Gail Newsham’s book In a League of Their Own! offers a unique account of the early history of women’s soccer in England. There is surprisingly little work on the history of women’s soccer in general, and particularly on its early period. Newsham’s research was pioneering in that she was able to gather together documentation on a particular women’s team that had a remarkable arc in the early 1920s. She first presented this material on a website, and then in a first and now a second, expanded, edition of the book. As a result of her work, their story — and the larger story of how women’s football flourished for a time, before a 1921 ban by the Football Association, has helped reshape the way we think about the contemporary women’s game.
Jean Williams, a leading scholar of women’s football, offered this brief history of women’s soccer last year as part of a blog series about the 2015 Women’s World Cup at Sports Illustrated.
Newsham’s book mixes many biographical details of players and their families, and also offers a portrait of life in British society during and after World War I.
We’re reading this book this week in the Duke University class “Soccer Politics,” and asking students to connect the history presented in the work with some broader questions about women’s soccer:
- What were the reasons and justifications for the FA ban on women’s soccer in 1921?
- How does knowing the story about the early history of women’s soccer, and the FA ban, change the we might look at contemporary debates about women’s soccer?
- What are the similarities and differences in the situation of women’s soccer today and in the early 1920s?
In addition, we’re encouraging our students, in addition to their responses to some of these questions, to see if they can find other material on the web, in various languages, relating to the history of women’s soccer in other parts of the globe. Here are a few great resources to use to begin:
Additionally, this lecture given by Jean Williams at Duke University in the Spring of 2015 (at a symposium on “The Futures of Women’s Soccer”) provides a good overview of the history of women’s soccer.
We look forward to your thoughts and comments!