Friday, 28 September 2012

Football for All?

An entry to Sepia Saturday. "Using old images as prompts for new reflections"

"Miss Nettie Honeyball captain of the British Ladies Football Club who is coming to America to initiate American girls into the mysteries of football".
This is what every lady footballer was wearing in 1895.  The gloriously appropriately named Miss Nettie Honeyball.  Hettie was a pioneer of football who persuaded J W Julian (a player for Tottenham Hotspur) to coach the British Ladies Football Club, training took place twice a week and the first football match was played in 1895 at Crouch End, dividing the players up to play north against south (London that is rather then England). The North won 7-1.  The Manchester Guardian reported on the match  "Their costumes came in for a good deal of attention.... one or two added short skirts over their knickerbockers.... When the novelty has worn off, I do not think women's football will attract the crowds."

 Well he was wrong.  Jump to the next century and
Dick Kerr's Ladies 1921
 enter Dick Kerr's Ladies, dispensing with the ties but adding a neat hat.  Dick, Kerr and Co was a tramway and light railway company in Preston which was converted to making munitions during World War 1. Competitive sport was thought a good way to improve the moral of factory workers and after the women beat the men at the Dick, Kerr factory a proper team was formed playing for charity taking on the name of their workplace. The first match was at the Preston North End ground of Deepdale in 1917 drawing a crowd of 10,000.  They continued to play and in 1920 played their first international matches against France (won 2, drew 1 and lost 1).  After the UK tour by the French, the Dick Kerr Ladies went on an extensive tour of France.  The publicity gained from this meant when on Boxing Day 1920 they took on St Helens at Everton's ground of Goodison Park a crowd of 53,000 came to watch.  They beat St Helens 4-0.

The male run Football Association  unsettled by the popularity of the women's game and no doubt also by the changing role of women in society banned women's games at all its members grounds, saying that women were not physically suitable for playing the game. This did not stop Dick Kerr's Ladies they continued to play on non FA grounds and toured North America becoming the most famous of all female football teams.
Hayes Ladies training in the 1930s
Football is sometimes called the people's game so nothing is going to stop half the population playing it even if the FA didn't allow it on their fields of play for the next 50 years.
So here am I on the  left stood next to Jim our coach who used to play for Preston North End home of that first match of Dick Kerr's Ladies.  We also were a sort of company team as we all worked at Vickers Shipbuilding and this photo I think was taken at the company's sports club in about 1966 or 7.  We, like Dick Kerr's Ladies, also played for charity on hockey grounds, rugby grounds, anywhere, but of course not on a football ground.  Things could be tricky for our goalkeeper Karen when playing under rugby posts.  We had a great deal of fun and lots of exercise. In 1971 the Football Association lifted the ban on women's football.



North County Film Club said...

Poor Nettie Honeyball, not only for such a funny name but also for trying to introduce football to the women of America. I doubt if she was very successful since soccer for women or men didn't become popular here until pretty recently.
Too bad women were banned from the football fields. Shame on those men!
Love the photo of you and your team. You certainly did line up your stockings perfectly.

Brett Payne said...

I read a little about the enigmatic, but appropriately named Netta Honeyball - an enduring mystery.

Great series of photos, and thank you for bringing this story of early women's football to our attention.

Queen Bee said...

Interesting to learn the history of women's football. What a shame they were banned from playing on the football fields. I like the fact they didn't let that discourage them from playing. It was fun to see picture of your team. The 1921 image of the girls in uniform was a striking contrast to Nettie Honeyball's 1895 uniform.

Little Nell said...

I am lost in admiration for you and all lady footballers. My own grandmother played in the early 1900s and according to my grandfather they were really rather good! I can see that it was a great way to get exercise and a lot of fun.

Peter said...

This is what I would call an informative post. I would have thought ladies football is something of the recent past, but now I know I was about a century wrong.
Super pictures, all of them! Maybe Little Nell's grandmother is featuring on one of these.
And did I say you have an impressive number of flags?

21 Wits said...

I just know you had fun in putting this interesting and fascinating post together. The photos everyone of them are just fabulous, as are the ladies!

Wendy said...

I enjoyed reading this history of women in football. And you're part of it! How cool is that!?!

Dave said...

Wonderful Joy. An interesting history of women's football. My daughter played it at college and made the school rep team. I even coached one of her teams for a while. - Dave

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Scotney said...

I'm sending the link to your post to my granddaughter who plays for Gloucester Ladies. She will be indignant to learn of the history of the women's game.
Great post.

Kathy said...

Interesting - and great pictures! I used to play leapfrog as a kid, but the person I was leaping over was crouched down a bit more than these ladies and we faced the same direction. said...

I'm with Peter, I had no idea womens' football was anything but a more recent phenomenon, can you tell sports is not my thing! Good on Miss Honeyball!

Anonymous said...

Imagine running full-pelt round a pitch in that heavy get up. They must have been "glowing" after the first five minutes :-) Jo

Jana Iverson Last said...

Very interesting history of women's football. Great photos too!

Postcardy said...

It's funny how the men tried to keep the women from playing.

Tattered and Lost said...

The more that women are told they can't do something the more they are determined to do it. And a good thing too!

Unknown said...


If anyone knows, it would be greatly appreciated if someone could let me know the source of that Nettie Honeyball portrait?

There is the same one in The Sketch but it doesn't have that caption below.

After researching these ladies for a few months now, that's the first time I have heard of her thinking about going to America.

Would really appreciate the help!

Joy said...

Hi Divya
I'm not on Google+ so replying here. Its remiss of me not to have included the source of the page but it is: The archive material is held by the website owner Chris who may be able to tell you more - Good luck in your research.

GoalChatter said...


I recently stumbled on your blog, and am glad I did! It's a great read. Would it be possible to ask you a few questions on your playing career?

Thanks in advance,