Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fearless Females - Aunt Pearl - best baseball scorer 1910

Pearl Victoria Blanding was a fearless female, and during Women's History Month I thought I’d write about her: my great Aunt.  Pearl was not a straight-laced Victorian lady, despite her middle name.  She was born 22 Mar 1892, but that never stopped her from getting younger through the years.  At one point, on her Catholic conversion baptism certificate, she crossed out her birth year of 1892 and wrote in "1900."  Her age was also eight years reduced on her ID as an office worker at Santa Anita Race Track in 1936.  She figured it helped her be employable, and she never acted her age anyhow.  

     Pearl was born at Madison Lake, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, but didn't stay there long.  Her Blanding family and some cousins migrated to Dooley County Georgia about 1900, supposedly to avoid the snow and raise peaches.  But after an epidemic of diptheria killed her little cousin, the Squier family returned north.  Pearl's father then took them to Palm Beach, Florida, where he was a carpenter for the Breaker's Hotel.  But California called, and the family took the train ending in Los Angeles in 1903 where she grew up in her family's boarding houses on Staunton Ave and also on 21st Street.
Who can resist girls boxing?  Pearl on right - Los Angeles
      When Pearl was 17 she was feeling her oats and became interested in the national past-time, baseball.  After all, that's where the guys were, and she dated them frequently  She received post cards from them from all over the west and Mexico.  I knew Aunt Pearl always loved the Dodgers when they came to Los Angeles in 1958, but I never knew the background of her fascination with the sport.   

  The postcard from Long Beach, above, says in typical jargon:  "Oh! you kid. Do you think you could outshine this kid in a bathing suit.  I am rooming with Baldwin, a big league p. (pitcher?) certainly tells me a lot of dope, pretty good fellow too.  Jess"

From the California Digital Newspaper Collection I learned that at age 17 Pearl was an avid baseball league scorer as written in the Los Angeles Herald newspaper: 
  " Play Fast Ball in City League" Dec 13, 1909.  "Shonley struck out ten men and was effective at all Stages of the game."  "Miss Pearl Blanding, who did the Scoring, has the reputation of knowing as much about The national game as either McGraw or Chance."  [Art Shonley and Pearl's sister Fern Blanding, were married briefly in 1911].   

Then on Feb 14, 1910: " Winter Baseball"  "The National Lumber company team has the distinction of having the only woman scorer in Southern California in Miss P. Blanding.  Miss Blanding is an expert in following the game and could give the male members who make an attempt at score-keeping cards and spades."
  She was always up for a party, or a song.  She became Catholic to marry her Irish baseball player love, Dan Critchley, and she fit right in to the culture, celebrating St. Patrick's Day with the zeal of a leprechaun, seemingly every day of the year.  Pearl fit right in, holding her own with a drink, a joke, or a song. 
Dan Critchley, 3rd from left, back row
    Aunt Pearl was not known in the family for being practical or conservative in her living or spending habits.  She was a bit of a free spirit.  After she married her third husband I knew that she loved dinner parties and card parties.  When I was a teenager she gave me a negligee that had belonged to her party friend, Auggie, (Augustine Cole), I believe she was the governess of  Francesca, the granddaughter of actor Edward G. Robinson and his wife Gladys.  Aunt Pearl often mentioned Francesca.  I suspect the negligee came as "no longer wanted" following Edward and Gladys' 1956 divorce.
Pearl with third husband, Pat Hunt, and perhaps Francesca 
   Aunt Pearl may have been considered a bit of a gray sheep by the family, but she outlived her sisters, despite her cocktails and lack of compliance with diabetes.  She also kept some of  the family history papers together (in her own way) and passed them down to me.  



Anonymous said...

I am curious about the image above with your aunt wearing boxing gloves. Did she practice boxing as well? I am doing research on women's boxing during that era.

Donna Hague Wendt said...

Sorry, but I never heard of Aunt Pearl doing any boxing, but then I found this photo! I suspect it was just hamming it up for the photo. But who knows!! -Donna