History KS3: The History of Women's Football

In this film about an unusual collection of historical sources, Dr Sam Caslin from Liverpool University, reveals some unexpected and fascinating aspects of the struggle for women’s rights.

The Dick Kerr ladies’ football team was formed by a group of women who worked in a munitions factory in Preston, Lancashire, during the First World War.

Dr Caslin meets Gail Newsham from Chorley, who has a unique scrapbook, featuring a series of newspaper articles following the team’s progress.

Dr Caslin discovers that during the war years when the men were away fighting, the team became extremely popular, playing in some of the country’s leading stadiums in front of tens of thousands of supporters.

However, other sources show less favorable reactions, with attempts to parody women footballers, highlight the changing female physiques some journalists suggested would result, and even insinuating that some women would be too preoccupied with their looks to be able to focus on the ball.

The film shows how the development of women’s rights sometimes manifested itself in unusual or unexpected ways, but that a level of sexism that wouldn’t be acceptable today was evident despite the popularity of the game.

This clip is from the series Hunting for History.

Teacher Notes

The scrapbook which forms the basis of this programme contains many newspaper clippings, articles, cartoons etc – in other words it contains many sources.

Students could be asked to discuss whether they think the sources in the scrapbook are more significant as evidence about women at the time, or whether they think the fact that the football manager created the scrapbook is more significant.

As a secondary question, they should also be asked whether they think the scrapbook really belongs in a museum, and if so how would they display it?

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching KS3 History in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 4th level People, past events and societies in Scotland.