Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Mar 2012

Gail Newsham – ‘Pride of Preston’ The Dick, Kerr Ladies 1917-1965.
Football’s Best Kept Secret
Tue 13 Mar 2012

It all started in the Preston munitions factory of Messrs Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd in 1917. As with other industries women were a vital part of the workforce during the war years. They were subject to the discipline that was essential in such a dangerous industry. Factory supervisors encouraged women to participate in football in their work breaks and played against the men.
Preston’s Moor Park Military Hospital matron had the idea of a charity football match to raise money for servicemen. Christmas Day 1917 saw the first charity ladies football match at Deepdale with a crowd of 10,000 that raised, at 2012 rates, £36,000.
Following the war Dick, Kerr’s returned to manufacturing such things as trams. Men returned from the war and to a large degree returned to the industries they had left. The need to raise funds, however, continued and the ladies game went from strength to strength all over the country.
This coincided with social change for women that included winning the vote for women over 30 years of age.
Dick, Kerr’s invited a French ladies team over in 1920 for a 4 match tour. This included a match at Deepdale with a gate of 25,000. Dick, Kerr’s reciprocated later in the year by visiting France and returned unbeaten after being watched by a total of 65,000.
Their popularity was evidenced on Boxing Day 1920 when a crowd of 53,000 watched them at Goodison Park, Liverpool that raised, at 2012 rates, £100,000.
Unfortunately, ladies football became a victim of their own success when football’s governing body, the Football Association, banned the ladies game from football grounds in 1921. Although many teams fell by the wayside Dick, Kerr’s continued by playing on rugby grounds.


Ladies International Football at Cardiff.
The French team opens their English tour
against Dick Kerr's eleven in 1922

The team even embarked on a 9 week tour of the USA and Canada in September 1922. President Harding actually kicked off the match held in Washington.
Although the team name changed to Preston Ladies FC in the thirties everyone still knew it as Dick. Kerr’s.
The years’ following the second world war still saw large crowds watching ladies football as a way of raising money for ex- servicemen.
However, the team folded in 1965 after 48 years, 832 games, 759 wins and an average of just 1 defeat every 2 years.
Its influence on football did not end there with 2 of its former players becoming the first women to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Gail wove a wonderful story of individual and team achievements through 5 decades of social change. Her work will ensure the exploits of these Lancashire women will live on into the future.

P Robinson

The Dick, Kerr Ladies at Cardiff about to play France in 1922.

Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. official website
Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. on Wikipedia

Annual Dinner at the Seaview, Whittle-le-Woods.
Fri 09 Mar 2012

42 members and friends gathered once again for our Annual Meal at the Sea View. It was a great evening, full of noisy chatter good food and drink. It's lovely as each year more people seem to want to partake of our festivities. Don't know what will happen if numbers grow. Think we have almost exceed the Sea View limitations. Thank you all for a great evening.