A fascinating history of women’s football from early 20th century heights, through suppression, to its present-day resurgence

Suzanne Wrack argues that for women the mere act of playing football is a feminist one, a form of activism. Her book begins as a historical survey, but ends as a manifesto.

Wrack is women’s football correspondent for the Guardian and Observer. She tracks the rise of the game through the suffrage movement and the first world war, when the flow of women into workplaces carried them on to football pitches – at their peak, the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies FC attracted a crowd of 53,000. It was partly this success, and the phenomenal gate receipts passed to charities, Wrack thinks, that attracted the Football Association’s ire. In 1921, it declared football “unsuitable for females”, and banned the sport from the grounds of all affiliated clubs. “Fifty years in the wilderness” followed, in which the sport went underground. The ban was finally lifted only in 1971, which still sounds far too recent.

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