The Feminist History of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’
Described by Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray as “a song that reflects the charisma of baseball,” ”Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” written in 1908 by lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert von Tilzer, is inextricably linked to America’s national pastime. But while most Americans can sing along as baseball fans “root, root, root for the home team,” few know the song’s feminist history.
A little more than a decade ago, George Boziwick, historian and former chief of the music division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, uncovered the hidden history behind the tune: the song was written as Jack Norworth’s ode to his girlfriend, the progressive and outspoken Trixie Friganza, a famous vaudeville actress and suffragist.
Born in Grenola, Kansas, in 1870, Friganza was a vaudeville star by the age of 19, and her life was defined by her impact both on and off the stage. As a well-known comedic actress, Friganza was best known for playing larger-than-life characters, including Caroline Vokes in The Orchid and Mrs. Radcliffe in The Sweetest Girl in Paris. Off the stage, she was an influential and prominent suffragist who advocated for women’s social and political equality. The early 1900s were a critical time in the fight for the vote: members of the Women’s Progressive Suffrage Union held the first suffrage march in the United States in New York City in 1908, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established in 1909 to fight for voting rights of people of color, and in 1910, 10,000 people gathered in New York City’s Union Square for what was then the largest demonstration in support of women’s suffrage in American history.
Friganza, an unflinching supporter in the fight for the ballot, was a vital presence in a movement that needed to draw young, dynamic women into the cause. She attended rallies in support of women’s right to vote, gave speeches to gathering crowds, and donated generously to suffrage organizations. “I do not believe any man – at least no man I know – is better fitted to form a political opinion than I am,” Friganza declared at a suffrage rally in New York City in 1908. CLICK TO CONTINUE