Subversive Historian – 06/24/09

Bernice Gera’s Fight

Back in the day on June 24th, 1972, Bernice Gera became the first woman to umpire a professional baseball game in the United States. Taking the field of a Class A minor league game pitting the Geneva Rangers against the Auburn Phillies, she broke the gender barrier in the profession, but not without a fight. Gera’s history making occasion was delayed for many years due to a legal battle that ensued after graduating umpiring school in Florida. Ready to start work, she received a notice from the president of the then-National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues that simply stated that her contract was deemed “invalid.” Facing sex-discrimination in the workplace, Gera took her case to court where, after five long years, she was finally allowed to umpire. The battle against sexism didn’t end there, however. In Gera’s first game, a manager came out to argue a reversed call she had made, deriding her saying she “should be in the kitchen, peeling potatoes.”

That experience coupled with her fellow umpires refusing to cooperate with her on the field, led to her decision to resign after her one and only game…

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