A League of Their Own for Pawtucket

All-girls hardball league began in 1973

March 18, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

It was 1973, and change was in the air. The Equal Rights Amendment had recently been passed by Congress and was sent to the states; President Nixon had just signed Title IX; and in Pawtucket, R.I., the Darlington American Little League was being sued for refusing to let nine-year-old Alison “Pookie” Fortin play baseball.

The situation in Pawtucket was not unique:  Little League Baseball had barred girls from its affiliates since the early 1950s, and backed up its decision by voiding the charters of leagues that allowed girls to play.

In Pawtucket, however, the parents got together to seek a solution other than going through the courts. Why not create a whole new baseball league, one that Pookie Fortin and every other girl who lived in the Pawtucket area could participate in?

Thus began the Pawtucket Slaterettes, an all-girl hardball league. Since 1974, the league has expanded to four divisions that accommodate about 200 girls per year, ages five through adult. The Slaterettes (named after Pawtucket’s Slater Mill, an early pioneer in the Industrial Revolution) are one of only a few girls baseball leagues in the country, and they are still going strong nearly 40 years later.

Why baseball and not softball? “Why not?” asks Deb Bettencourt, a longtime officer with the league. “They are different games. There is nothing wrong with softball, but there is nothing wrong with baseball, either. The girls in our league just like playing hardball.”

In addition, some girls play baseball with the Slaterettes, play softball with their high school or college, and then return to the Slaterettes to play or coach baseball again. “Sometimes they come back with their daughters,” Bettencourt continued “Once a Slaterette, always a Slaterette.”

John Odell is the curator of history and research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum