Today marks the birthday of Amanda Clement, the first woman paid to umpire a baseball game. The exact year isn't known, but it was around 1903 to 1905, when Amanda was about sixteen years old, a time when most women could neither dream of playing ball, nor even leaning in. Clement was born in Hudson, South Dakota, in 1888, and grew up next door to the town ballpark. She wasn't allowed to play with the boys, but she was permitted to referee their games. Proving to be quite talented at it, "Mandy" was quickly discovered and before long had begun working in the semi-professional leagues. She was billed as the "World Champion Woman Umpire," a fact that South Dakota Magazine dryly points out "was somewhat true since she was surely the only one." But Clement was more than a tomboyish curiosity. She also taught physical education, managed YWCAs, organized various sports teams, coached basketball, and set a world record for a female throwing a baseball (279 feet). She claimed that her sex seemed to make the players more courteous; a "no-nonsense Congregationalist," she was reported to be "death on balls and strikes." According to the magazine: "After Amanda returned to Hudson to care for her sick mother in 1929, she still found time to be city assessor, justice of the peace, police matron, drug store clerk, and typesetter for the local newspaper." I was recently talking to someone about the derivation of the phrase "to paddle one's own canoe." (I'm voting for Louisa May Alcott.) Whoever it was who said it, though, Clement definitely did it, both figuratively and possibly literally. (She once pulled a drowning man from the Mississippi River.) Umpire in a Skirt: the Amanda Clement Story tells the tale of this feminist forerunner. As one Amazon reviewer wrote: "Modern young people have little conception of what life was like for women at the turn of the last century. Thanks to groundbreakers like Amanda Clement, attitudes toward women have changed. Marilyn Kratz brings this era to life in an inspiring and entertaining story about this spunky, memorable heroine." Amanda spent the second half of her life in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she died in 1971. Souix (for Sioux) was found four times in OhioLINK, and 188 times in WorldCat.
(Amanda E. Clement, courtesy of South Dakota Magazine and Wikimedia Commons.)