch men crack heads, in the week after the Super Bowl the nearly naked women issue appears. Well, a man can go ice fishing for so many winter weeks. Heck, it's what men want, its sales and focus groups tell them – time to serve up gorgeous women wearing less and less of bathing suits as each year goes by.

This year, at least, in one section, they've dispensed with bathing suits altogether.

So along with nudity, Sports Illustrated is parading the fact that for first time ever both bosses in charge of this issue are women – the editor and the photographer, also a first.

By the way they are marketing this year's issue, you'd think #MeToo linked arms with a different kind of female empowerment. All the while the editor is assuring men that no matter what's up with women they can count on SI to serve up "sexy" images.

So how are the 2018 reviews? 

"Spectacularly Silly" – The New Yorker

"Ridiculous?" – Fashion

"the first shoot in which 'models were as much participants as objects' – Vanity Fair

The opening words of Vanity Fair's dive into this 2018 issue:

On the short list of American media institutions invented to take commercial advantage of the male gaze, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue surely ranks in the top-three, mostly-safe-for-work division. One could be forgiven, then, for thinking that the staff of the issue were reconsidering their efforts last fall as #MeToo trended, stories about sexual harassment consumed news cycles, and audiences thought more deeply about the ways their media and entertainment were made—and who was making them. It turns out the issue’s staff had already been on their way to rethinking all of it. Editor MJ Day and her core team, comprised of all women, had decided as early as last spring to try in 2018 to make a magazine where models were as much participants as objects.
— Vanity Fair

Let's pause to consider the word "objects."  Really? SI sees its models as much as objects as participants? Sounds about right. Can we agree that the women are objectified. I know some argue that being nude or nearly nude in these magazine spreads so men can ogle their bodies is an act of empowerment. I'm not in that camp; one reason I'm not is how often some of the same male sports fans objectify women who broadcast and write sports – undressing them on Twitter et al. with descriptions and threats that strip them of their humanity.

The consequences of inhabiting an objectified body are, in many ways, what #MeToo is all about, and there’s something spectacularly silly, not to mention tone-deaf, about Sports Illustrated fighting fire with fire. The ‘In Her Own Words’ shoot got a predictable amount of flak on Twitter; it seems that removing models’ remaining scraps of clothes in the name of empowerment has not been widely taken in the liberating spirit in which it was intended.
— Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

In trying to "mirror" the #MeToo movement on their model's bodies, SI explained its mission this way; they are "allowing women to exist in the world without being harassed or judged regardless of how they like to present themselves." Yet, as editor MJ Day assured its predominantly male audience for this annual post-Super Bowl issue, this issue is “always going to be sexy, no matter what is happening.”

Again, a word check:  "Allowing" this to happen? Perhaps, a wiser word choice would be "enabling" if this is such an empowering act. 

Perhaps all of this explain why on the brink of Sports Illustrated's sale to Meredith, Time Inc. announced the launch of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Enterprises. Here's how New York Post greeted with this news:

Sports Illustrated is going into the modeling business

.. the launch of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Enterprises, a branding and licensing venture announced this week by the Time Inc. title, which hopes to turn the popular swimsuit issue that hits in mid-February into a year-round enterprise to offset declines in SI’s print ad business.
— The New York Post
Si Calendar.jpeg

Meet SI's 2018 Swimsuit Calendar. Stay tuned for more as the year moves on. My hunch is that this is one part of SI's "editorial" content that won't be tampered with by Meredith.



'Someone asked if my uterus would fall out ski jumping.'

Lindsey Van, U.S. Ski Jumper who cannot compete in the Winter Games; she's a woman ski jumper.

Lindsey Van, U.S. Ski Jumper who cannot compete in the Winter Games; she's a woman ski jumper.

The Winter Olympics are underway. Even more than the Summer Games, sports played on ice and snow turn out to be male dominated. Women have fought for recognition since the first Winter Olympics in 1924; in those games, women were confined to figure skating events and represented just 4.3 percent of participants.

By 2014, women comprised 40.3 percent of competitors overall. Yes, change is happening, albeit gradually.

So let's start by exploring how women were only recently allowed to compete in ski jumping at the Olympic Games – in 2014, and still aren't permitted to compete in Nordic Combined – ski jumping + cross-country.

