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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 Four ‘Brightening the lives and making less monotonous the daily toil of the workers’


: Work and sport The growth of female employment during the interwar years enabled a larger number of women to experience a variety of leisure pursuits.1 Part of this leisure experience undoubtedly involved sport and exercise-related activities. Current historiography indicates that those most likely to have experienced these new pursuits were young women, as this group had fewer demands on their spare time and income than older women.2 Primacy has been given to this group’s involvement in leisure, research tending to focus on patterns of attendance at cinemas and dancehalls. Such research provides a rather unbalanced and narrow account of young women’s participation in a broad range of leisure and sporting activities.3 Parliamentary papers have tended to paint a picture of women interested in more traditional 1 Research suggests that across Britain women were experiencing a wider range of occupations in this period, although regional variations significantly impacted on the type of work available. See Clare Langhamer, Women’s Leisure in England, 1920–1960 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000); Selina Todd, Young Women, Work and Family in England 1918–1950 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Sally Alexander, Becoming a Woman (New York: New York University Press, 1995); Brigitte Soland, Becoming Modern: Young Women and the Reconstruction of Womanhood in the 1920s (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Arthur McIvor, ‘Gender Apartheid?: Women in Scottish Society’ in Tom M. Devine and Richard Finlay, eds, Scotland in the Twentieth Century (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003). 2 Jennifer Hargreaves, Sporting Females: Critical issues in the history...

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