'40s, '50s Brooklyn Roller Derby Team was comprised of trailblazing women
The Brooklyn Roller Derby Team, which was popular during the 1940s and '50s, was comprised of women who made an impact in the borough, according to a local historian.
Diana Bowers-Smith, an archivist with the Center for Brooklyn History, combed through records to find details on the team.
"It was an interesting sport at the time because it treated men and women equally, so the women's teams were super aggressive, super rough, out on the roller rink," Bowers-Smith said.
One of the top players, Midge "Toughie" Brasuhn, grabbed headlines nationally.
"Some of the press coverage was about her as a wife and mother, and then some of it is about how she would attack her fellow players out on the rink," Bowers-Smith explained.
Another trailblazer was Tsuneko Tokuyasu, who Bowers-Smith said is believed to be the first woman lawyer of Asian descent in the state. Tokuyasu attended Brooklyn Law School, one of only a few women students. Her daughter, Anne Columbia, said she was shocked for her mother to even get that far.
"She said 'I was competing with the G.I. bill and all the G.I.s coming back, and they were all men and I was a Japanese woman," Columbia recalled.
Tokuyasu already faced many obstacles before coming to New York City. She grew up in California and her family had to move after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, settling in Colorado. Her father encouraged her to become an attorney, and her children believe her experiences led her to the career.
"She always thought that if you were white, male and able, you had it made. When they were in California they weren't allowed to own property unless they were American-born. And so, when my mother was born, my grandfather and grandmother were able to buy property, but it had to be in my mother's name," daughter Suzanne Columbia said.
The Center for Brooklyn History is happy to continue sharing the legacy of these Brooklyn ladies.
"I think it's long since time we shine a light on these women," Bowers-Smith said.