Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC and The World War 1
You would believe that women’s football is finally getting the attention it deserves. Women’s football teams such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Lyon, and, of course, Barcelona are far more professional and sophisticated than the teams in the past.
But what if we told you that there was a time when women’s football was at its wonderful pinnacle and that if it hadn’t been for the FA, the fate of the women’s game could have been so very different.
So, let’s travel back in time and uncover a story of football – in an era where destruction and weapons were upon us.
During World War 1, men had to leave the country to serve in the great war. The majority of capable young men picked up their weapons, joined the army, and were ready to sacrifice themselves for their motherland.
This caused a hole in the country’s workforce, causing it to cease operations.
With men gone, someone had to pick up the workload so that there will be bread and butter at the end of the day. As a product, it created a generation of fierce women, who worked in the factories, creating armaments, worked amid dangerous machinery and noxious chemicals, agriculture, and pretty much everything.
Basically, women were in charge of handling the workload of the entire country.
Soon factories began to set up their own football teams and there was one team that stood out. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC founded in 1917 were a team of female employees who worked at the Preston-based Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory.
The team was fabulous. It caught the eye of many people; they were the talk of the town. Masses would gather around in thousands, to see this team play.
Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, and many such others, began to play to raise money for charity and war efforts.
Besides in the darkest of times that mankind has seen, a beautiful game of football made people smile. Perhaps for only the briefest of the moment, it gave them enough hope to carry on.
The popularity of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, and women’s football was growing like wildfire.
The concept of females playing football was generally regarded as a wholesome novelty. But the sheer popularity of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC helped change that perception and establish women’s football as a real, legitimate sport in its own right.
The team even had a star player in their ranks, Lily Parr who was almost 6 feet tall and could smash the ball like a rocket was an exceptional footballer. Praised even by the male footballers at the time.
On one Boxing Day, their match against a rival women’s team drew a crowd of 53,000 at Goodison Park, with over 14,000 more potential spectators stranded outside the stadium. The ladies were genuine celebrities, with offers to perform all across the country. The bubble, however, soon burst — poked by the FA itself.
Insecurities and jealousy witnessing the rise of women’s football, the FA thought this will be a threat to the men’s game. Towards the end of 1921, the FA made a shock move and banned mainstream women’s football.
They were not allowed to play on FA pitches anymore, the statement was, “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged”.
There might have also been a political influence that led the FA into taking this decision.
Now, these matches were played for noble but left-wing causes, such as raising funds for miners opposing wage cuts in 1921. As a result, individuals who considered trade unions to be their foes perceived this as a danger.
Nonetheless, women’s football did continue. The teams now had to play on non-FA pitches but that didn’t quite catch the limelight and women’s football fell into the glorious abyss.
The future might have been different for the women’s game, had FA not decided to burst the bubble. Still in the time, playing for the right causes, Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, and the others brought hope in the hearts, smiles on the faces, and much-needed escapism for the people during those dark times.
Women’s football, the comfort and love during an era of mass destruction and hate.