Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Kerber, Linda K.
Schwalm, Leslie A.
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Baseball has not always been identified as a man’s game despite the fact that its boosters began proclaiming it a “manly” pastime in antebellum America. This thesis reveals, for the first time, that baseball began as a gender-neutral sport. Countless girls and women across the country played the game in every decade of the nineteenth century that the game existed, organizing the same types of teams that boys and men did. The thesis explains how and why the gender-neutral game become so fiercely gendered as masculine and explains how this characterization persisted despite dramatic changes in gender ideals and roles over time.
Close scrutiny of nineteenth-century sources indicates that baseball’s gendered character was neither inevitable nor quickly solidified. For decades journalists, scholars, and ordinary citizens unwittingly perpetuated the gendered narrative—a narrative introduced by men with a personal and financial stake in shaping the game for their own purposes and one accepted and reinforced in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth by female physical educators who organized a structure for girls’ and women’s sport that discouraged elitism and encouraged participation by individuals of all physical characteristics.
This thesis traces the evolution of baseball throughout the nineteenth century, focusing on the development of the formal structure of the sport and the cultural “creed” it shaped. To the extent allowed by available primary sources, each chapter highlights the perceptions of female players, particularly as they saw themselves in the context of baseball culture and social ideals of gender.
Baseball, Culture, Gender, Masculinity, Sport
xxviii, 375 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 346-375).
Copyright © 2015 Debra Ann Shattuck
Shattuck, Debra Ann. "From child's play to molder of men: the gendered narrative of nineteenth-century baseball." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2015.