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Wellesley sixth-grader’s letter earns her time with Gloria Steinem

Emily Willrich (center) and family met with feminist Gloria Steinem and Simmons president Helen Drinan (right).

John Gillooly

Emily Willrich (center) and family met with feminist Gloria Steinem and Simmons president Helen Drinan (right).

They say that well-behaved women seldom make history. Wellesley’s Emily Willrich can vouch for that.

After Emily, 11, wrote a spunky, widely read op-ed in the Wellesley Townsman noting that the fields where the girls’ softball teams play are dingy when compared with fields for the boys’ baseball teams, she was invited to meet feminist icon Gloria Steinem and other political leaders at a Simmons College event celebrating women in politics Monday night.

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Emily said she loved meeting Steinem, especially after watching a documentary about her work advocating women’s rights.

“She asked me to give a copy of my Townsman letter to her,” Emily said in a phone interview Tuesday. “She also said that it’s good that I stuck up for myself, and said that no one else is the boss of me. I really liked that — I love that motto.”

A Simmons College trustee, Kathy LaPoint, had asked Simmons College’s president, Helen Drinan, to invite Emily to the “How Women Become Political” event hosted by Simmons this week. LaPoint had spotted the letter and liked it so much she kept a copy on her desk.

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“Helen told Emily last night that her op-ed had gone viral at Simmons, and that all the students were reading it,” said Emily’s mom, Wendy.

Emily wrote the op-ed last spring after she was fed up with the girls’ softball team having to play on a no-frills field at Hunnewell Elementary School in Wellesley, especially when the boys’ baseball teams play on the renovated Reidy Field, which comes complete with dugouts, a high-tech scoreboard, a game announcer, and better-maintained grounds.

The last straw was drawn when the girls’ team had to cancel a game because the field’s lights would not work and the umpire failed to show up.

“I finally decided that I couldn’t take this anymore. It isn’t fair,” Emily wrote in her May 3 piece. She said league officials should not expect “all softball players in Wellesley to accept this unequal treatment.”

However, despite the positive reactions Emily said she received, she said the girls’ softball teams have yet to see any change five months later.

“Unfortunately, everything has just stayed the same,” Emily said this week. “The softball season hasn’t started yet, so I hope things will change by then.”

Emily said she thinks the league should add a scoreboard and an announcer to softball games.

Representatives of the Wellesley Little League and Girls’ Softball organization, which oversees all of the teams, did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Wellesley town officials say that girls having to use the shabbier field is a byproduct of needing different facility specifications, such as a flat pitcher’s mound, for softball.

“They’re two different types of fields,” said Tom Harrington, a Wellesley recreation commissioner and a member of Wellesley’s Playing Fields Task Force.

He said that Reidy Field, which was built for baseball, happened to be renovated less than a decade ago with privately raised funds.

However, he said that the task force is not aware of any fund-raising efforts for any softball fields at this time.

“Because the town has so many other needs, much of the work we do now is with funds raised privately, so we don’t really have any town money to fix any fields right now,” Harrington said. “But we are certainly always looking at them and trying to figure out ways to get them fixed.”

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com and on Twitter @jaclynreiss
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