Friday, March 5, 2010

In History: Sylvia Pressler

This is the 15th post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com.

Guest post! Today's column comes via V. Sobol, a communications professional striving to raise her pre-teen daughter as a feminist, and author of the lovely blog "Raising Feminist Girls," where this piece was first posted. Many thanks for allowing Spare Candy to share your writing!

Thanks to Sylvia Pressler, young girls have more opportunity in sports. A jurist and an author, Pressler is best known for her 1973 ruling that opened the doors for girls to play Little League baseball. The case involved 12-year-old Maria Pepe of Hoboken, NJ, who had joined the local Little League team but was forbidden to play by the League's national officials. With the help of N.O.W., Pepe sued. Pressler ruled in her favor, claiming, "The institution of Little League is as American as hot dogs and apple pie. There's no reason why that part of America should be withheld from girls." The following year, Little League baseball agreed to allow girls to play on its baseball teams--and it started a softball division as well. Pressler later rose to be the presiding administrative judge of the New Jersey Appellate Division. She passed away earlier this year at the age of 75.

I was born too soon to benefit from Pressler's ruling, and also to fully benefit from Title IX -- the landmark 1972 act that mandated equality in educational programs and revolutionized girls' sports in school and college. But as the youngest of four girls I was always an athlete, a.k.a. "tomboy"--and I do believe my pursuit of sports kept me out of trouble in those early teen years. Rather than hang out and drink and smoke, my friend Angel and I played basketball with the boys every night at the outdoor basketball court--lit by a single lightbulb--at the local schoolyard. We had fun, avoided trouble, got exercise, and learned how to deal with boys as friends, not just boyfriends.

I'm a strong believer that playing sports offers benefits for all kids, and I've always encouraged my daughter to participate. Hats off to Sylvia Pressler for giving all girls a bit more opportunity.

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