Craig: The Dolly Vardens, Philadelphia’s 19th-century all-black women baseball teams

From Mary Craig at Beyond the Box Score on October 12, 2017:

t was shortly after a New York party in the early years of the 1880s that the world first became acquainted with Lize Taylor, one of North America’s best chewing gum salespeople. As with many origins of fame, this one was a product of both happenstance and the mechanistic gears of history.

Taylor, a former slave, escaped to the Loch Lomond region of Canada shortly after the Civil War, where she found a job selling chewing gum. One day, she was approached by a party of businessmen and their wives, on vacation from New York. One of the businessmen, so the story goes, had always detested his wife’s penchant for the Dolly Varden style of dress and took the meeting of Taylor as an opportunity to prank his wife. He dressed Taylor up in the brightest Dolly Varden dress he could procure and set her upon his wife the following day. What a shock it was to her to be asked to buy gum from a Black woman in a Dolly Varden dress! A timely photographer snapped a picture of the pair, and Lize Taylor soon became known across America as the “Black Dolly Varden,” beloved for the absurdity of it all.

While the country became fascinated by this one Black Dolly Varden, a thousand miles southeast of Loch Lomond, in Pennsylvania, eighteen other Black Dolly Vardens were making names for themselves, not as gum salespeople but as baseball players.

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Originally published: October 12, 2017. Last Updated: October 12, 2017.