Lonsdale Park, Cumbria: Rise of the Munitionette League
The first women's football match in Cumbria was played at Lonsdale Park in 1917, where Workington beat Carlisle 4-1.
It was made possible by the growth of the local munitions factories, and their largely female workforce who were encouraged to take up sport to look after their physical welfare.
With the professional men's game ending because of overnight travel restrictions, a no-fees policy, and a shortage of players; local clubs were happy to host a Munitionette League instead.
The games pulled in large crowds who were fascinated by the novelty of watching women in long skirts kicking a ball around, and the gate receipts went to support charities for the lads at the front.
Patrick Brennan who’s written about the Munitionette phenomena, thinks the games were popular because, “for a few short minutes on a Saturday afternoon the girls, and the spectators, could escape from the horrors of war.”
It reflected the changing role of women in society brought about by World War One, and the feeling that anything was possible as long as it helped the war effort.
If hostilities had not ended when they did, and the FA had not banned women from playing on Association pitches in December 1921, this brief social experiment might well have blossomed into a permanent fixture. As it was, it took another cultural revolution in the 1960's, for women to eventually achieve in 1971 equal status they glimpsed on the playing fields of Cumbria fifty years earlier.
Location: Lonsdale Park, Workington, Cumbria CA14 3YJ
Image of the Munitionette League, 1917
Image courtesy of Ashley Kendal
Available since: Wed 22 Jan 2014
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WW1 at Home: a growing collection of stories about life on the WW1 Home Front
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