The Lady Footballers
Struggling to Play in Victorian Britain
By James Lee
Routledge – 2007 – 132 pages
Series: Sport in the Global Society
This book tells the story of ‘the Lady Footballers’. It covers their 1895 and 1896 tours through the eyes of the largely unsympathetic British press. It explains gender issues of the time, and the financial problems that doomed this experiment.
Despite increasing opportunities in sport for British women during the late nineteenth century, virtually every segment of society opposed the idea of women playing football. In 1895, Nettie Honeyball and Florence Dixie formed the British Ladies’ Football Club (BLFC) intending to introduce the game to women and girls as a means of recreation and profit, over 10,000 spectators crowded the football ground in London to watch the BLFC in its first match. Nearly every London newspaper covered the event.
These women endured public ridicule. They ignited the gender prejudice of the time, and confronted it head on wearing ‘men’s’ kit, and playing ‘men’s rules.’ Football's mystique was that it was a manly sport for men, thus these women footballers symbolized a paradox: those playing well were gender freaks; those not playing well proved it was a male game.
This book was published as a special issue of the International Journal of the History of Sport.
Introduction 1. Crouch End Rubs Its Eyes and Pinches Its Arms 2. The Threat of Robust Mothers 3. An Aristocrat and An Upholsterer’s Daughter 4. As Natural a Game for Girls as for Boys 5. This Club Does Not Play in Fashion’s Dress 6. Grown Men Weep 7. "Stop the Game, You’ve Lost Your Ribbons, Miss!" 8. Barnstorming Through Britain - 1895 and 1896 9. "Tommy" and Mrs. Graham: Gender Confusion on the Pitch 10. Damned If They Did, Damned If They Didn't 11. Life After Death
James Lee has taught Journalism at Bucknell University since 1997. Prior to that he taught English at Susquehanna University for many years. The Lady Footballers combine two of Lee’s primary interests: newspapers and soccer. Much of the information about Nettie Honeyball and the British Ladies’ Football Club comes from newspaper accounts. In fact, he first became aware of the Lady Footballers initial Crouch End match while doing newspaper research on another topic.