Joan Joyce is an extraordinary athlete, leading multiple teams to national and international championships. She played competitive basketball and volleyball and qualified for the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour in 1977. However, softball was the sport in which she made her biggest mark, and Joyce is considered one of the best softball players ever to play the game. In addition to playing, throughout her career she has been a champion of women in sports, coaching various sports at many universities and co-founding the International Softball Association for women to compete on a professional level.
Born in Waterbury, Conn., in August 1940, Joyce joined the Raybestos Brakettes, an amateur softball team, at the age of 14. Three years later she began pitching, marking the first of 18 consecutive years in which she was selected as an Amateur Softball Association All-American. One of her most notable achievements is striking out Ted Williams at an over-crowded Municipal Stadium in Waterbury in 1961. She would do the same to Hank Aaron in a 1978 exhibition game.
Joyce attended Chapman College in Orange County, Calif., where she played for the Orange Lionettes and led them to a 1965 softball title. Again proving her astonishing athletic ability, she competed in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball, averaging 25 points a game, and was named an All-American in 1961, 1964 and 1965. In one notable 1965 game, she set an AAU basketball record by scoring 67 points.
In 1967, after moving back to Connecticut, Joan rejoined the Raybestos Brakettes, leading the team both as a pitcher and a hitter. Her pitching record while playing for the team was 753 wins and 42 losses, including 150 no-hitters, 33 perfect games, and a .09 ERA. As a hitter, her highest single-season batting average was .406 in 1973. Between 1960 and 1973, Joyce led the team with the highest batting average. She was the National Tournament Batting Champion in 1971, with an average of .467. 1974 brought a world title for the Brakettes when Joan set many records including most strikeouts (76). Less than a month after winning the world title, she pitched 45 scoreless innings in the national championship, leading the Brakettes to their fourth consecutive national title. The same year, Joyce was the first woman to become a recipient of the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance’s Gold Key Award and the first woman ever to be invited to the awards banquet. In 1977, Joyce qualified for the LGPA tour, finishing in sixth place both in 1981 and 1984. She holds the world record for the lowest number of putts in a single round of golf (17).
Joyce began her coaching career in 1973 and has coached softball, volleyball, basketball and golf. Since 1994, she has been the head coach of Florida Atlantic University’s women’s softball team, leading the Owls to 10 conference championships and seven NCAA tournaments. She has received numerous coach-of-the-year awards and has been inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame, the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame and The Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Joyce was also inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice
Feminism in the late 1960s was aided by President Kennedy, who formed the President’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and his successor, President Johnson, who backed passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Difficulties in implementing the law through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) led a group of women in 1966 to create the National Organization for Women (NOW), demanding “action to bring American women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now.”
A younger group called for a more radical approach to social change than simply considering what was possible to achieve politically. “Women’s liberation” demanded freedom without limitation. Some took part in consciousness-raising groups, others demonstrated against the Miss America pageant, and many discussed their expectations of mutual enjoyment of sex. They established rape crisis centers, domestic shelters, and women’s studies programs. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act also increased pressure on universities to hire more women faculty and expand the number of female college athletes. Activist protest among gays and lesbians, such as the Stonewall Riot, symbolized this group’s potential to resist oppression.
Under pressure, many states repealed legislation prohibiting abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized its availability to women in Roe v. Wade. Also in 1973, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the ERA, and states began its ratification.
Yet, dissension arose in the ranks of the movement, as it had earlier after passage of the 19th amendment. Feminists disagreed as to whether pornography should be banned or protected as a form of free speech, and whether lesbian identities should be kept secret or disclosed. Black women were more concerned with poverty and welfare in their communities than with personal career advancement; for them, sterilization abuse was more important than abortion, and they were deeply insulted by attacks on the African American family as matriarchal and dysfunctional.
A backlash was growing in the 1970s, along with a New Right in politics. The ERA was defeated and opposition to abortion increased. Conflicts between pro-life and pro-choice candidates have impacted every presidential campaign since then.
Still, gains have been made in many areas. From 1960 to 2000, increasing numbers of women sought entry to higher education, and bachelor’s degrees awarded to them increased from forty to sixty percent. Definitions of marriage have changed, as when courts gave full rights and responsibilities and the name of marriage to same-sex civil unions in Connecticut in 2008. The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 highlighted concern about sexual harassment on the job, and the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC have increased, as have judgments in favor of the women. Finally, in 2009, women crossed the fifty percent threshold and became the majority of the American workforce. Once largely confined to repetitive manual jobs, now they are running organizations that once treated them as second-class citizens.
The Women’s Movement has changed women’s lives, influenced the economy, and made debate about their roles, family life, and sexual conventions central to national politics and American history.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.