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Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties

National Geographic. Feb. 2020. 96p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781426336768.
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Gr 4-8–Macy chronicles the emergence of American women into collegiate, amateur, and professional sports during the 1920s despite harsh and powerful critics. The lively narrative, organized in five chapters, describes the challenges, injustices, and victories women experienced as they competed for the first time in baseball, biking, diving, swimming, tennis, and track and field. Each chapter contains a two-page time line that provides historical context with notable sociopolitical, popular, and technological events of the time. The similarities echoing today’s struggles are often striking: the fight for an Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 (still not ratified as an official law) and the Immigration Act of 1924, which established strict visa quotas into the United States from certain countries. Trailblazers such as Jewish immigrant Ida Schnall and African American tennis and basketball champion Isadore Channels are spotlighted with one-page overviews. Newspaper clippings provide entertaining snippets about groundbreaking women like Eleonora Sears, a multitalented athlete who walked over 42 miles in record time in her 50s. The book, which uses an art deco font and layout, is visually appealing and includes high quality, well-selected photographs. Eye-catching, colorized historic photos at the beginning of each chapter are a clever stylistic choice, showing that women were “coming to life” during this era. The back matter includes a lengthy epilogue, a time line of defining moments, and an author’s note that acknowledges the lack of historical sports records on Asian American, Latina, and Native American women in particular.
VERDICT A fascinating and credible overview of women in American sports in the 1920s. A win for most public and school library collections.

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