‘Someone asked if my uterus would fall out ski jumping,’ said ski jumper Lindsey Van. ‘People asked me that. I’m serious. Sometimes I thought, ‘I don’t even know how to answer your stupid question.’
— Lindsey Van, record holder in ski jumping

In the 2022 games, they will compete in Nordic Combined, according to this story – "The Winter Olympics: Where Women Are Slowly Gaining Ground" – since the men who run Nordic sports told women they'd have to wait. Something about what's involved in adding a "new" sport, though, of course, this isn't a new sport, just a new gender doing it. All of the excuses, Lindsey Van, who holds the record for longest jump by male and female competitors, isn't buying. After all, she's gone to court to try to be allowed to compete.

Ski jumper Lindsey Van, who holds the record for the longest jump among both male and female competitors, says the men’s arguments make no sense – not least because women already have their own international championships and ‘meet all the technical requirements.’
— Lindsey Van, ski jump record holder

Last weekend, The New York Times magazine featured women and ski jumping in this story – "Once Prohibited, Women’s Ski Jumping Is Set to Take Flight."

Other turn-of-the-century objections were pseudoscientific, often focused on the uterus. Amazingly, these lasted through the turn of our century. By 2005, men had been ski jumping in the Olympics for 81 years, but the International Olympic Committee still refused to sanction a women’s event. That year, the president of the International Ski Federation explained to NPR that the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view” — to which the American ski jumper Lindsey Van artfully responded, ‘I kind of want to vomit.’ Van found herself burdened with explaining that for her, unlike for all those ski-jumping men, ‘my baby-making organs are on the inside.’
— The New York Times magazine, Feb. 6, 2018

Next up – the bobsled. The four-man sled had its first runs at the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924; the two-man version eight years later. Women weren't allowed to compete for another 70 years, in 2002, with the two-woman sled. In these Olympics, Jamaica and Nigeria will have female bobsledders competing. The women representing Nigeria, all raised in the U.S., will mark another first – until now, no African country has sent bobsledders of either gender to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Nigerian Women's Bobsled team members.

Nigerian Women's Bobsled team members.

in their "Compete Like a Woman" newsletter, Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli, co-authors of the best-selling book Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose, give all sorts of reasons why girls ought to be involved in sports – from an early age. Leadership skills. Confidence. Empowerment. A sense of knowing they can do what they never thought they could.

And so the world will know that uteruses don't fall from the sky when women ski jump.





She Fought and Died For Women's Suffrage, But Did She Make Her Husband's Tea?

Daily thought sign at Colliers Wood Station a day after the 100 year anniversary of women in England gaining the right to vote,

Daily thought sign at Colliers Wood Station a day after the 100 year anniversary of women in England gaining the right to vote,

Today my message is short, but not so sweet. Summed up in the visual that leads off this blog post.

On the day after we explored how sexist descriptions follow women to the grave, somebody at London Transport thought it would be a good idea to perpetuate the notion that women's foremost duty in life is to be sure her husband is served his cup of tea.

The London Transport referred to its signage as a "joke" after rider Evelyn Clegg, 30, tweeted a photo of this sign – with her comment about its offensive content:

Like a lot of people, yesterday I was celebrating 100 years of the first women getting the vote, and in fact spent yesterday evening at an event celebrating the suffragettes and modern feminists. After such a positive and inspiring day, to see that sign this morning was an unpleasant shock and reminded me how far we have to go until women are taken as seriously as men. ... “I’m sure I’ll be accused of ‘not being able to take a joke’ but humour based on the death of a woman who was fighting for basic equality is completely inappropriate.
— Evelyn Clegg

So let's pause to take in what is closer to the totality of Emily Davison's life, as rendered by The BBC.

In 1906, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. Three years later she gave up her job as a teacher and went to work full-time for the suffragette movement. She was frequently arrested for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to burning post boxes and spent a number of short periods in jail.

In 1909, she was sentenced to a month’s hard labour in Strangeways Prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. She attempted to starve herself, and resisted force-feeding. A prison guard, angered by Davison’s blockading herself in her cell, forced a hose into the room and nearly filled it with water. Eventually, however, the door was broken down, and she was freed. She subsequently sued the wardens of Strangeways, and was awarded 40 shillings.

