Amanda Clement, a native of Hudson, South Dakota, was a typical Midwestern lady on the surface, but her love for the game of baseball created a legacy that will live on forever in Cooperstown. Clement, believe it or not, is the first known paid female umpire in American history.
Clement was born on March of 1888 in Hudson, South Dakota, which at that time was part of the ‘Dakota Territory,’ since South Dakota wasn’t granted its statehood until 1889. She was brought up loving the game of baseball as her family lived near the local ballpark.
Growing up, she was close with her brother Allen, and would often join him when he would play. In this era, girls rarely played baseball, so to keep herself occupied she’d play the role as umpire.
One summer day when she was 16-years old, she made a trip across the state line to Iowa to watch her brother play. The regularly scheduled umpire failed to show up, to which Clement was nominated to fill in. Thus, a legend was born…
Clement began umping on a regular basis, up to around 50 games during the summer. This continued for the next six seasons. According to multiple accounts from the time period, players from multiple teams helped persuade Clement’s mother to allow her to umpire games. Again, this was a different era!
Sports Illustrated quoted Amanda Clement’s nephew EF Clement in a 1982 article by saying, “She did an excellent job of umpiring, and she demanded the players’ respect. If they didn’t like it, out they went.”
While some players are destined to challenge authority, regardless of sex or gender, other players treated Clement properly. In some instances, players didn’t know how to react – same goes with the fans.
In a 1985 article by South Dakota Magazine, it was documented that one of Clement’s friends, Janet Mills, mentioned how fans were so much more polite to a female umpire than a male. ‘Instead of saying “Kill the umpire” they said, “Beg your pardon, Miss Umpire, but wasn’t that one a bit high?’
Throughout her career as an umpire, Clement worked games in South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Some times fans would attend the game just to see Clement ump.
As a paid employee, she would work baseball games during the summer and then attend college in the fall and spring. Clement spent two years at Yankton College and two years at the University of Nebraska.
Clement also officiated high school basketball games when she was attending school in Yankton. While there are no reports to prove it, most agree that she was one of the first female basketball officials as well.
After spending six seasons umpiring baseball games throughout the five area states, Clement became a teacher. She spent her time as a molder of young minds in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Eventually, she came back to South Dakota in 1929 and worked as a social worker.
Clement would spend out the rest of her life in the Mt. Rushmore state, retiring in 1966 and passing away in July of 1971.
Today, Amanda Clement is honored in many ways, including a spot in the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame and in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. She also lives on with the top names in history at the National Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Clement will forever be known as the first ever paid women’s umpire in the United States.