'Ladies' football': Gender and the socialisation of women football players in Lancashire c.1916-1960

Melling, Alethea orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3133-5367 (1999) 'Ladies' football': Gender and the socialisation of women football players in Lancashire c.1916-1960. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The purpose of this research is to examine the significance of, to use their own term, ladies' football in the context of shifting social values with regard to gender roles and the socialisation of working - class women c. 1916 - 1960. The thesis will focus on ladies' football in Lancashire and surrounding districts from the end of the First World War, to the beginnings of the second wave of feminism, which marked the end of an era for the sport. Firstly, it is important to explain the use of the term ladies' rather than women's football. The term ladies' football was imposed by the patriarchal structures from which it
developed in order to feminise the game and distinguish it from male football. This was consented to by the players who did not wish to be considered 'mannish'. The term lasted until the 1960's, when women began to take control of their own game. The term 'girls' is my own term and is used to describe the age group of the majority of the players. This must not be confused with the terms girlish' or girly', which are often used in a derogatory manner to undermine women's sports.
Ladies' football developed out of the circumstances of the First World War. As a result of the war women were thrown into male spheres in the home, work place and sports field. Munitions girls were encouraged play football and take part in athletic competitions as a morale boosting exercise to raise money for war related charities. This behaviour, although contrary to traditional gender roles, was approved by the establishment as part of the 'plucky heroine' ideology of munitions work. However, this was only a temporary sanctioning and in the drive to return to pre - war social forms, football was amongst the many male spheres women were expected to relinquish. However, despite ideological and legislative pressure, the sport continued as a subculture throughout the 1920's, 1930's and the period after the Second World War until the early 1960's, when it was eftectively reorganised into its present format.
Despite its early success, ladies' football has received limited attention from academics. The objective of this thesis is to evaluate the significance of ladies' football in terms of gender roles and the socialisation of working - class women in Lancashire. The thesis will address five salient themes starting with the development of the sport in munitions factories during the First World War. It will go on to explore the sporting 'entente cordiale' that developed as a result of international ladies' football matches arranged between Britain and France immediately after the war. Furthermore, the study will
address how the popularity of such teams as Dick, Kerr's Ladies inspired women and girls from mining communities in the north - west and north - east to form their own teams for the duration of the 1921 Miners' lock - Out, in order to raise money to fund the pea - soup' kitchens that fed the miners' children. In 1921, the Football Association banned ladies' football from being played on its grounds, with devastating consequences for the game. The thesis looks closely at the social and political
context of this decision and the pro - natalist ideology that governed attitudes towards women's sport until the 1960's. Ladies' football became a very important part of popular culture during and immediately after the the First World War and in the opinion of certain writers, the struggle with the Football Association represented women's struggles to maintain the social and economic advantages they had gained in other spheres. From 1921 - 1925, the 'football heroine' became a significant
feature in popular sporting fiction for working - class girls. The thesis looks at the intent of this fiction, and evaluates its didactic role in informing young women about the importance of keeping hold of the rights and freedoms they had gained during the war. Finally, the study will conclude by asking the question: to what extent was ladies' football a victim of its own early success? By examining these salient themes, this thesis challenges notion that ladies' football was insignificant and explores a whole new area of hitherto unanswered questions with regard to working - class women's physical culture.

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