Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Feminism and Take Me Out to the Ball Game

A quick baseball interlude.

Had you ever thought of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" as a feminist song? Well, now you will--John Thorn, who is the official historian of Major League Baseball (and wrote a great book on the origins of baseball that I reviewed in 2011) reprinted a study of the song.

Although this memorable chorus of peanuts and Cracker Jack is part of our national consciousness, the song’s little-known verses tell a deeper story, about a woman and her desire to be part of the rooting crowd. Her name was Katie Casey, and in 1908 she was affirmably baseball’s biggest fan. Katie Casey was base ball mad,Had the fever and had it bad;Just to root for the home town crew, Ev’ry sou Katie blew.On a Saturday, her young beauCalled to see if she’d like to go,To see a show But Miss Kate said “no, I’ll tell you what you can do:[1]Figure 2. Take me out to the ball game postcard, 1910“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was Katie’s well known reply, but in 1908, a woman at the ballpark rooting and cheering was neither a common sight, nor was it fully accepted. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” advertises just the opposite: that a woman’s place was indeed in the grandstand at the ballpark and not just safe at home.

At the time, he notes, women were sometimes seen at baseball games but it is was not widespread and there was a lot of male resistance. But it goes even further in terms of social implications:

These were the Katie Caseys of the factories who eventually took to the streets in search of better working conditions and higher pay. The tune that these women were singing was also an “infectious” one, and society would have to “get every word.” Women wanted empowerment, and Katie Casey’s fictionalized declaration for a female presence in the grandstand was a reverberation of these workers’ demands for equality. Once they reached their own chorus of assimilation, they too could never go back.

What a cool story!


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