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Rights of Women to Play Football 1894 – 1921

The first official women’s football match, was played at Crouch End, in London, on 23rd March 1895.Women’s suffrage activist, Nettie

Nettie Honeyball (2nd from left back row) & North London Team

Honeyball was instrumental in setting up the ‘British Ladies Football Club’ in 1894. She resolved to show the world that women were ‘not merely ornaments and useless’ but great contributors at all levels of society. She worked fervently for women’s right to vote and in that capacity, met Lady Florence Dixie, another feminist, she agreed to become president of the ‘British Ladies Football Club’ and so the matches began.

The first match was made up of women who represented North and South London and was widely reported around the country although much of the reporting featured the clothes the women were wearing as much as anything else

The press, on the whole, were unsuppportive, making derogatory remarks about the skills shown but the Sportsman newspaper saw no difference in the skill levels just in the ability for men to kick the ball harder

The football matches became fund raising events in particular, medical charities which is ironic since the British Medical Journal wrote an article condemning women playing football, saying it would expose their organs to reckless violence.

The teams moved around the country playing their matches, at St James Park in Newcastle 8,000 people turned out to see the game but from then on fewer and fewer people watched the game and it wasn’t until WWI that the women’s game was revived.

As women took over work in factories in WWI, they were encouraged to set up women’s factory football teams. These teams grew in number and skill and continued for a few years after the war, much to the horror of the Football Association who were very uncomfortable with the whole popularity of women’s football and worried that it would outshine men’s football.

The fear was that the women’s game was becoming more popular then the mens and in 1921 they banned women’s football

Intriguing Connections:
    1. Women’s suffrage and women’s football are intrinsically linked, football was the sport of the working classes, concerns about the course the game was taking must have reverberated around Westminster
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