What's the Score?: 25 Years of Teaching Women's Sports History

What's the Score?: 25 Years of Teaching Women's Sports History

by Bonnie J. Morris
What's the Score?: 25 Years of Teaching Women's Sports History

What's the Score?: 25 Years of Teaching Women's Sports History

by Bonnie J. Morris


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Who is the first female athlete you admired? Were male and female athletes treated differently in your high school? Is there a natural limit to women's athletic ability? How has Title IX opened up opportunities for women athletes?

Every semester since 1996, Bonnie Morris has encouraged students to confront questions like these in one of the most provocative college courses in America: Athletics and Gender, A History of Women's Sports. What's the Score?, Morris's energetic teaching memoir, is a peek inside that class and features a decades-long dialogue with student athletes about the greater opportunities for women—on the playing field, as coaches, and in sports media. From corsets to segregated schoolyards to the WNBA, we find women athletes the world over conquering unique barriers to success.

What's the Score? is not only an insider's look at sports education but also an engaging guide to turning points in women's sports history that everyone should know.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781684351800
Publisher: Red Lightning Books
Publication date: 06/07/2022
Pages: 294
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Bonnie J. Morris, author of 19 books and a member of the Authors Guild, has been teaching women's sports history since 1996, becoming Professor of the Year and emeritus professor at George Washington University, Vicennial Medalist at Georgetown, and a nominee for the Excellence in Teaching Prize at UC-Berkeley. She is a scholarly adviser to the National Museum of Women's History, a history consultant to Disney, and the archivist for Olivia Records, as well as three-time faculty for the global Semester at Sea program. Find her talks on C-SPAN and her writing at www.bonniejmorris.com. Morris is currently a lecturer in history at the University of California at Berkeley.

Read an Excerpt


Imagine, if you will, a father and son on a city bus. Or it might be grandfather and grandson; the boy is young, no more than six. They sit together near the front. At the next bus stop, an older adult male steps on, and, spying the young boy, greets him in a friendly tone: "Hiya, tiger! Who's your team in the World Series?" Shyly, the little boy whispers "The Dodgers," and the two adult men, strangers mere seconds before, laugh together. A three-generational conversation about baseball has begun, initiating the youngest participant into a lifelong cozy world of man-talk about sports.

Familiar to most of us. Now, let's imagine a mother and daughter are on that bus; the six-year-old girl uncomfortable and itchy in her required school uniform skirt. At the next stop, an elderly woman gets on, sees the girl, and shouts "Hey there, cub! Who ya favor for the Superbowl?" Heads turn. A crazy lady. The mother covers her daughter with a protective arm. Passengers aren't acculturated to view this moment as three generations of athletic women, or as a normal conversation bringing a strong girl into the fold. At best, the strange woman remains that: a stranger, socially marginal in her odd behavior. We still don't expect women to initiate, share, participate in, or pass along sports literacy. In other words, except on a few annual occasions, we don't expect women to know the score.

Very early in life, girls get left behind and left out of a swath of popular culture expected from most males. It's even considered "cute," or appropriately feminine, when a woman doesn't understand the rules of a game or what just happened on the field. Male companions interpret the action for her—or, intent on the outcome, the score, explain what happened afterwards.

Not knowing the score puts women and girls at a disadvantage. It extends to not knowing the score historically (who were the top women athletes of all time, and how many broke records set by men?) or financially (what are the salaries for the best women players in the world, and why doesn't the women's national soccer team earn as much as the men's?) Ignorance of the score is a social justice disadvantage, too, as we seek ways to undo centuries of racism. Not knowing how long and how totally America's sports were segregated limits athletes' alliances now. Throughout Jim Crow segregation, many Black athletes' scores weren't even entered into official state statistics, making it impossible to be certain (and pass on) just who had the best season or set time-shattering records. Taking the image of "the bus ride" further: we know that women athletes often endured long bus trips to away games, while better-funded men's teams flew and enjoyed better hotels. But we don't hear as much from the Black women who always rode in the back of the bus; or how Black women athletes, denied a bed at whites-only motels on the road, slept on the hard seats of their own team buses the night before away games.

As a women's history professor, I was already "keeping score" of how far women had come, how well or poorly we were doing, how far we had to go. Too many of my own students started college not knowing when women won the right to vote; year after year, this never changed. Among the many student-athletes I taught, more than half were female, but none could name five female athletes who had won gold at the Olympics. None had heard of an African-American woman named Toni Stone, who had played pro baseball along with men in the Negro Leagues; no white students knew about segregated baseball, for that matter. Though many of my students in Washington, D.C. were pursuing careers in government, or were interns on Capitol Hill, they were unfamiliar with Title IX law and with past rules that kept Congresswomen from using the sports club available to male elected representatives.

But I hadn't learned any of that either, in high school. As a young girl, I would not have had an answer for which team I favored even if Toni Stone herself got on my bus in L.A. and challenged me to a friendly woman-to-woman conversation about sports. We had all been left out of sports literacy, not encouraged to learn the names of Black or white sports heroines, and allowed to feel it didn't matter if we were ignorant in this area.

There was a score to settle, and I invented a class to launch the conversation. The class was called Athletics and Gender. I taught it for 25 years.

Table of Contents

Timeline: 101 Turning Points in Women's Sports History
Prologue: The Bus Ride before the Game
Introduction: Nothing Better to Do on a Friday Night?
1. The Strength of Our Foremothers: Engaging Student Athletes with the Past
2. How Female Athletes Disappear: Headlines, Publicity, and Media Activism
3. Tomboy Identities, Muscular Ideals: Discussing Gender Roles and Homophobia in Sports
4. From Half-Court to Federal Court: Title IX and the American Playing Field
5. Global Encounters with Women's Sports: Teaching Students at Sea
6. Challenges for a Women's Sports Professor: Evaluating 25 Years of Class
Conclusion: When the Scoreboard Went Dark in 2020
Critical Thinking Resources

What People are Saying About This

Shane Snowdon

This unique book truly holds delights for every reader. Skillfully combining information and inspiration, Morris—teacher, historian, and fan—offers a comprehensive, candid, and compelling overview of women's sports. Packed with resources, yet always lively, What's the Score? is both a major contribution to women's studies and a downright great read.

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