WASHINGTON – Before Title IX helped and encouraged women to achieve in sports there was softball and the Lettes.

The popular women's softball team from Tazewell County drew a regular crowd in the 1950s and 1960s. But also the team and the players set examples for other women who wanted to someday take the field and play.

WASHINGTON – Before Title IX helped and encouraged women to achieve in sports there was softball and the Lettes.

The popular women's softball team from Tazewell County drew a regular crowd in the 1950s and 1960s. But also the team and the players set examples for other women who wanted to someday take the field and play.

One of the Lettes cornerstone players, Lorene Ramsey, will lead a presentation on the history of women's baseball and softball for the Washington Historical Society's meeting 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at Washington Presbyterian Church, Elm and Walnut streets.

Ramsey, the long-time women's coach for Illinois Central College, will be joined by former Lettes teammates Irene "Pep" Kerwin and Eleanor "Rudy" Rudolph in discussing the history and their experiences of playing softball at a time when women's career options were limited mostly to secretary, teacher and nurse and they had few opportunities to play sports.

"The Midwest is a big softball area and it still is, so that helped give us the opportunities to play," Ramsey said.

In her playing days, Ramsey wore the number 3 and was one of the Lettes star pitchers.

Last week, Ramsey reminisced about how hot it was to play in her first year with the Lettes in a wool uniform.

"(Lettes Coach) Chuck (McCord) was so excited that we looked like real baseball players in these woolies," Ramsey said, holding up the shirt and pants.

Although the uniforms were hot to play in, it was not until a tournament game in Florida where she and her teammates played in the 100-degree, summer noonday sun that McCord relented.

The very next season, McCord let his players take the field wearing lighter uniforms that included shorts.

Ramsey easily reels off games scores and statistics for tournament games she played – first for a St. Louis team and then for the Lettes. The games were played more than 50 years ago, but Ramsey remembers the games like the were played last week.

"It was such a big part of my life," she added.

And it still is.

Ramsey has kept in touch with several of her friends and teammates from the Lettes.

The 1992 film "A League of Their Own" brought long overdue attention to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Ramsey said the movie was accurate for how the league operated and how the league gave people the oportunity to see "top-flight" women players.

"The movie really highlighted a time when yes, there was sports for women and they did very well," she added.

In the 40 years since Title IX opened more doors for women in sports, Ramsey said the programs created in many schools and colleges to meet the mandates helped many women. Not only are they successful on the field but it has gave many scholarship players the opportunity for an education they otherwise wouldn't have.

Sue Freeburg from the Washington Historical Society said the idea of having a program on women's sports came up because she had read a few "This date in history" shorts that featured the Pekin Lettes and because of Title IX's 40th anniversary this year.

"We are always looking for new ideas and it just made sense," Freeburg said. "And this is a topic that so many people can relate to because the Lettes games were so popular."

And finding someone to present on the topic was not much of a challenge, Freeburg said.

"Lorene Ramsey is very much respected in central Illinois and in women's sports," Freeburg said. "She is such a treasure and we are very lucky she lives here in Washington."