Pioneers of Women's Soccer
In 1917, factory girls of the Dick, Kerr and Company munitions factory, had formed a football team to play lunchtime games against other factory workers. The aim of these lunchtime games was to raise money for returning World War 1 soldiers, and to keep up morale on the home front.
After the Great War, the Dick, Kerr ladies continued playing football years raising more and more money for charity. On Boxing Day 1920 drew a crowd of 53,000 at Goodison Park, home of Everton Football Club in Liverpool, England. They went on to become one of the most successful Women's Soccer teams in the world, and continued playing over 46 years, attracting large crowds and encouraging girls to get involved in the Sport, even in spite of the fact that in 1921 the football association banned women from playing on official football grounds.
The charge was that Women should not play football, on “doctors advice” it was said that it could be harmful for them. Soccer in England was a working class game, and the girls were raising money for charity. The FA did not like this as it was out of their control, so they banned it. This ban continued until 1971.
This was a huge setback overall for Women's soccer in the home of football, but the DK ladies were not deterred, and women's soccer survived, but without the large crowds and ultimately the financial support that this might have brought with it. Meanwhile countries like France and the United States encouraged the sport, and even backed their women financially.
The team became so good that they became known as the unofficial England team. Teams would challenge the DK Ladies from all across the country, and eventually from across Europe.
The Ladies also travelled on a very successful tour of the United States, where they played (and sometimes beat!) some of the best men's teams in the country, who had volunteered to play the matches due to a lack of willing female opposition.
One of the star players was Lily Parr, who went on to score over 900 goals, a record that has still never been beaten to this day.
They raised the profile of women’s football, especially in their native North West,
Further reading is available from historian, Gail Newsham, author of the definitive history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies.
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