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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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Chapter Two ‘We all wanted to win, but we were nice to each other’


: The growth of organized sport This chapter examines the growth of women’s participation in organized sport during the interwar years. It has been highlighted in recent years that very little of the existing historiography of the growth of British sports has dealt with the experiences of women.1 Works which deal with sports par- ticipation have almost without exception focused exclusively on the male experience. Similarly, those few works that have explored women’s leisure pursuits have tended to focus on women’s leisure broadly defined, rather than on their participation in organized sport.2 None of the published studies of organized sports, such as golf and tennis, either at local or national level, has explored in any depth the place of women within these activities during this period. Through three case studies, this chapter will therefore focus on the development and experiences of organized sport for women during the interwar years. Each of the sports examined in this chapter – golf, tennis and hockey – was carefully chosen for a number of reasons. These were not, of course, the only sports being played by women in this period. As Hargreaves has demonstrated, the range of activities being taken up by women in the 1 As highlighted by Jennifer Hargreaves, Sporting Females: Critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sport (London: Routledge, 1994) 113. 2 Catriona Parratt, More Than Mere Amusements (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000); Clare Langhamer, Women’s Leisure in England, 1920–1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000); Andrew Davies, Leisure, Gender and...

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