By 1911, Davison was becoming increasingly militant. On 4 June 1913, she ran out in front of the king’s horse as it was taking part in the Epsom Derby. Her purpose was unclear, but she was trampled on and died on 8 June from her injuries.
— The BBC
Emily Davison

Emily Davison

In 1906, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. Three years later she gave up her job as a teacher and went to work full-time for the suffragette movement. She was frequently arrested for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to burning post boxes and spent a number of short periods in jail.

In 1909, she was sentenced to a month's hard labour in Strangeways Prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. She attempted to starve herself, and resisted force-feeding. A prison guard, angered by Davison's blockading herself in her cell, forced a hose into the room and nearly filled it with water. Eventually, however, the door was broken down, and she was freed. She subsequently sued the wardens of Strangeways, and was awarded 40 shillings.

By 1911, Davison was becoming increasingly militant. On 4 June 1913, she ran out in front of the king's horse as it was taking part in the Epsom Derby. Her purpose was unclear, but she was trampled on and died on 8 June from her injuries.



The Real Rosa Parks: She's Still Got Lessons to Teach

Rosa Parks and her niece, Urana McCauley

Rosa Parks and her niece, Urana McCauley

The telling of women's lives – in history and obituaries – suffer similar fates due to a societal impulse to adhere to images of feminine virtues that make their lives and actions more palatable for us. Yet in doing this, the totality of women's lives – the significance of their actual accomplishments – remains hidden or untold.

This treatment of women was brought to mind when I read this story about Rosa Parks – "Rosa Parks Was My Aunt. Here's What You Don't Know About Her: Last week marked her 105th birthday — it's time to move beyond the quiet seamstress narrative."

Told by her niece, in this excerpt she asks us to appreciate the totality of her aunt's life – what she accomplished (not just on that one day), what she endured due to the person she was and the actions she too, and how she improved the lives of others:

My aunt was a known person in the community. She became the recording secretary for the NAACP almost 15 years before she refused to give up her seat on that bus. ... I know people might still try to belittle my Auntie Rosa by saying, ‘Oh she was just a little seamstress.’ But that ‘little seamstress’ is proof you can be anything out here and still make changes in your community.

Through the decades words slipped through to me about how my own mythologize introduction to Rosa Parks as "tired seamstress" who took a white person's seat on a Montgomery bus didn't capture her essence. Yes, by taking that seat and refusing to move Rosa Parks ignited the racial boycott of the city's busses. But it's essential that I know more about her life than this one tale. It's vital that all of us do, most of all children who still being taught only this about Rosa Parks.

We do this to women, and to men though not so much and without the gender overlays being so visible. Rosa's niece encourages all of us to drop our myth making and get on with learning the fuller story about her aunt's life and those of other women.

Which makes me think about women's obituaries. Here is the opening paragraph of an obituary about author Colleen McCullough:

First of all, there are a lot fewer obituaries about women than about men. Women are quoted a lot less on the pages of newspaper, such as The New York Times, so we should not be surprised to discover that as death mimics life we get to read less about women's lives than we do about men's.

When women's obituaries appear the stories told tend to perpetuate the sexism that a lot of women contend with in life. Take a read of this Guardian column. "Obituaries show that sexism follows women to the grave." An excerpt:

That there is such a thing as post-mortem misogyny might be funny if it weren’t so depressing. Because as unbelievably eye-rolling as they are – a literal rocket scientist reduced to a dinner dish – they’re also a clear reminder to women that their most important accomplishments will always be shadowed by their gender.
— Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

Which makes me think about women's obituaries. Here is the opening paragraph of an obituary about author Colleen McCullough:

COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: ‘I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.’
— The Australian, Obituary
Colleen McCullough.jpeg

After this obituary went viral, this satirical Washington Post column, "Obituaries for Men" appeared in which famous men's obituaries were patterned after its style and tone with a physical description seems mandatory. A few examples:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Though he looked like a wrinkly potato that had not slept in six years, some people liked his social policies okay.

James Joyce: Despite a marked resemblance to Henry Bemis in that “Time Enough At Last” episode of “The Twilight Zone,” nevertheless, this unappetizing little fellow wrote a couple of books.

Ernest Hemingway: This man looked like a big drunk cat. Contributed to literature in some way, possibly.

Charles Darwin: This man looked like something that came out of the ice just slightly to your left on the evolutionary scale, which was strangely apt given what he spent his life doing.
— Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post

Here's my idea: Women should write their own obituaries. Two words I will put in my first paragraph: resisted and persisted. 

RBG calls for ERA: I'm With Her!

