Women's Football Roars Into The Twenties - Part Four

Enthusiasm for international women’s football 1920s-style continues as the French Ladies return home and the Dick, Kerr Ladies make their reciprocal visit to play them – Peter Bloor tells us more.

Part Four: From Preston to Paris with the Dick, Kerr Ladies

Speaking on the evening before her team of French women footballers returned to Paris after its tour to England, their manager Alice Milliat told a representative of the Evening Despatch that they had enjoyed “a perfectly glorious time” and promised to reciprocate when their opponents, the Dick, Kerr Ladies of Preston, visited in November. The team captain Madeleine Bracquemond agreed, and “expressed her joy, and that of her compatriots, at the happy time they had had in England” to the Weekly Dispatch reporter while waiting for the boat train to depart, delayed as it was by the teams’ goodbyes, which included kisses for all present except for the reporter and the ticket collector (or so he complained).

In their own time the French team had been “allowed an occasional jazz” by Madame Milliat, visited the Harris Art Gallery in Preston and enjoyed a day out with members of the Dick, Kerr Ladies at Blackpool, where they visited the North Pier, the Tower and had tea at the Winter Gardens – and remembered it being very windy on the front. At their hotel on the evening before this trip the French team had signed autographs for all, demonstrating a popularity that was also seen at the Gare du Nord on their return, when Madeleine Bracquemond was carried shoulder-high through the station and her team were given so many bouquets that each player received several.

After they had lost the first match of their tour at Deepdale one of the French team had commented to Alice Milliat that “it was a good thing we had not won judging by the great reception we had when we were beaten”, beaten despite the performance of their goalkeeper, Louise Ourry. Louise remained behind in England to see more of the country and sometimes “assisted”, as the match adverts put it, Dick, Kerr Ladies, making her debut in May against regular opponents St. Helens Ladies at Ewood Park in a match played to raise funds for the Blackburn War Memorial, and also played against them on two further occasions. Other opponents were a team of Irish Ladies, and apparently two teams from Cheshire (although there are indications that they were actually the same team), Verdin & Cooke Ladies, who were beaten 3-0 when “Dick, Kerr’s gave a sparkling display” at Crewe, and Mid-Cheshire Ladies, who also lost 3-0 at Lostock Hall in Cheshire as ‘The Preston players showed an all-round superiority, especially in their footwork, which delighted the crowd.’ They were superior to everyone else they played in the summer of 1920 too - between losing to France in May and September they won all 10 matches they played, scoring 39 goals and conceding 4 while raising £8340 (£356,400 in today’s money) for various charities.

By September arrangements for their return trip to play the French Ladies again had been put in place, with four matches to be played in just over a week starting in Paris on October 31st. The team travelled with Louise Ourry and arrived at Gare du Nord to be greeted by a French team who had broken through the police cordon, so keen were they to see their friends from Preston again. Captain Alice Kell had expressed herself confident of winning all four matches and was nearly proved correct, with 2-0 wins in both Roubaix and Rouen and a big one in Le Havre following an opening 1-1 draw. This result had prompted the Daily Post newspaper to print placards telling its readers that “Dick, Kerr Ladies meet their match in Paris”, to which the team’s response was to start in Le Havre ‘as if they were going to eat the French team’, a 6-0 win and Jennie Harris suggesting to Secretary Alfred Frankland that he ‘Telegraph the Daily Post, let them know the result and ask them to put it on their placards!’

After playing four matches in eight days the team returned to Preston with their French opponents’ inside-right Alice Trotman - and carried on playing. Alice played briefly for Dick, Kerr’s while studying business methods at the firm, for example against Verdin & Cooke at Burnley when she “kicked wide when only a couple of yards out” - not that it mattered as Dick Kerr’s scored 7 in a match that drew a crowd of 6,000 to Turf Moor and raised gate receipts of over £300 (over £12,820 today). Other matches drew bigger crowds and raised more money – in December 1920 Dick, Kerr’s versus a Rest of England XI at Deepdale drew a crowd of 10,000 and resulted in a donation of £600 (worth £25,640 today) to help unemployed ex-servicemen for example - but such popularity and a total of £11,000 (£470,100 today) raised to date for charity would prove no defence when, as some suspect, the F.A. decided that women’s football had gone quite far enough.

The quotes and other information in this article are taken from the Lancashire Daily Post, the Leeds Mercury, the Weekly Dispatch, the Daily Herald and other weekly and national newspapers of 1920.

Photographs Agence Rol/Source gallica.bnf.fr/Bibliothèque nationale de France


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