Martha Ackmann, Mount Holyoke lecturer in gender studies and author of Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, will give the keynote address when the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, celebrates Women's History Month on Saturday, March 19.
Ackmann will speak about Toni Stone and her life in the Negro Leagues at 11 am in the Bullpen Theater as part of the Hall of Fame's Women in Baseball Day. In addition to her speech, the day will feature programs and activities highlighting the accomplishments of women in baseball, including a presentation of artifacts and a special screening of oral history interviews with members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Ackmann's Curveball chronicles the life of Stone, a second baseman for the championship Indianapolis Clowns and the legendary Kansas City Monarchs. When Henry Aaron moved from the Negro Leagues to the majors, Stone replaced him as the Clowns’ star attraction. During her nearly 20-year career in baseball, she played on barnstorming and semi-pro teams against Hall of Famers such as Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, and Ernie Banks. Baseball historians have called Stone the “female Jackie Robinson” and “the best baseball player you’ve never heard of.” (See Ackmann talk about Stone in the video below.)
Last September Ackmann received the Robert W. Peterson Award for the year’s outstanding book that increased public awareness of Negro League baseball. Larry Lester, baseball historian and one of the founders of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, said Curveball makes a convincing case for viewing Stone as a pioneer in both racial equality and gender equity.
Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella said Ackmann "presents a remarkable and stunning challenge to traditional narratives around baseball" in her biography of Stone.
"Women and girls have been playing baseball for as long as the game has been around," said Pasquerella. "The fact that their stories have been removed from baseball’s history reinforces the scope of the challenges faced by women who have attempted to break down barriers within the game. Women like Toni Stone, 'Peanut' Johnson, Connie Morgan, and members of teams called the Bloomer Girls, formed across the country in the early days of baseball to compete against men’s teams, provide evidence that women can play baseball alongside men."
Ackmann is a noted feminist who has been featured on the Today show, CNN, BookTV, NPR, the BBC, and many other radio and television outlets around the country. In addition to Curveball, she is the author of The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight , which won the Amelia Earhart Medal for aviation writing and was recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for its 2004 Media Prize. Her columns, articles, and op-eds have been published in major metropolitan newspapers including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Houston Chronicle. Her radio commentaries have been broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered and Only a Game. Ackmann is also the current president of the Emily Dickinson International Society.