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Archive for the ‘Oklahoma’ Tag

Nothin’ But Net and Grit   Leave a comment

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Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder focuses on a group of young women from various parts of rural Oklahoma in the early 1930s. It’s been call the counterpart to Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat in that it highlights overcoming adversity. Whereas the boys rowed their way to fame in the 1936 Olympics, the young women are basketball players. Their glory was limited to a championship season. As Reeder recounts, however, what a season it was!

In addition to profiles of the players and coach, the author provides vivid descriptions of the hardscrabble era, a history of women’s basketball, and attitudes toward women sports in general. For instance, the sport was considered unladylike. This was reflected in the rules governing uniforms and rules. Although it’s interesting, these aspects are frequently repeated, with little variation. Consequently, it appears as padding more than insightful content.

What may be most striking is that the women, most in their late teens, played for the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals on full scholarships. Many were farm girls, whose families would not otherwise have been able to afford to send them to college. Their basketball skills were often gleaned on dirt patches; these were strong, talented players.

During the Depression era, it was common for businesses to sponsor women’s teams as promotional enterprises. The Cardinals faced opponents from other small schools and non-academic teams. Olympic medalist, and later women’s golf pro, Babe Didrikson was a member of the latter. Hers was the team to beat.

Dust Bowl Girls
Three and three-quarter Bookmarks
Algonquin Books, 2017
286 pages, including epilogue and notes

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