Ghostwriting Wife Gets Her Due


Harold Seymour was regarded for years as America’s primary baseball historian, with his books the go-to resource on the National Pastime. But here’s the thing: his wife actually wrote a lot of them.

Says CNN of Dorothy Seymour (now Dorothy Seymour Mills),

She was the student turned secretary who married her professor. Now, more than 50 years after the first book was published, baseball’s scholars acknowledge that hers was the invisible hand that shaped the three volumes. For years, she didn’t question her subservient role. As he slipped into Alzheimer’s, she wrote much of the third book herself but, as always, he refused to give her credit. She knows now that she was exploited and doesn’t argue with people who say she was a victim of intellectual spousal abuse.

That said, Mills is not bitter, saying matter-of-factly that “Things were different in the ’50s and ’60…In those days, women were expected to permit their husbands to take over everything.” And even in that era, her husband’s actions were highly suspect; she had her first inkling of this when, as an editor at a publishing house, she edited a husband-and-wife team who actually shared credit. And by the 1980s, when she was doing both the research and the writing under his name, the situation was unambiguous.

Which is not to say she’s sat back and forfeited her legacy; rather, after her husband’s death, she went public and demanded credit, laying out the entire situation in a 2004 memoir, A Woman’s Work. And now that the true story is known, she is receiving long-overdue recognition; ironically, in 1996 she was the recipient of “the Setymour medal,” a sports-history award named in her husband’s honor. And earlier this year, Dorothy insisted she be the co-recipient, with her husband, of the prestigious Chadwick award. Last but not least, she is now listed on the cover of her husband’s books as co-author.

Mills’ defenders still blame her for not coming forward sooner, but this seems to me unfair: hers was a uniquely difficult situation and she did what she could to survive. It’s not easy to throw off the attitudes of another time, and the dynamics of a relationship — especially an abusive one, as many would argue this is — are not that simple, especially when the power dynamic is skewed from the get-go. Mills waited until her husband died; while some might call this “claiming the field for herself,” others would call it kindness — that and the habit of putting another person’s interests first. It is wrong to look for retrospective “perfection” — especially as we define it now. The fact that she did come forward late in life seems to me even braver in some ways. And get this — at 84, she’s writing her first historical novel. “This time the protagonist is a player of the early 20th Century whose minor league contract is canceled by the baseball commissioner because she is a woman.” (Oh, and she has a website.)

A Baseball Wife Emerges From The Dugout [CNN]

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