Beds, Herts & Bucks

Women's football: Luton 'pioneer' mum ignored 1935 ban

Laura Wiltsher playing at Luton Town's ground in 1935. Image copyright Luton News
Image caption Laura Ainsworth (right) was identified in this photo from a women's match at Luton in 1935

The daughter of a footballer pictured at an "illegal" women's match in 1935 says her mother was a pioneer.

Laura Ainsworth was identified in a photo discovered by Luton Town's historian, showing women's matches at the club's Kenilworth Road ground.

The Football Association (FA) had banned such matches, calling the sport "quite unsuitable for females".

Linda Strapp said her mother would have loved the "overwhelming" support shown to England at the Women's World Cup.

Image copyright Luton Town Football Club
Image caption Linda Strapp said the ban on women's football would not have dissuaded her mother from playing

Ms Ainsworth, who died in 1999, used to play for an M&S team in Luton.

She was spotted by her family after Luton Town appealed for help to discover more about old pictures showing women's football at its ground.

A newspaper article from the time said "several thousands" watched the matches, which took place despite an FA ban from 1921 to 1971.

Ms Strapp said it would not have put her mother off, adding: "If she wanted to do something, she'd do it.

"She was a pioneer and a wonderful woman who would try anything."

Image copyright Luton News
Image caption Another recently-discovered photo shows a women's match at Luton, also believed to be in 1935

England reached a second consecutive Women's World Cup semi-final after they beat Norway 3-0 on Thursday, and are hoping to book a place in their first final on Tuesday.

"I think mum would have loved watching this World Cup," Ms Strapp said.

"Support for the England team this year has been overwhelming. The sport has really taken off."

Ms Strapp now lives in Dorset, but is a lifelong Luton Town fan and has two granddaughters, aged 10 and 12, who regularly play football.

Natasha Rolt, from the Luton Town Community Trust, said: "We still want to identify more players from the photos and find out what it was like to play in so-called illegal matches.

"And it would be fascinating to know why this game was allowed to go ahead."

Image copyright Luton News
Image caption The pictures were unearthed from Luton Town's archives by the club's historian

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