RBG on ERA.jpeg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg calls for equal rights amendment to the Constitution

This headline of last Friday's Washington Post story caught my eye. RBG is a hero of mine. Not only do I admire her physical workouts, especially her push-ups, but I am grateful for her ever-watchful eye and  lifetime of steadfast actions she's taken to protect and promote women's rights.

To absorb RBG's legal reasoning about why the United States needs both the ERA and the 14th Amendment to protect sexual equality, read her cogent argument in the January 1979 Washington University Law Review – Symposium: The Quest for Equality.

When the ERA deadline for ratification was reached in 1982, I was in my early 30s, living in heady times when women were on the march and I could see women's lives changing around me. In my federal court case, Ludtke v. Kuhn, Judge Constance Baker Motley's ruling moved a mountain of resistance to secure equality for women sportswriters – and though there weren't many of us, the ruling's symbolic import was huge. Perhaps because I existed in my euphoric bubble I trusted that progress towards gender equality was inevitable and unstoppable; it would be only a matter of time before the ERA would be in our Constitution. After all, who could object to works with legal standing that achieve what is fair, just and right?


Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

It was suffragist Alice Paul who in 1923, on the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention, had introduced the "Lucretia Mott Amendment. It read: "Men and woman shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction." This was introduced in every session of Congress until a slightly reworded ERA amendment passed in 1972 and was sent to the states for ratification. When favorable state votes stalled as the seven year window was about to end, Congress extended the deadline by three years. Alice Paul died in 1977, which was the year when Indiana became the 35th and last state to ratify the ERA before the deadline came.

In 1980 the Republican Party dropped the ERA from its party platform.

In my book proposal for Locker Room Talk, I noted the similarities in how people talked about gender and locker rooms during my equal rights case in the late 1970s and the debates about the designation and use of bathrooms that have assumed such a central role in the transgender rights movement today. From my book proposal:

Perhaps our enduring fascination with - and the on-going political currency of – the question of who gets into what restroom tugs our generations together. Back in my day, Phyllis Schlafly, the self-proclaimed defender of women’s propriety and place, put toilets at the moralizing core of her separate spheres campaign against the ERA. Her side won, and many credited the specter of shared toilets as the key in dooming the amendment, along with the fear she instilled about women being forced to assume combat roles in the military. Today women have gone to court so that they can serve in combat alongside men, arguing they are able to perform as the equal of men. Now, too, the politics around transgender people is at its fiercest at the bathroom door. Who enters what door? Who decides?
— Locker Room Talk, book proposal

In 1923, Alice Paul, rallied support for the cause of equal rights, by observing that "if we keep on this way they will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1848 Convention without being much further advanced in equal rights than we are. . . .  We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government."

Alice Paul.jpeg

Alice Paul was right. By 1998, the ERA was dormant. Only recently, and with good reason as women experience setbacks in the successful struggles we've waged and won, is there talk of reviving the ERA. And action, too: On March 22, 2017, the 45th anniversary of the day that Congress sent the ERA to the states, legislators made Nevada the 36th (of 38 needed) to ratify the ERA. There's debate, of course, about their timing given that the Congressional deadline of 1982 long ago ended.

So if that's the fight we need to have in Congress, I'm with RBG. I say let's do it.

Excellent interview with RBG in The Atlantic, published after I wrote this post.

Pay Inequity: We're Tired of Talk and Watching the Wheels Turn Slowly

My Sports Illustrated co-workers at our annual [Walter] "Bingham Bowl." We worked and played sports together, but when it came to the paychecks we received for the jobs we did I'm pretty sure the women, including me, were paid less than the guys. And since men were promoted more often than women, their salaries rose quicker and higher, too.

My Sports Illustrated co-workers at our annual [Walter] "Bingham Bowl." We worked and played sports together, but when it came to the paychecks we received for the jobs we did I'm pretty sure the women, including me, were paid less than the guys. And since men were promoted more often than women, their salaries rose quicker and higher, too.

I'll never know if I was paid the same as what the guys I sat next to at Sports Illustrated and Time were paid. I never saw their paychecks. They didn't see mine, and it wasn't something we talked about except in legal actions. Newsweek's gender discrimination case – The Good Girls Revolt – led the way, and soon women at Time, Inc. followed, forcing the corporate officials to release documentary evidence of lots of gender inequity, including hiring, promotion and pay. Other media women's lawsuits dotted the 1970s adding to the plethora of legal evidence of women's unequal pay and treatment.

