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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Aug 12, 2022

There have been many trailblazers in the history of women’s struggle for respect and equity, among them, Helene Britton. She, in a time where women were thought not to be capable, and weren’t allowed to vote yet, owned a professional baseball team… in fact, it was the St. Louis Cardinals. Just press play to hear the whole story. ———

Click on search links to see if there are episodes with related content: Adam Kloppe, Women’s History, Baseball, Sports,  Business, ———

Podcast Transcript: I’m Adam Kloppe, public historian with the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty-eight one, KDHX. ———

In 1911, the St. Louis Cardinals made history, but it wasn’t for anything the team did on the field. In March of that year, the owner of the Cardinals, Stanley Robison, passed away. In a move that shocked many people at the time, he left his stake in the Cardinals to his niece, Helene Britton. Just like that, in a time before women were allowed to vote in the United States, Britton became the first woman to own a professional sports team. ———

But this groundbreaking moment was not treated as such by the men involved in baseball. The press mocked the idea that Britton could run a team, with one report jokingly suggesting that the team’s uniforms would now be replaced with bloomers. The other male owners pressured her to sell. They all felt that a woman could not own a baseball team. ———

But those men all underestimated Helene Britton. Over the next several years, Britton took an active role in the leadership and operation of the Cardinals. She would move her family from Cleveland to St. Louis to be closer to the team, and she often attended Cardinals games with her children. She also insisted that the Cardinals bring back a Ladies’ Day, to encourage more women to take an interest in baseball. ———

Britton often faced challenges in her time as the Cardinals owner. For example, when she took over the team, the team’s manager was Roger Bresnahan. Britton faced public pressure to replace Bresnahan, as the Cardinals were struggling on the field, but she believed in the manager, and elected to keep him on board. Her belief paid off, and the Cardinals improved the next season. However, Bresnahan had an interest in buying the Cardinals himself, and often pressured Britton to sell. Soon, Britton and Bresnahan were arguing about the team. During an argument after the 1912 season, Bresnahan reportedly angrily told Britton that he would not listen to a woman when it came to baseball. She quickly fired him. ———

By 1918, though, Britton was ready to sell the team. She had started to face financial difficulties in the wake of her divorce from her husband, who had recklessly spent her money and was also physically and emotionally abusive. She sold the Cardinals for $350,000. And though some people had doubted her, she proved to the world that women had a place in baseball. ———

Here’s History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Adam Kloppe, and this is eighty-eight one, KDHX St. Louis. ———