By Ken Reed
Edith Houghton, Major League Baseball’s first woman hired as a baseball scout, recently died at the age of 100. Houghton worked as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1946 to 1951.
How she got the job remains a bit of a mystery, but as Paul Vitello wrote in Houghton’s New York Times obituary, “that she got the job at all constitutes one of the most unusual accomplishments by any woman in American sports.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame describes her as “a baseball prodigy.”
Not only was Houghton the first female scout (more accurately, Houghton was the first independent female scout; Bessie Largent worked in tandem with her husband Ray for the Chicago White Sox prior to Houghton’s hiring), she might have been the last.
“[W]e know of no other part-time or full-time women scouts in baseball since then,” says Frank Marcos, senior director of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau.
Houghton, a standout shortstop in the ’20’s and ’30’s for the Philadelphia Bobbies of the Bloomer Girls League, said competition among scouts was intense in her day.
“We were all scouting the same guys,” said Houghton in an interview. She also said some players were reluctant to be scouted by a woman.
Unfortunately, for the most part, Houghton passed away an unknown female sports pioneer. Nevertheless, her story is one of great courage. A female baseball scout today would surely be ostracized my the majority of the males in the game. Considering the challenges Houghton had to have faced in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s, one can only admire the daily fortitude Houghton must have brought to her professional life.
Edith Houghton deserves recognition as one of our pre-Title IX female sports heroes.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.