The little-known, fascinating story of the rise and fall of the National Women's Football League, told through the players whose spirit, rivalries, and tenacity carried the league and furthered the legacy of women in sports
In 1967, a Cleveland businessman had a brilliant idea: why not start a women's football team? It was conceived as a gimmick and a publicity stunt in the vein of the Harlem Globetrotters. He recruited women to compete as a traveling football troupe; much to his surprise, he learned that women really wanted to play, and play hard.
Hail Mary is the story of the unlikely rise of the National Women's Football League and the players who loved a game that society told them they shouldn't be playing. In nineteen cities around the country, against the backdrop of second-wave feminism and the passage of Title IX, these athletes broke new barriers and showed adoring crowds what women were capable of physically. Thousands of people came to watch-perhaps to gawk at first but then, in the end, to cheer. Hail Mary is a rollicking chronicle of fearless women-players on the Detroit Demons, the Toledo Troopers, the LA Dandelions, and more-bringing us into the stadiums where they broke records, the small-town lesbian bars where they were recruited, and the backrooms where the league was conceived, and where it ended.
Hail Mary is a celebration of women athletes and their fight on and off the field, and a powerful story of the league that changed their lives and the course of women's sports.
About the Author
Lyndsey D'Arcangelo writes about women's college basketball and the WNBA for The Athletic. Her articles, columns and profiles on female/LGBTQ+ athletes have previously appeared in The Ringer, Deadspin, espnW/ESPN, Teen Vogue, The Buffalo News, The Huffington Post, NBC OUT and more. She received a Notable Mention in the 2018 Best American Sports Writing anthology for her story, "My Father, Trump and The Buffalo Bills." Lyndsey lives in Buffalo, NY. Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer who focuses on the intersection of sports and gender. They are the former sports columnist for Longreads and for Bitch Media. Their work has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, espnW, Vogue, The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, The Atlantic, and more. Their work on racism in Boston sports media received the 2017 Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Journalism from the Transformative Culture Project, and that story was also a Notable Story in the 2018 Best American Sports Writing. Their writing on the queer history of women's baseball for Narratively was nominated for a prestigious baseball writing award, the 2019 SABR Analytics Research Award. They live in the Boston area.
“Educational, entertaining, and uplifting.” —Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author
“All too often, the history of women's sports lies buried beneath the surface, never seeing the light of recognition. Britni and Lyndsey do the historic work of bringing this story to life. In this vivid account, they give us a much needed record of the women who helped pave the way so we could all exist today. I'm grateful to know these women who blazed the trail I walked upon.” —Layshia Clarendon, WNBA player for the Minnesota Lynx
“Hail Mary tells the definitive story of the National Women’s Football League—the touchdowns, the fumbles, the passion, the power. These are stories that nearly vanished—or in some cases, were purposely erased from football’s history—but through D'Arcangelo and de la Cretaz’ deep dive, they’re brought back to life in the voices of the players. The NWFL’s imprint on the game of football is indisputable.” —Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s Around the Horn
“De la Cretaz and D’Arcangelo graciously and painstakingly piece together the story of a rarely remembered league and the women whose love of football made the unlikely possible. The NWFL is an important part of the history of women’s sports, and in telling its story, the authors offer a throughline from the gridiron gals of yesteryear to the female footballers of today.” —Sarah Spain, host of ESPN’s Spain & Company
“Sport demands examination of its hidden histories, especially when involving groups of marginalized people. This book will be regarded as a classic of the genre. In the hands of Britni and Lyndsey, we are introduced to a world 99% of sports fans don’t know existed, and we are richer for it.” —Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States
“Hail Mary is a glorious and galvanizing chronicle celebrating no-longer-forgotten gridiron greats.”—Oprah Daily
“The authors bring these women — and their teams, and the struggles they faced, and the joys they felt — to life. The extensive research and reporting that went into the book is clear.”—Alma
“De la Cretaz and D’Arcangelo present an entertaining history of the National Women’s Football League… Without overstating the case, de la Cretaz and D’Arcangelo demonstrate how this overlooked chapter in American sports blazed a successful trail for today’s women athletes. This underdog story is a delight.”—Publishers Weekly