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Amazons Softball Club

1977 – 2011

This essay written by Rachell-Rose was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

1977 – 1993

Wellington lesbians began their own softball club, Amazons, in 1977. In every season they played, Amazons fielded both social and competitive teams. 'Amazons' was agreed on as a suitable name at the inaugural meeting: it had connotations of 'big strong women' and 'female warriors'. The earliest uniforms were light purple, a 'gay' colour.

From the beginning, in what was then a small, isolated lesbian community, Amazons became a gathering place for a remarkable mix of lesbians. Members' ages ranged from the fourteen-year-old lesbian playing on her mother's team to women in their forties or fifties. Although the club was predominantly Pākehā, Māori players took significant roles. The selection process was never formalised, but worked well enough: after a few practices, women allocated themselves to the team to which they were best suited.

A handful of straight/bisexual women played for Amazons in the early years. By the early 1980s the club was lesbian-only, but members were vague about how that happened. No one was forced out, said one founding member, but it became unacceptable to bench lesbians if straight women were playing.

While the club attracted some talented and capable athletes, not all Amazons were experienced softballers. Many women who had not played sport before were encouraged to participate, in a supportive, lesbian-friendly atmosphere. Playing for Amazons was a chance for women 'to develop confidence in their physical ability and to become more comfortable in their bodies'.

An influx of new players in the early 1980s saw Amazons become more self-consciously political. The mix of 'political dykes' and 'sporty dykes' within Amazons was unusual, and sometimes volatile. One of the more persistent disagreements was over the level of competitiveness and whether Amazons should move into the major grades. Lack of good lesbian coaches was a continuing problem for the competitive team, which by the mid 1980s was clearly aiming for the top grades. A special meeting later discussed the acceptability of the straight coach who eventually took on the Major Reserve team.

Sponsorship was also controversial. Amazons' social scene revolved to a large extent around drinking—at the pub after games and practices, at parties at each other's houses. The Caledonian Hotel, home pub for Amazons for many years, offered sponsorship, but this was vetoed by some players, uneasy about the alliance with alcohol.

Without sponsorship, fundraising was a constant necessity. Amazon-run lesbian dances, held in community halls all over town, were a regular part of the Wellington scene. Dances and raffles, although increasingly run by an overworked few, meant subscriptions could be kept low.

In the 1980s, when it was at its strongest with its largest membership, the club had both competitive and social teams. Watching Amazons play ball on a sunny day was an attraction in itself. When Auckland team Circe played Amazons in 1981, it was a huge social event. The competitive team, especially after promotion to Major Reserve in 1988–89, were a rallying point and source of pride for Wellington lesbians. In Amazons, they could have their skills recognised, and 'not get hassled for being queer'.

Amazons was a central part of the community that lesbians created for themselves in Wellington from the 1970s on. It was a lesbian club before it was a sports club. At its best, said founding member Porleen Simmonds, Amazons was about community building, actively creating space where lesbians could feel proud about who they were.


1994 – 2011

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the club had many supporters and sponsors who rallied behind it and provided encouragement and funds. One regular source of funds was a monthly dance held by DOODs—Dykes Out Of Debt. The entrance charge went towards local lesbian services, including the Amazons. Other LGBTIQ+ friendly bars and groups were supporters too.

The club became an incorporated society in 1996, [1] and a highlight in 1998 was a 20 year anniversary. Celebrations were held over three days and included a softball tournament in Hataitai, Wellington, and a display of memorabilia, photos, uniforms and trophies at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay. An ‘Oral Herstory Project’ was also undertaken at this time and the recordings were deposited at LAGANZ at the Alexander Turnbull Library. A further high point was when an Amazons Softball Club team participated in the Sydney Gay Games in 2002. 

The group had been established as an important support network for lesbians, both on the field and off, but the need for this diminished significantly in the late 1990s and 2000s. Law reforms such as the Human Rights Act 1993, Civil Union Act 2004 and Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005 improved the lives of lesbians and enabled family life without constraints. As the need for place-based socialising diminished, virtual internet networks that could cross national and international boundaries provided forums for social networking and opportunities to connect or debate issues.

Amazon Softball Club Video 2010, Francesca.

Falling membership was compounded when top players left the Amazons to join clubs with stronger training programmes. Reduced support and financial difficulties led to the club’s demise, and it officially disbanded in 2011. When a selection of uniforms and memorabilia was deposited at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the club’s secretary explained that most lesbians now felt comfortable in other softball clubs and did not feel the need to belong to a special club for lesbians.[2] Over its 34-year life, the Amazons Softball Club was a great source of both pride and social activity for the lesbian community in Wellington.

Lynette Townsend


[1] Companies Office

[2] Eden, Donna and Jago, Francesco, correspondence, Te Papa collection files.

Unpublished sources

Rachell-Rose, interviews with former Amazon players, Wellington, September 1992

Te Papa collection files relating to Amazons Softball Club items

Other resources