Our research grants support scholars with original research. Here, Dr Katie Taylor reflects on the work and research experience we helped to facilitate.
As I strolled up Capitol Hill heading for the Library of Congress, I was thankful not only to research in the US again but also for the support of the British Society of Sports History in helping get me there. Their Early Career Researcher Award enabled me to carry out some much-needed final research for my book on the history of women playing American football.
I spent four and a half days researching in the Newspapers and Current Periodicals reading room in the Madison building and half a day working in the beautiful main reading room in the Jefferson building. The trip allowed me to access some microfilm of two newspapers I had heard reported on the women’s football league that emerged in Chicago in 1941.
Working with microfilm is a slow process, so I prioritised the days closest to matches on day one. I was glad I did this as it started the research off with a bang. I was able to find a match report and result for a match that I had previously only assumed took place. I also found different photographs of the women who played. The most exciting discovery was finally finding complete team lists for the Chicago Bombers and Chicago Rockets. I was glad that I had gone with this priority approach since, just two days after arriving, there was the real threat that the US government would be shut down the following day if Congress disagreed on an extension to the federal budget. I had to wait until 9 pm until finally, news came out that the Senate had agreed to fund the government until February, meaning the library would still be open!
Over the days working in the newspapers room, I found more information about the league, identified clearly how these newspapers responded to women’s sport in general in Chicago in 1941 and provided important context for the articles about the women. I also demonstrated that the rumours about a seventeen-team league in 1942 appear primarily to be just that.
Evenings and the library’s closure on a Sunday allowed for some sightseeing of a city I had previously visited for my first PhD research trip back in 2016. I took in some basketball, visited the National Christmas tree, wandered the National Mall, and spent all of Sunday meandering around the many free museums on offer.
On my final day, I spent the afternoon in the main reading room of the Jefferson building. I love this room, it is beautifully decorated, very grand, and tourists watch you at work from a balcony up above! It allowed me to revisit some texts only available in the US that are in the book, but I wanted to double-check references, etc.
Thanks to the British Society of Sport History’s support, my book not only has more detail, but the important stories of women’s impressive past in this most masculine of sports are being recovered, and their names are better known.