Women's Football Roars Into The Twenties - Part Five
Pausing the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies for a week, Peter Bloor now tells us more about the life of one of the team’s stalwart players, Florrie Haslam.
Part Five: Florrie Haslam, in and out of football
Described in 1935 as a “right half terror of opposing forwards”, Florrie Haslam had originally played on the right wing for Mrs. Vizard’s XI from the Bolton Ministry of Munitions, who were also known as Bolton Ladies. From out on the right Florrie scored both goals in her side’s 2-0 victory over Dick, Kerr’s in April 1918 – the second from 25 yards - and another in their exciting 2-2 draw on Christmas Day that same year after outpacing the opposition on a run from inside her own half, her subsequent performances also earning her a place in the Pick of Lancashire XI that faced Dick, Kerr’s in May 1919. On this occasion there may have been some delay but, following their usual practice of signing the best players they faced, by August 1920 Florrie was, with Jennie Harris and Florrie Redford, “the pick of the Preston forwards” as her new team beat Mid-Cheshire Ladies 3-0, the three of them then scoring all but one of the goals by which the Dick, Kerr Ladies’ beat St. Helens Ladies 9-1 in September, Florrie H. contributing one to Florrie R.’s four and Little Jennie’s hat-trick.
At the end of October the Dick, Kerr Ladies party set off on their promised reciprocal visit to play the French Ladies they had hosted in April and May. They were to meet them again in Paris, Roubaix, Le Havre and Rouen, where they planned to lay wreaths at the memorials to the British soldiers killed in the Great War, some of the players having lost brothers in the fighting; Florrie was one such player, her brother Thomas having been a casualty of the second day of British attempts to take High Wood on the Somme in July 1916 - might she have been thinking of him as the Ladies placed their wreaths?
“Florrie’s brother Thomas died of wounds during the First World War, so she likely felt strongly about raising money for local war charities. Barely two years later, her father Abraham was a casualty of the Spanish Flu pandemic.”
Information kindly supplied by Professor David Childs, Florrie’s nephew.
After returning from France Florrie continued to show why Dick, Kerr’s had been so keen to sign her. Reproducing the skills she had shown for Bolton Ladies she scored goals – four against Cheshire Ladies at Turf Moor in November 1920 for example, her shooting having already made her popular with the crowd - and was a notably fast runner, as the report of Dick Kerr’s match against St. Helens Ladies at Filbert Street that same month remarked. Florrie had shown in the Christmas Day match of 1918 that she could also cross a ball to great effect, and it was after witnessing her centres – plus the interplay between Jennie Harris, Florrie Redford and Alice Mills - that the crowd at the Baseball Ground in Derby ‘settled down to a serious exposition of the game’ having at first wanted only “to extract fun from every move” in Dick, Kerr’s match against Coventry Ladies.
Florrie outside football
“Florrie and her sister Nellie were living at 335 Bury Road, Bolton, with their aunt Margaret Maguire…Nellie was a cinema operator at the Picture Palace and Florrie was a cutter and parceller at Blackshaw Dye Works (in between scoring goals for Dick, Kerr Ladies, that is).”
After leaving football Florrie became a nurse and later a midwife - “I remember as a small boy, just after Dunkirk, her telling my parents about the horrors of London hospitals”, and she “…financially supported her sister Sarah's grandson when he studied to become a medical practitioner.”
Information kindly supplied by Professor David Childs, Florrie’s nephew
Unlike the Derby crowd the F.A. would not change its attitude after it effectively banned women’s football in December 1921 citing its supposed physical effects, a decision that divided medical and other opinion. After being invited to a match by the Dick, Kerr Ladies, Dr. Mary Lowry concluded that “Those girls come on the field perfectly trained and…get no more wrenches than they would in tennis”, but Real Tennis Olympian and fad dietician Eustace Miles disagreed, believing instead that “kicking is too jerky a movement for women and the strain is likely to be rather severe…as the frame of a woman is more rounded than a man’s her movements should be more rounded and less angular.”
After retiring from football, three former Dick, Kerr Ladies proved that Eustace Miles was, of course, talking nonsense. Molly “Lightning” Walker was obliged to stop entering the Freckleton Village Sports after other competitors complained that she always won, Flo Rance rode horses around the fruit farm she and her husband owned in Australia, while Florrie – at the time two years away from qualifying as a midwife - watched her successors play and declared football to be “a grand health-giving game for girls.” She was proved correct, and made the final score Women Footballers 3 Health Fanatic 0, when she died at the age of 83 – the health and diet conscious Eustace Miles had only made it to 80.
The quotes and other information in this article are taken from the Lancashire Daily Post and other local and national newspapers 1918-1935.
With particular thanks to Professor David and Martin Childs for the family memories of Florrie and for permission to use the photograph, from their family album, of her as a nurse.
Dick, Kerr Ladies team photograph Agence Rol/Source gallica.bnf.fr/Bibliothèque nationale de France