After seven courageous women at The New York Times took that newspaper into federal court with charges of gender discrimination, evidentiary documents revealed that in 1975 men at the Times were paid $98.67 cents per week more than women and $5,160 more per year. Among notes the court rescued from the files was this one, quite typical of many others:

We’ll take your word on Pamela Kent, of course. What does she look like? Twiggy? Lynn Redgrave? Perhaps you ought to send over her vital statistics, or a picture in a bikini.
— Written by Dan Schwarz, Sunday Editor to a Times employee who had recommended an application for a job in Sunday Department

Yet as a young woman at Sports Illustrated I wasn't protesting my pay but basking in the privilege I had of doing a man's job which I loved – covering Major League Baseball. I refused to whine about how tough it was to do my job reporting on baseball with the gender handicaps the sport placed on me. Here's how I'm writing about this in my opening chapter of Locker Room Talk:

Complaining about bothersome things that routinely happened by dint of being female – both in SI’s office and at the ballpark – tagged us as whiners. Still does. Even the word “whiner” sounds blackboard scratchy and irritating. I had only to gaze down rows of reporters’ offices at SI to realize that plenty of my peers, a lot of them guys, would happily take my place on the baseball beat. Enough complaints from me and one probably would since it was a whole lot easier to replace me than to argue with baseball about access.
— Melissa Ludtke, Locker Room Talk

So how far have we come in four decades? Well, check this headline ‘Selfish young ladies’: Massachusetts publisher fires newspaper editor after pay-equality spat" atop this Washington Post story. The young ladies in question are women reporters who found out they are being paid less than their male counterparts at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, a newspaper in Western, MA.

Women pay inequity.jpeg


Or dip into the Carnegie Mellon University study which found that when an equal number of job-seeking men and women visited 100 recruitment sites, men were shown the ad for the highest-paying job (jobs with salaries of more than $200,000) six times more often than women were.

Or absorb this business mom's essay: Moms are punished in the workplace, even when we own the business

Or join Ms. Webster, one of five career women who got together with a New York Times reporter to talk about women's pay inequities. 

Ms. Webster, 36, who says she left the law firm she was working for in 2016 after she wrote a letter to the partners suggesting that they were acting out unconscious bias. ‘At least for one case, and it may have been for multiple cases, my time was being billed out at a lower rate than two of the three white, male paralegals,’ Ms. Webster said. ‘The very next business day, I got put on a performance improvement plan,’ she added. ‘They were putting the paperwork in motion to either justify firing me or getting me to leave.’”
— Ms. Webster in New York Times roundtable on women's pay inequities

I read all of these stories within the past week. So is there progress? Yes, mainly because women keeping fighting to make progress on pay inequity happen. So grudgingly, it has, though much too slowly, as any of us paying attention know all too well.



“Just know you’re not alone.”

NFL Brains CTE.jpeg

Superbowl Sunday: #52 and my New England Patriots are on the field. Again. And here's what I see and what I'm reading today:

I see brains, like the colorful slices you see above. Images of the brains of football players – men in the prime of life with their brains destroyed and the lives of those who love them ruined by the game that they loved to play – set aside brains like yours and mine. 

I think of my friend Frank Gifford who played the game long before we had the capacity to look inside of brains in the way we can now and label his brain at death as CTE, an acronym that's made parents fearful of allowing their children to play this game. Frank gave me my start in sports media – more bluntly stated he gave me my life in journalism!

I read a wife's words this morning about the gentle man she married, the one who played a brutal sport and in his 40s turned into a man she doesn't know. She seeks comfort in talking with wives whose husbands played football and now are lost to them, too: "Just know you're not alone." She vividly describes her husband's transformation and responds to those who say that knowing about CTE won't stop them from watching grown men bang their heads in football games. It's their decision to do what they do, she hears people say – yet when her husband played, he didn't know.

Who these men have become is not who they are, and I write that with conviction. The symptoms they display are beyond their control and occur through no fault of their own. These men chose football, but they didn’t choose brain damage.
— Emily Kelly, wife of Rob Kelly, football player

I absorb Joe Drape's words as he writes of "The American Dilemma" in the same newspaper on the same day as Emily Kelly does. Drape tells us why so Americans who now know of football's gruesome injuries continue tuning in and celebrating what some call America's version of the Roman gladiators.

