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The History of Women's Football (Paperback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Sport P&S History Women of History

By Prof Jean Williams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 70 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399008624
Published: 16th November 2023
Last Released: 30th March 2024


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A complete history of women’s football, from its Victorian games beginning in 1881, to the plans for England to host the Euro Finals in England 2022, this book demonstrates how women’s football began as a professional sport, and has only recently returned to these professional roots in the UK. This is because there was a fifty-year Football Association ‘ban’ on women playing on pitches affiliated to the governing body in England. The other British associations followed suit.

Why was women’s football banned in 1921? Why did it take until 1969 for a Women’s Football Association to form? Why did it take until 1995 for England to qualify for a Women’s World Cup? Answers to these key questions are supplemented across the chapters by personal accounts of the players who defied the ban, at home and abroad, along with the personal costs, and rewards, of being footballing pioneers.

For anyone truly interested in the history of the women’s participation in ‘the beautiful game’ of Association Football, this book is a MUST READ.

Read the Full Review Here

Inspirational Women of World War One

...The History of Women's Football by unarguably this half of the game's pre-eminent historian, Jean Williams. With England as hosts and pre-tournament favourites Euro 2022 could be just the spur for an avalanche of new writing on the women's game. Yes please.

Read the full review here!

Philosophy Football

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are

I went into this having just watched a BBC series on football, men’s and women’s, which I found very revealing and informative. So having watched this I thought I would probably be well up on what would be found in this book, but far from it, this book was very informed, detailed and a very good read. As a football fan, I was staggered by how much I didn’t know and how if football had been better supported at the beginning of the century there is a good chance women’s football would be on a par with the men’s game now... this was a very interesting read and I would happily recommend this book to fellow football fans.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

As featured in

Who Do You Think You Are

A useful and informative book for anyone studying the rise of women's football in the UK. It contains a wide overview of the development of the women's game at a club, regional and national level. Useful for BTEC or A-Level PE/Sports studies students and anyone with an interest in women's football or sports of the period.

NetGalley, Andrea Grist

As featured in: 'Bid to score with beautiful game's history in book'

Loughborough Echo

Detailed look at the development and history of the Women's game and I found it very interesting with modern players discussing their experiences with FA and the gradual professionalism from part time.

NetGalley, Stephen Hutchison

Well this is a good read for anyone who loved the movie 'A League of Their Own'!!! I was quite unfamiliar with women's football (soccer for us Americans) but wanted to push my nonfiction reading out of my comfort zone. Sport's history is definitely outside it. I loved how the league started as easily as women just wanting to play, some didn't even know how initially. But of course with any history there is a dark side. This book covers the unfair treatment that the women's football league faced. A good book to pick up for any footballers in your life.

NetGalley, Haley Crenshaw

Going into reading I had some knowledge of the men's football in the late 19th century due to 1) having a at-the-time-famous footballing ancestor and 2) being obsessed with researching every possible facet I can of not both my ancestors lives and the people surrounding them, but my knowledge of women's football at the time was sorely lacking. In the last couple of years it's been fantastic to see even more eyes on the women's game, to the extent that yesterday saw Arsenal W.F.C vs Chelsea F.C Women compete in the Women's FA Cup final on BBC One yesterday. As as a wee lass I don't remember ever seeing women footballers on television growing up and I'm so glad it's something that's becoming more accessible now for any wee lassies out there to enjoy, root for, and maybe even aspire to.

What fascinated me the most in this book were the similarities between men and women's football with regards to the fostering of community spirit, along with the changing transport infrastructure which let more people enjoy the spectacles of matches and gave players the chances to see new locations.

I was also glad that the book while dealing with 19th century football didn't focus overly on England, although I did feel the book latterly slipped into that. Despite that, I enjoyed reading the experiences of the women during the more 'modern' era, as I hadn't realised just how young a lot of girls were when they made the steps into football. Even then I'm not sure 'enjoyed' is the most appropriate word - the discrimination faced by the likes of Pat Dunn was awful to read!

All in all, this is a book I'm going to go on to purchase a physical copy of for my bookshelf, as I can see myself referencing it a few times in the future, especially when I get chances to geek out about the history of football.

NetGalley, Anna Laird

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I will 100% admit I’m not a big football fan, but women’s history I love and knowing bits of the history of the sport for women being barred etc I was eager to know more. I thought this was really well presented, I found it so interesting and despite not really liking football it didn’t lose my interest for one moment. Really impressive read, that I highly recommend to everyone.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

Beginning with the early success of games played in the late 19th century, through the doldrums of the post WWI period, to the rising popularity and profile of the modern day game, this is a pretty comprehensive history of women's football in England. Other nations, including Wales and Scotland, feature mostly to the extent to which they interacted with English teams of each period.

I found this an interesting read, though it is frequently quite distressing to read about the treatment of enthusiastic footballing women. The FA made determined efforts to drive women out of the game, and even after accepting that they should promote women's football, they've frequently failed to treat teams fairly, to properly fund the players, or to support women of colour against institutional racism in their own organisation... If that's a topic of interest to you, definitely check it out.

NetGalley, Adam Windsor

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s a quite historical, but very interesting and informative history of women’s football, just as the title suggests. I like the chronological order of events and how it is structured to show changes and developments through time. It is well written to focus on both particular events and narrative moments and also over time things. Overall, a great book definitely worth a read!

NetGalley, Serafina Hills

A well-researched and informative book about the history of women's football, focusing on the UK, with a bit of international outlook. I enjoyed reading the oral histories of the coaches and female football players in particular, the personal stories behind these pioneers, while, despite all the money they raised for charity, the lack of their recognition made me bitterly angry.

NetGalley, Anita Salát

About Prof Jean Williams

Professor Jean Williams is the leading academic author on women’s football in the world, having written books funded by FIFA, and UEFA as well as books based on the British, such as A Game For Rough Girls (2003). Jean has been a consultant to The FIFA Museum in Zurich, The National Football Museum, Manchester and the FA at St George’s Park and Wembley. An average, but enthusiastic football player, Jean was more likely to win her club’s ‘Most Improved Player’ than national distinction. Having reunited England players from official and unofficial England national teams, including several reunions at National Football Museum, Jean has access to many, diverse interviewees, memorabilia and images to tell this story. The eldest player she is currently in contact with, Alice Elliott, began playing for Manchester Corinthians in 1949, aged fourteen. Leah Caleb was only thirteen when she travelled to Mexico in 1971 to play in an unofficial Women’s World Cup. Mary Phillip became the first black woman to captain England in 2003. It is these, and other stories, that Jean believes will bring the book alive.

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