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Ladies and Lords

A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain

by Rafaelle Nicholson (Author)
Monographs XIV, 402 Pages
Series: Sport, History and Culture, Volume 9

Table Of Content


Ladies and Lords

A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain

Rafaelle Nicholson

About the author

Rafaelle Nicholson completed her PhD thesis at Queen Mary University of London. Prior to this she gained a BA in Modern History and Politics at Merton College, Oxford, and an MSt in Women's Studies at Mansfield College, Oxford. She has written on women’s cricket for ESPNCricinfo and Wisden, and is the editor of the women’s cricket website www.CRICKETher.com.

About the book

This book offers the first ever academic study of women’s cricket in Britain from its origins in the eighteenth century to the present day. It examines women’s cricket from grassroots to international level, in schools, universities, the workplace and clubs. The book draws on a wealth of new source material including player diaries and scrapbooks, club records and the records of the Women’s Cricket Association.

Through use of oral history interviews with many former players, the book argues that women’s cricket was a site of feminism across its history, and an important source of empowerment to the women who participated in the sport. However, it also examines barriers to women’s participation, analyzing the persistence of opposition to women’s sport across the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Overall, the book uses women’s cricket as a case study to highlight the existence of ongoing fundamental inequalities in the quantity and quality of women's leisure in contemporary Britain.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Figures

Figure 1: Cricket match played by the Countess of Derby and other ladies, 1777

Figure 2: The Original English Lady Cricketers, 1890

Figure 3: Roedean School 1st XI, 1902. Courtesy of Roedean School Archive

Figure 4: WCA affiliation figures, 1927–38

Figure 5: England Players, 1937. Standing from left to right: Dorothy McEvoy, P. Sulman, B. Blaker, Aline Brown, Audrey Collins. Sitting: P. Iredale, Muriel Lowe, Megan Lowe, Betty Archdale, Betty Belton

Figure 6: Marjorie Pollard, one of the founders of the WCA, was not universally popular with WCA members. Courtesy of the Hockey Museum, Woking

Figure 7: The Women’s Cricket Association team during their tour to St Leonard’s School, 1930. Courtesy of St Leonard’s School Archive

Figure 8: WCA affiliation figures, 1945–55

Figure 9: Cricketers in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, c. 1943

Figure 10. WCA affiliation figures, 1956–70←ix | x→

Figure 11: St Leonard’s School First XI, 1885. The school was for many years a stronghold of women’s cricket but chose to give up the sport in 1969 in favour of athletics. Courtesy of St Leonard’s School Archive

Figure 12: Dartford College First XI, 1952. Norma Izard – future England manager – is standing, far left. Courtesy of the Osterberg Collection, Kent

Figure 13: Dartford College First XI, 1966. Future England players Chris Watmough (top right) and Heather Dewdney (bottom right) are pictured. Courtesy of the Osterberg Collection, Kent

Figure 14: Jan Brittin and Charlotte Edwards walking out to open the batting for England, 1996. This was the last international series played in skirts. Courtesy of Carol Salmon

Figure 15: England celebrate winning the 2009 Women’s World Twenty20. Courtesy of Don Miles←x | xi→

Acknowledgements

There are many people who have helped me in the course of researching, writing and completing this book. Dr Helen McCarthy combined academic stringency with supportive guidance in her supervision of the PhD thesis on which the book is based, and the final result is very much the better for her efforts. Professor Pippa Catterall as my initial supervisor was always a source of ideas and inspiration, and continues to be a great support to me. More recently, Professor Mike Silk ensured I was given the necessary time and support to finish the book in my role as a postdoctoral researcher at Bournemouth University.

I am indebted to all those within the women’s cricket community who welcomed me into their confidence, and whose voices have thoroughly enriched this research. Their honesty and openness was greatly appreciated, as was the time they spent digging around in their spare rooms, attics and sheds to unearth some of the archival material which form the basis of the following pages. In particular I must thank Carole Cornthwaite, who was the custodian of the Women’s Cricket Association archive at the time of my research, and had to put up with me living in a shed in her garden almost solidly for several weeks!

My thanks go to the archivists at the Osterberg Collection, the Hockey Museum, the Roedean School Archive and the St Leonard’s School Archive for their generous permission to use the images contained within this book.

I am also thankful for the wisdom and support of the Women’s Cricket Bloggers, who continue to enrich my summers, both in the press box and on the boundary edge. Don, Martin, Mandy, Ruth and of course not forgetting Syd – thanks to you, I wrote some of this book in beautiful locations around the Caribbean. Here’s to many more cricketing adventures.

PhD theses sometimes have long roots; the one on which this book is based began in a Surrey classroom many years ago under the guidance of Angela Mayne, who taught me to love history. While she may not have initially approved of the chosen topic – ‘sports history?’ – I hope she will appreciate the final result.←xi | xii→

Last but not least, I thank my parents. Not only did Dad instil in me from an early age his own love of cricket, but both he and Mum provided the financial and emotional support to allow me to complete the PhD (not to mention countless cups of tea along the way). Without them this research would not have been possible; my love and thanks go to them both.←xii | xiii→

