“Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed its Way to Basketball Glory” by Lydia Reeder
304 pages, Algonquin Books
Published Jan. 24, 2017
Lydia Reeder, great-niece of college women’s basketball coach Sam Babb, lays out a story that deserved to be told in “Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team that Barnstormed its Way to Basketball Glory.”
In the midst of the Great Depression, Babb brings together a stellar group of athletes for the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals women’s basketball team. It’s a dream come true for these young women – all of them are from families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford sending their daughters to college.
At a time when organizations like First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s Women’s Division tried to place strict regulations on female athletics, the OPC Cardinals managed to play like the champions they were. A three-week barnstorming tour during Christmas break made the Cardinals a household name as they beat one tough opponent after another. They ultimately went on to the AAU national tournament, facing everyone’s fiercest rival – the Dallas Golden Cyclones, made famous by future Olympic athlete Babe Didrikson.
I am by no means a sports guru, so I wasn’t sure when I received this book whether I’d enjoy it or not. I’m happy to say that I did. “Dust Bowl Girls” is about more than basketball – it’s about fearless females whose greatest opponent wasn’t a rival team. They had a lot to prove to naysayers in the media, athletic organizations, etc. Playing for a small private college during an era of extreme economic hardship, they had to worry about things like decent transportation.
Reeder did an excellent job setting the backdrop behind the OPC Cardinals’ rise to victory. She provided an in-depth history of the college and the region. She also conducted a lot of research in order to help the reader get to know members of the team, both on and off the court.
This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the Depression era, regardless of your interest in sports.
I received an ARC from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
For Lydia Reeder, this is a family story: Coach Sam Babb is her great-uncle. Her grandmother handed her a worn, yellowed folder that contained newspaper articles, letters, and photographs of Sam and the Cardinals, saying, “You might want to tell their story someday.” Lydia immersed herself in research, and was fortunate to gather memories from many of the surviving Cardinals. Lydia is a former associate editor at Whole Life Times in Los Angeles and Delicious Magazine in Boulder, Colorado. She lives in Denver with her husband.
bio courtesy of “Dust Bowl Girls” ARC