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Women, Sport and Modernity in Interwar Britain


Fiona Skillen

This book offers a unique examination of women’s increasing involvement in sport during the period 1919-1939. Focusing primarily on sites of participation, it analyses where and how women accessed sport and their participation across class, age and marital groups. It also demonstrates the diverse ways in which sport was incorporated into women’s everyday lives, with particular emphasis on the important and yet often neglected area of informal participation, so fundamental to understandings of women’s sport. The unique combination of in-depth studies, drawing on the voices of the women themselves through oral testimonies, and the tracing of broad national and international trends, contributes to an innovative and comprehensive exploration of the evolution of women’s sports participation across Britain during this significant period.


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Girls have been rushed to the goal posts and wickets, and not to carry a hockey stick or a net ball is regarded as a sign of decadence and eccentricity. Women first became actively engaged in sport from the late Victorian period, however this participation was largely confined to the elite. It was not until the years immediately after the First World War that sport was truly opened up to women of all classes. The interwar period was a remark- able time for women’s sport: during these years educational, municipal and work-based sports provision became established across Britain. The growth of these types of provisions ensured that there were local, af ford- able and accessible sports facilities available to women across the United Kingdom for the first time. Private provision, in the form of suburban clubs, was also increasing with the number of clubs and membership levels rising throughout the interwar period. While sports organizations and associations established at the end of the nineteenth century also took on a new importance. Organizations such as the All-England Women’s Field Hockey Association grew from 10 clubs in 1895 to 2,100 by 1939, while the Lawn Tennis Association grew from 1830 clubs af filiated in 1926 to 2,874 by 1938.1 Women, Sport and Modernity of fers a detailed exploration of these developments in women’s participation in sport in interwar Britain. Over the last decade there has been a growing body of research around women’s sport and leisure.2 This research has raised...

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