Happy Women’s History Month! This is the 19th blog of a series of blogs called “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know”. This series will be a collection of my research into little-known American women who have made history in one way or another (or multiple ways!).
The focus of today’s blog is Effa Manley, the first woman to own a professional baseball team and also be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This is her story.
Life in New York City
According to BlackPast.org, Effa Manley was born in 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating high school in 1916, Manley moved to New York City and began working at a millenary shop, making women’s hats and accessories. She met her first husband, a chauffeur named George Bush, in 1920. They later divorced. In 1932, she attended the World Series and met her second husband.
Acquiring the Brooklyn Eagles
His name was Abraham Manley and he worked in sports betting and gambling. They married in 1933, just a year after they met. In 1934, Abraham and Effa became co-owners of the National Negro League (NNL) team called the Brooklyn Eagles. The team played at Ebbet’s Field, the home of the then Brooklyn Dodgers. Abraham elected Effa to head the daily management of the team.
Work with the NNL
Only two years later did Manley’s husband become the Vice President of the NNL. This gave Manley the opportunity to become even more heavily involved with management, specifically for the New Jersey team called the Newark Eagles. During this time, she worked with contract negotiations, all kinds of press and publicity, finances, game scheduling, and equipment management. Under her long-time management, the team won the Negro League Championships in 1946 and was disbanded only two years later in 1948.
All throughout her career, Manley also became increasingly involved with promoting civil rights. She led boycotts of white-owned Newark companies who refused to hire Black employees. Manley also served as treasurer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During this time, she also helped raise money for the Harlem Women’s Club as well as for the victims of the Ohio and Mississippi River valley floods of 1928.
WWII and Beyond
Once the United States entered World War II, Manley contributed to the war effort by getting involved with organizations like the Women’s Volunteer War Service Committee and the Colored Women’s Division of the Jersey City War Saving Committee. After Abraham died in 1952, Manley remarried two more times, both marriages ending in divorce after only a year. At age 84, she passed in 1981 from a heart attack and was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. She is the first and only woman to date who has ever been inducted. Read more about Effa Manley here.
Read another post from the blog series “Women’s History Month Heroes You Should Know” here.