Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder, review by Shirley Wells

“They are just a bunch of country girls who like to play basketball,” claimed Sam Babb, coach of the Cardinals, the Oklahoma Presbyterian College women’s team.  And in the 1930s when flamboyant female athletes captured the attention of the press yet women’s sports were still quite controversial, being described as “country girls” was actually something of a compliment.  But these farm girls who played for a junior college in a small Oklahoma town were surely no match for a national championship AAU team such as the Dallas Cyclones, starring the legendary Babe Didrikson...or were they?  This is the story of how this underdog team, led by a resourceful coach, brought hope and excitement to Middle America during the Depression.  Lydia Reeder (Sam Babb’s great-niece) tells the inspiring, true story of an improbable team that succeeded in spite of the odds.

Coach Babb traveled from farm to farm, promising these hardworking, athletic young women a free college education if they would come play basketball for him.  In spite of never having left home, the girls were excited at the possibility of this adventure.  But it was a sacrifice for most of the families who desperately needed the farm labor the girls could provide.  They also would be subject to the disapproval facing serious female athletes.  Basketball was not considered a proper sport for a young woman. Its rules were even changed for girls to make it less strenuous.  In the 20s and 30s, it was thought that rigorous competition could damage a girl’s delicate reproductive organs, plus it might destroy her feminine image and make it hard for her to attract a husband. There were even national campaigns waged against women’s basketball, with well-known figures such as First Lady Lou Hoover speaking out against it.  But these girls loved the game, and their loyalty to each other, their school, and their coach proved to be a winning combination.

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Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781616204662
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Published: Algonquin Books - January 24th, 2017