Queen of the Negro Leagues

These last few years have been filled with inspirational female voices. From the Women’s March and #MeToo, to political powerhouses like Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton, women have made it clear that their opinions matter and they intend to be heard. 

I learned from Marie Curie, Grace Hopper, and Rosalind Franklin. I devoured the words of Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and J.K. Rowling. And, I was raised by the most powerful, inspiring woman I know: my mother.

Since March is Women’s History Month, it’s a perfect time to shine the light on another woman with whom you might not be familiar. Those who know me know that baseball is a huge part of my life. It gives me hope, enjoyment and some much-needed magic. Including the 2020 election, there are 333 members of The National Baseball Hall of Fame. Of those 333, there are 332 men and 1 woman.

Effa Manley is not a well-known figure in the sports world but her contribution to the game has earned her a stellar reputation and entry into The Hall. Born in 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Effa met her future husband, Abe, at a New York Yankees game in 1935. Their union allowed her to get involved in the ballclub he owned, the Newark Eagles, a Negro League team that operated out of Newark, New Jersey. She soon took over the daily operations of the team and became an advocate for better pay, travel, scheduling and accommodations, factors that people gave little thought or concern to when it came to the Negro League. 

Manley was very active in the Civil Rights Movement and a myriad of other causes. She would attend rallies, invite soldiers to attend games for free and hold benefits for local hospitals and organizations. Later in life, she advocated for the entry of Negro League players into The Hall of Fame. The only women in a league full of male owners, Manley strived to make baseball better. She shattered glass ceilings, kicked in the closed doors and I am proud to be her fan. 

This month, I encourage all of us to explore and learn about the incredible women who made our world what it is today. Time Magazine and their list of 100 Women of the Year is a great place to get started. Effa Manley may not be on their list, but she is number one on mine.

Photo courtesy of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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