Abbreviations

ACO Association of Cricket Officials

ACU Association of Cricket Umpires

AENA All England Netball Association

AEWHA All England Women’s Hockey Association

AGM Annual General Meeting

ASA Amateur Swimming Association

ATS Auxiliary Territorial Service

AWCC Australian Women’s Cricket Council

CCC County Cricket Club

CCPR Central Council of Physical Recreation

CPE College of Physical Education

ECB England and Wales Cricket Board

EGM Extraordinary General Meeting

EWCF English Women’s Cricket Federation

FA Football Association

GPDST Girls Public Day School Trust

IWCC International Women’s Cricket Council

LCC Ladies Cricket Club

LCCA London Community Cricket Association

LEA Local Education Authority

LWCF Lancashire Women’s Cricket Federation

MCC Marylebone Cricket Club

NCA National Cricket Association

NZC New Zealand Cricket

ODI One Day International

OELC Original English Lady Cricketers

PE Physical Education

PTC Physical Training College

SDO Sports Development Officer

TCCB Test and County Cricket Board

WAAA Women’s Amateur Athletics Association←xiii | xiv→

WAAF Women’s Auxiliary Air Force

WCA Women’s Cricket Association

WCAG Women’s Cricket Advisory Group

WCC Women’s Cricket Club

WI Women’s Institutes

WLM Women’s Liberation Movement

WRNS Women’s Royal Naval Service

WTGB Women’s Team Games Board

YWCA Young Women’s Christian Association

YWCF Yorkshire Women’s Cricket Federation←xiv | 1→

Introduction

In the summer of 1963, at Chislehurst in Kent, a charity match took place between an England Women’s XI and a side made up of famous male England cricketers and cricket journalists. It was captained by Colin Cowdrey. Brian Johnston, the much-loved BBC cricket commentator, was keeping wicket, and Len Hutton (England captain 1952–5) was fielding at slip. ‘I asked him what he thought of women playing cricket,’ Johnston later recalled. ‘He gave me a funny look and answered: “It’s just like a man trying to knit, isn’t it?”’1 The women’s side went on to win the match.

One can well imagine Hutton uttering those words. Throughout the last two centuries, female involvement in cricket was subject to intense scrutiny regarding its suitability as a ‘feminine-appropriate’ sport; the England cricketer Walter Hammond wrote in 1952 that: ‘There are some games women can play, in general, actually better than men, but the muscular differences of the sexes prohibits cricket from being one of them’.2 Hutton’s quote is telling: it suggests that cricket was felt to be a masculine activity, unsuitable for female participants. His idea that women playing cricket was the equivalent of men knitting also signifies the existence of broader societal expectations about the gendered nature of leisure in modern Britain. Women’s place was at home, knitting; men’s was outside the home, playing sport. Even when Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, England captain, scored a century three years after Hutton’s remark, during the 1966 Scarborough Test against New Zealand, the Daily Telegraph reported it with the headline ‘Housewife enlivens day’s play’.3

Hutton’s comment was made in 1963, before the onset of the second-wave feminist movement and the resulting shift in women’s societal position. Indeed, historians agree that gender roles in Britain underwent significant←1 | 2→ change in the period between the 1960s and the start of the twenty-first century; Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska concludes that ‘gender differences have declined, male and female roles have become increasingly fluid and ambiguous, and women have acquired greater status and power’.4 Yet there are limits to this new fluidity of gender roles. In April 2012, the popular BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers featured a storyline in which the girlfriend of one of the main male characters, Jamie Perks, expressed a desire to join him in playing cricket for the Ambridge village cricket team. The shocked and confused reaction of Alistair Lloyd, the captain, who admitted that he had never considered the possibility that a woman might want to participate, was as telling as Hutton’s remark almost 50 years earlier. It appeared that ideas had changed little in the interim regarding appropriate spaces for women’s leisure.

This book represents the first ever historical study of women’s cricket in Britain from its origins in the eighteenth century to the present day. The first task has therefore been an empirical one of recovery: an in-depth study of the British women who participated in cricket. Who were they? How did they react when faced with strongly misogynistic attitudes to their participation in the sport? Were they ‘feminists’? What impact did cricket have on their lives? Yet the book has a broader remit. It uses women’s cricket as a lens through which to examine key processes of social change since the eighteenth century, as experienced by British women: in particular how the development of first- and second-wave feminist campaigns affected the lives of female cricketers, and what this can tell us about British women’s relationship with feminism more generally throughout the past two centuries. Additionally, as the opening vignette demonstrates, sport is one area in which traditional attitudes to gender roles have undergone very little significant change until recently. It is an arena in which men and women are still institutionally separated on the basis of biological difference; arguably, sport is one of the last bastions of ‘acceptable’ inequality on the basis of sex in contemporary Britain. Thus women’s cricket has much to tell us←2 | 3→ about the lives of women in modern Britain: the constraints they faced, set against the new freedoms they enjoyed. How far, for example, were women cricketers able to operate in autonomous ways, given that much of their access to cricket grounds and other resources has been controlled by men throughout modern history? Ultimately, it is argued that the case study of women’s cricket points to the existence of ongoing fundamental inequalities in the quantity and quality of women’s leisure in contemporary Britain.

Summary

This book offers the first ever academic study of women’s cricket in Britain from its origins in the 18th century to the present day. It examines women’s cricket from grassroots to international level, in schools, universities, the workplace and clubs. The book draws on a wealth of new source material including player diaries and scrapbooks, club records and the records of the Women’s Cricket Association.
Through use of oral history interviews with many former players, the book argues that women’s cricket was a site of feminism across its history, and an important source of empowerment to the women who participated in the sport. However, it also examines barriers to women’s participation, analyzing the persistence of opposition to women’s sport across the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Overall, the book uses women’s cricket as a case study to highlight the existence of ongoing fundamental inequalities in the quantity and quality of women's leisure in contemporary Britain.

Biographical notes

Rafaelle Nicholson (Author)

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