From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian
The impetus for selecting “Dust Bowl Girls” for this month’s discussion title was a tie-in to March Madness but it turned out to be a fortuitous choice. After all, it’s also Women’s History Month and in a turn of events I didn’t foresee, Caitlin Clark broke scoring records in college basketball this season. The book stars aligned for me.
Actually, Lydia Reeder’s book has been on my radar for some time. During high school I much preferred attending basketball games to football—it was played indoors, pep band didn’t require as many rehearsals as marching band, and I could actually see the action on court when I bothered to watch. But the historical aspect of “Dust Bowl Girls” is what attracted me to the book.
Before Title IX became law in 1972, athletically-inclined women didn’t have as many opportunities to play sports nor did they achieve the acclaim or fortune of their male counterparts (still don’t but that’s for another time). So “Dust Bowl Girls” was a revelation to me—a team of female college students, on basketball scholarships no less, barnstorming the dusty fields of Oklahoma and Texas during the early 1930’s.
This book has much the same feel as “The Boys in the Boat” (full disclosure: I still like it better) and “A League of Their Own.” Reeder tells the story of coach Sam Babb (her great uncle) and players on the Oklahoma Presbyterian College as they become a team that finds glory as they travel about during the early days of the Great Depression. The reader comes to know each of the players, as well as Babb, who was certainly ahead of his time when it came to women’s sports.
Not everyone will find the historical aspects as compelling as I did, but the time period and location are integral parts of the story, one that was nearly forgotten. Fortunately, Lydia Reeder’s grandmother wanted the exploits of a group of plucky athletes and their forward-thinking coach to live on. “Dust Bowl Girls” is a testament to the young women, their families, and their strength to seek out a better living. Athletes of both genders would do well to emulate them.