Monday, 6 July 2020

My grandmother and women's football

CAS Trust discussed the plight of the Charlton women's team last week.  I must admit that I did not know that they had a separate owner who has to fund them to the tune of £50k a year:

Our sister site at is stepping up to the plate with some modest sponsorship.

I have done this for two reasons.  First, in writing my book on football (now overdue) I have reached the chapter on women's football and uncovered a great deal of information on its origins in the 1880's and 1890's.

This in turn has helped me to understand something that has always been a puzzle to me.  My grandmother had a strong interest in football in general and Charlton in particular.  Because my uncle was a newsagent, various football publications were sent to her which I was then able to read as well.

But there was a paradox.  Here was a lady who was born in 1872 and who in many respects was a typical Victorian, yet was very keen in her eighties to discuss football with me, especially prospects for promotion and relegation.  She was acute enough to realise that one had to look not just at the manager and the team, but broader socio-economic trends.

Yet she was 16 by the time the Football League was established.   What my research has uncovered is that large numbers of women were already going to games, particularly in London where a lot of the impetus for women's football came from in the 1890's (a North v. South London game in 1895 attracted a crowd of 10,000 - 12,000).   Some of these women spectators became interested in playing football.

My grandmother never did that, but she did follow the game enthusiastically.  And, along with my father and mother, both keen Charlton supporters, she transmitted that enthusiasm to me.

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