Today, women's football has become a prominent sport globally. However, many individuals mistakenly believe it to be a recent development, without knowledge of its origins and historical roots.
The British Ladies Football Club was established in London in late 1894. The president, Lady Florence Dixie, was the youngest daughter of the Marquess of Queensbury. Lady Florence Dixie was also known for being one of the earliest female war correspondents during the Boer War. The secretary and captain of the team was Miss Nettie J Honeyball. In a leaflet advertising the club's first game, she sent an invitation to "ladies desirous of joining the club" by providing her address. Many of the women, like the early men's players, were likely from the upper classes; they may have been the sisters or daughters of the first players who witnessed the game's meteoric rise 30 years earlier.
Similarly to the early men's games in the 1870's, when games were billed as Scotland versus England, even though all the players on both sides lived in London, the first women's game was played at Crouch End in North London on a Saturday afternoon, 23 March 1895, between what was called the North and the South. According to an article published on 27 March 1895 in The Sketch, the female 'custodian' (goalie) for the Northern team had travelled from Glasgow to participate in the match. Back then, railroads were top-notch. All the rest, however, are assumed to be London natives and friends of North team captain Miss Nettie Honeyball and Lady Florence.
Photo above is of Nettie Honeyball, the esteemed captain of The British Ladies FC back in 1894, looking absolutely resplendent in her complete football attire, from the stylish kit to the sturdy boots and protective pads. A true embodiment of dedication and skill on the pitch. In a groundbreaking move, Nattie took charge and orchestrated the inaugural Women's Football Match.
The images from circa 1895 depict the North and South teams, showcasing the North team's notably refined attire. However, it is worth noting that the South team also exhibits a commendable sense of fashion, suggesting that the players, regardless of their team affiliation, were likely affluent young women who possessed the means to acquire the appropriate equipment. This includes matching strips, shin guards worn over the socks (which helps establish the timeframe), well-crafted boots, and sturdy knickerbockers.
The Northerners are seen wearing dark, sturdy, long-sleeved blouses, possibly crafted from canvas, featuring a prominent white stripe down the front. In contrast, the Southerners don slightly more ornate shirts, adorned with what appears to be a neck scarf. The pattern on their shirts is divided in half, reminiscent of a Blackburn Rovers strip.
The Sketch reported, that the North was shown in vivid red and the South in blue. Dark knickerbockers or segregated skirts, as described by the reporter.
He described the scene as "amazing," saying that "train loads of excited people travelled from all parts," adding that "the respectable army of carriages, cabs, and other vehicles marked a record in the history of Football."
Tens of thousands of people paid one shilling to see the game. The leaflet makes no mention of a charitable purpose, but the newly founded British Ladies Club (all 30 of them) must have been ecstatic with the turnout and the boost to their coffers.
Match Report by a totally pissed off biased reporter from The Sketch
As exponents of the popular winter pastime they had not the slightest qualification to take the field. The first few minutes were enough to show that football by women is totally out of the question. A footballer requires speed, judgement, skill and pluck. None of these was apparent on Saturday. For the most part, the ladies wandered aimless over the ﬁeld at an ungrateful trot. I do not wish to appear uncharitable, but candour compels the statement that the experiment is scarcely likely to be repeated. Let not the British Ladies misconstrue the enormous attendance into a sign of public approval. These people had attended purely out of curiosity. Now that the novelty has worn off - its only charm — it must he clear that girls are totally unﬁtted for the rough work of the football field. As a means of exercise in a back garden it is not to be commended. As a public entertainment, it is too he deplored.[END]
That news must have brought the girls to tears, but it's not as bad as what many male football teams have dealt with. Ed note: I'd say the Spurs team has been lost on the pitch for the better part of the last four decades.