I have no problem watching the N.F.L. — these are grown men making grown men’s decisions,” said Schwarz, whose investigative articles from 2007 to 2011 compelled new safety rules for players of all ages. “After being kept in the dark for so many years by their employers, they now know they could wind up brain-damaged. Fine. They’re professional daredevils. It wasn’t immoral to watch Evel Knievel. We watch stuntmen in movies.
— Joe Drape, writing in The New York Times

I cringe when I read in that same newspaper on the same day about how more girls now play tackle football – More Girls Are Playing Football. Is That Progress?

We can thank a constellation of cultural forces for women’s involvement in football today, from Title IX to the women’s movement, to strong female athletes who have persisted in pursuing their athletic dreams despite a lack of broader cultural support.
— Valerie Palmer-Mehta, a professor of communication at Oakland University whose work focuses on women and rhetoric, who contends the change is evidence of larger cultural shifts.

I'm a huge proponent of girls having every opportunity that boys do – and that includes playing sports, of course, and having their sports be paid attention to. Yet I'd like to see equality played out in football not by increasing the number and gender of youngsters who tackle each other at young ages but by eliminating tackles from the game. 


As my generation of young women found out in the 1970s, when the only role models we had were the men doing the jobs we wanted to do, men don't always possess the only wisdom about how something should be done. Now that brain scans are schooling us in disastrous consequences of following their men's ways on a football field, let's us, as parents and women, campaign to institute flag football for all youngsters – boys and girls – through high school.

Just because the boys do it doesn't mean girls who want to play football should follow their example. Let's find a better way.

Girl Tackle Football Player.jpeg





Sad Goodbye to My First Journalism Home

Time & Life Building.jpeg

A few days ago Vanity Fair paused to take note of the end of an era in American journalism – the sale of Time Inc, where I arrived as a "girl who knew sports," as ABC Sports broadcaster Frank Gifford once dubbed me in complimenting me on my ability to talk sports. And when I left my job at Sports Illustrated five years I'd learned journalism, written some stories and fact checked a lot of other, and defeated Major League Baseball in a federal court case that leveled the playing field for women sports reporters by giving us the equal access to locker rooms that we needed to do our jobs.

Vanity Fair's headline stopped me cold.


Executives count their payouts, staffers worry about layoffs, and 100 years of media history comes to an end with Meredith’s takeover of Time.

Soon Time Inc alums gathered on Facebook to reminisce about the good old days with requisite call outs to how grand life our lives were back then, with late night dinners served on china, fully stocked liquor cabinets in editors' offices, and expense accounts that gave many of us first class lives on the road. It was the heyday of print advertising that kept the company's coffers full, but what I noticed in my colleagues' words was less about how good our lives were as journalists at Time Inc, but how meaningful it felt to have the privilege of working as a reporter or researcher, correspondent or photographer, writer or editor in the Time & Life Building at the corner of 50th and Avenue of the Americas.

A sampling of comments, below, became a Rip Van Winkle experience as one by one we recalled memories of how journalism – at least at Time, Inc. – used to be.

High journalistic standards (which are harder and harder to hold on to)

Fact-checkers! Whole floors of fact-checkers! Imagine.

It could be a very feisty company, in the day, challenging powerful interests. I remember our lawyer saying, after reviewing a story, "They may sue us if you run this, but we'll win. Go for it." Such a great attitude!

Totally. Lawyers who thought their job was to help you publish the story rather than keep the company from getting sued.

4 month paid maternity leave

Got to do great, rewarding work that was valued by my bosses and peers ... was fairly compensated ... hung out with bright, talented people ... and met my wife. Loved every day of it—even the bad ones. Made my father inordinately proud. Not a bad list, for starters.

My honor to work with smart, brilliant people, many of whom would go to bat for any of us. The late-night closes in London — what a bonding experience! Making friends all around the world and, most importantly of all, introducing me to the love of my life. Xo

It taught me journalism standards I still treasure and now labor to try and pass down to the young writers I work with today. It introduced me to three presidents, several wannabe presidents and a whole world of interesting and insane people. And it taught me that a magazine is only as strong as the people who work there, and that you attract great people by treating them well and inspiring them ... at least until AOL shows up.

Here's another perspective – Who killed Time Inc.? – published in Columbia Journalism Review.