The Buxton Bloomers, Chatham-Kent’s First All-Black Women’s Fastball Team | Black History Month
In recent years, the story of the Chatham Coloured All-Stars has been told in a variety of mediums. Their place in history has been cemented.
Of course other teams of all-Black, all-Indigenous, and all-Japanese Canadian players also existed both prior to, and following the All-Stars. These teams included the Taylor A.C.’s, Kent Panthers, Green Valley, Kent Nisei, Walpole Island Clippers, Walpole Island Oil Stockings, Moraviantown Tecumseh, and many more.
But the men shouldn’t take all the recognition, and historically, the fact that there were all-Black, all-Indigenous, and all-Japanese Canadian women’s teams also playing in Chatham-Kent is even more astonishing.
In the 1930s, the Buxton Bloomers were the first well documented all-Black women’s baseball team in the area. As Arlie Robbins wrote of this team, “How the folks looked askance at these “tomboys” wearing bloomers no less.”
The team were nicknamed for their navy bloomers, and played their home games in the Newby Family pasture in North Buxton. The team was tops in Raleigh Township, and travelled as far as St. Thomas to play, with a roster including Marie Harding, Winnie Moore, Muriel Newby, Alma Robbins, Lola Robbins, Vera Robbins, Bertha Rhue, Hazel Shadd, and Freda Toyer.
As the 1950s rolled around, Black women in Chatham-Kent began participating in greater numbers. In Dresden, the likes of Thursal Wallace and Paula Lambkin were stars of an integrated team.
In Chatham however, another all-Black baseball team had formed known as the Maple City Jets. The Jets played out of Tecumseh Park, which is were all women’s games occurred. Their roster through the seasons included Belva Wright, Claudine Pryor, Rosetta Alliet, Paula Chase, Donna Lucas, Loretta Pryor, Dean Crosby, Patricia Cooper, Jean List, Frances Wright, Joyce Hodge, Joanne Hodge, and Hattie Cross, among others.
Starting with the Buxton Bloomers and continuing into the era of the Maple City Jets, Chatham-Kent was home to talented all-Black women’s fastball teams.