W for Women`s Football

Now I have been corrected from my assumption that the first recorded woman`s football match was in 1894, because the first was actually in May 1881, when a Scotland team beat an England team in Edinburgh. And this started an all too brief flurry of other games. However it was quickly closed down, by disapproval from the newspapers, and interference by the government, 

Later on, when women stepped up to work in the munitions factories during the First World War, it was remembered, and taken as a pastime; more to improve the work load than the fitness of the women. However the women loved playing, and their lithe frames proved to be every bit as skilful as the men. In the end many factories had teams, and they played each other. In fact The Munitionettes Cup Final took place in 1918 at Ayresome Park, in Middlesbrough - in front of 22,000 fans - with Blyth being easy winners over Bolkclow Vaughn, 5-0, with the now legendary Bella Reay scoring three of the goals. 

By 1920, there were over a hundred Women`s Football Clubs, and the most famous of them all were the Dick, Kerr's Ladies - they were founded in 1917 and were also a group of war workers, from Dick, Kerr and Company, of Kilmarnock, Scotland, and Preston, England. However as well as the usual war work, of making shells, bombs, and fuses, they made trains, trams, and aircraft.  Lily Parr was their most famous player, and many books and documentaries have highlighted her achievements, though not so many have recorded how young she was, being just a teenager when she started at the factory. In fact .this was common place, and pre-teen girls were employed in war work too, for they had tiny fingers and could manage to get them into the tiny housing that held the fuses inside the bombs and hand grenades.

We are also informed that this team appears on a photographic card, possibly by Ardath? Any ideas?  In case you are not a football fan, their uniform was a black and white striped jersey with a small Union Jack on the left breast and blue shorts., or white jerseys and blue shorts for International matches. And all women footballers had to cover their hair in a cap or hat - Dick, Kerr`s Ladies choosing striped ones. 

We have also been sent a link to two sites that feature the ladies on a Baines card - the first is front only, that can be viewed at http://donmouth.co.uk/womens_football/dick_kerr.html  and it is a red card, with a red football - whilst the second is a green card and ball, and it shows the back and front of the card, that is https://www.footballsoccercards.com/1918-the-1st-ever-dick-kerrs-ladies-rookie-womens-football-team-baines-football-trade-card-11700-p.asp

Despite the fact that ladies football had kept workers healthy, provided entertainment and relief for those affected by war, and raised millions of pounds for charities, when the men came home they were told to retreat, and clear the field for the menfolk. The warning did not work, so in 1921 the Football Association actually banned women from holding matches on any football league grounds, with stiff penalties for any ground who allowed them on, even to train. The Dick, Kerr Ladies team did try to keep going, and toured North America in 1922. But on their return, they had to admit defeat. 

The ban on women`s football remained until 1971 in England, and 1972 in Wales. To celebrate, the first Womens F.A. Cup Final was played in 1971, and won by Southampton, who won the first three finals and have a total of eight victories, lying second in the all time winners table behind Arsenal on fourteen wins. 

However it was really the inclusion of Women`s Football in the 2012 London Olympics that, dare I say, started the ball rolling again countrywide. England won, beating Brazil. Now some say that it was the popularity of the game that swayed the Football Association into extending the olive branch, but there was also a clause, because it was still stated that they could not play football when the men`s game was in place - the women were restricted to the Summer months only, so that people missing the men`s game could have a little football-related entertainment, if they wanted.  

The early ladies would have been amazed to see there how many professional women`s football teams, and how many people come to watch them. The big three teams in England are Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, the latter two competing in this year's final, at Wembley Stadium, locking horns with three trophies each. In the end Chelsea won, 3-2. And the attendance was almost fifty thousand. 

If you hunt, you will find lady footballers on vintage cigarette cards and postcards. Some time between 1895 and 1900, Ogden's issued twelve cards which have come to be known as "Cricket and Football Terms - Women" (O/2-14 : RB.15/69 :  RB.21/170.1 : H.314) And do note that some of these cards are actually rugby football. These cards were what is known as standard size, 67 x 36 m/m, and were un-numbered. In our original Reference Book RB15 it is stated that the backs are in black with "Ogden's Gold Medal Cigarettes" to the top and a list of seven brands below.  However by 1956, for our World Tobacco Issues Index, it had been discovered that there were two other versions. 

The first of these had been issued in India through Ogden's agents G. Cox & Co of Calcutta, and we know it was a new printing because the cards had no caption to the base. These are actually listed in the London Cigarette Card Catalogue and Handbook as item H.318, and a small picture appears in the latter, of the cricket term "Play Up". Below the picture it adds that "According to later information the series consists of the same 12 subjects as in H.314". It must have been decided at that point to combine them.

The second version must have come to light after 1950, and it was again another printing as it was branded in the caption area, with "Otto de Rose Cigarettes". The football cards are A Good Back, A Good Catch, A Forward, A Place, Going to Take a Drop, Her Middle Stump, Line Up Girls Mark your Men, Mustnt Touch it With the Hands, Our Bowler, Our Wicket Keeper, Play Up and The Grace of the Eleven. We aim to find permanent illustrations of all these, whether by link or with the uploading of scans.  

Another early card was issued in 1900 as part of Clarke & Son's "Sporting Terms" (C90-4 : H.83). These cards are squarer than normal, measuring 38 x 58 m/m. Entitled "Forward", it shows two women, to the rear a stately lady in a grey, full dress, and to the front a female footballer in a far more "forward" attire, wearing what looks like "Bloomers" over blue tights. Actually this set breaks down into sub sets, twelve Cycling Terms, twelve Football Terms, twelve Golf Terms and fourteen Cricket Terms. And each card can be found with one of ten different brands. However this is the only lady footballer featured.

Picture postcards of female footballers come in various styles. The most sought after are the real photos of teams and single players, often these are local works teams, so when at card fairs it pays to check in the topographical boxes as well as the sporting ones. You also get comic cards, just like the Clarke card mentioned above, suggesting how unladylike the sport is, and that girls who played football were either 'forward' with their morality, or that they would lose their femininity, and turn into men.