Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. was one of the earliest known women's association football teams in England. The team remained in existence for over 48 years, from 1917 to 1965, playing 828 games, winning 758, drawing 46, and losing 24. During its early years, matches attracted anywhere from 4,000 to over 50,000 spectators per match. In 1920, Dick, Kerr's Ladies defeated a French side 2–0 in front of 25,000 people that went down in history as the first international women's association football game. The team faced strong opposition by the Football Association (FA), who banned the women from using fields and stadiums controlled by FA-affiliated clubs for 50 years (the rule was finally repealed in 1971).
Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. was founded in Preston, Lancashire, England as a World War I-era works team for the company, Dick, Kerr & Co. The women on the team had joined the company in 1914 to help produce ammunition for the war. Although women had initially been discouraged from playing football, it was believed that such organised sporting activity would be good for morale in wartime factories and would aid production, so competitive sport was encouraged.
During a period of low production at the factory in October 1917, women workers joined the apprentices in the factory yard for informal football matches during their tea and lunch breaks. After beating the men of the factory in an informal game, the women of Dick, Kerr's formed a team, under the management of office worker, Alfred Frankland. The team drew strong crowds from the beginning; Dick, Kerr's beat Arundel Coulthard Factory 4–0 in front of a crowd of 10,000 on Christmas Day 1917 at Deepdale.
Dick, Kerr's played in charity fixtures against similar teams around the country and raised money for injured servicemen during and after the war. The Daily Post wrote, "Dick, Kerr's were not long in showing that they suffered less than their opponents from stage fright, and they had a better all-round understanding of the game. Their forward work, indeed, was often surprisingly good, one or two of the ladies showing quite admirable ball control." Players were paid 10 shillings a game by Dick, Kerr & Co. to cover their expenses.
International play begins (1920)
Dick, Kerr's played a total of four games in the UK the same year. The first match was played at Deepdale, where the squad won 2–0. The second match at Stockport was won by the Dick, Kerr's Ladies 5–2 followed by the third game in Manchester which drew 1–1. The final was won by the French at Stamford Bridge in London with a score of 2–1.
The French tour generated tremendous publicity for the team and on Boxing Day of 1920 they managed to draw a crowd of 53,000 spectators to watch a match at Goodison Park, Liverpool in a game against St. Helen's Ladies. The team were featured regularly in the Pathe newsreels of the day and players like Lily Parr and Alice Woods became an appealing draw at British football grounds.
FA ban (1921)
The popularity of the team led the Football Association (FA) to ban women's football at its members grounds on 5 December 1921. Ostensibly, this was due of concerns that women were not physically able to play football, however, it is widely purported that the popularity of the team threatened the men's game. The crowds at the Dick, Kerr Ladies matches were often bigger than men's games being played on the same day. Less than a year after a match played before 53,000 fans packed into Goodison Park, the Dick, Kerr's Ladies, as well as all the other women's teams that had been established in England, lost their official recognition by the FA.
The resolution passed by the FA's Consultative Committee read:
5. Women's Football Matches. The following Resolution was adopted:
Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, Council felt impelled to express the strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged.For these reasons the Council requests the Clubs belonging to the Association refuse the use of their grounds for such matches.
Complaints have also been made as to the conditions under which some of the matches have been arranged and played, and the appropriation of receipts to other than charitable objects. The Council are further of the opinion that an excessive proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an inadequate percentage devoted to charitable objects.— FA Consultative Committee, 
The FA ban would stay in place for fifty years – finally being rescinded in 1971 – and would ultimately become a major setback for the women's game in England. The grounds that were under the FA's governance were the only ones that held enough capacity to meet the demand of the women's games in the early 1920s. Because of the ban, women's games were relegated to smaller capacity fields with less resources and exposure. The women's game in England was left on its own until 1993 when the FA took over its administration and funding.
American Tour (1922)
|“||The team will continue to play, if the organisers of charity matches will provide grounds, even if we have to play on ploughed fields.||”|
|— Alfred "Pop" Frankland, Dick, Kerr's Ladies manager, Belles of the Ball (1991), p. 75.|
Despite the FA ban, the team continued to play on non-FA grounds. In late 1922, the team traveled abroad for a tour of Canada and the United States. Upon their arrival, Canada's Dominion Football Association prevented the team from playing anywhere in the country. The Washington Post reported on 23 September 1922, "The Dick, Kerr's team of English women soccer football players arrived today on the steamship Montclare en route to the United States where they will play a series of games. The girls will not be allowed to play Canadian soccer teams under order from the Dominion Football Association which objects to women football players. The team's first game will be at Patterson, N.J., on September 24th." The team played nine U.S.-based men's teams before crowds ranging from four to ten thousand spectators. Some of the opposing teams included immigrants who had previously played in the British football league, plus at least one American who would go on to represent the U.S. at the 1930 World Cup finals. Dick, Kerr's Ladies acquitted themselves well, winning three games, drawing three, and losing three. They proved tough opponents. "I played against them in 1922," recalled Paterson goalkeeper Peter Renzulli. "We were national champions and we had a hell of a job beating them."
The Fall River Evening Herald in Fall River, Massachusetts described the match there as "one of the biggest things in soccer ever to have visited the United States." Newspapers often described the team as "showing great stamina, clever combination of play, and considerable speed."
The team's club colours were black and white striped jerseys with a small Union Jack on the left breast and blue shorts. Their England colours were white jerseys and blue shorts. The women also wore striped hats to cover their hair.
Preston Ladies F.C. (1926–1965)
In 1926, Alfred Frankland had a falling out with the Dick, Kerr's Ladies ownership. The team's name changed to Preston Ladies F.C. and carried on playing until 1965. Despite having to play in more obscure locations due to the FA ban, the team saw an average of 5,000 spectators at their matches throughout the 1930s. In 1937, the team played against Scottish women champions, the Edinburgh Ladies and won 5–1, earning the "unofficial" title of world champions for the first time.
The FA finally recognised women's football in July 1971, 50 years after they had banned the game and six years after the team folded. The later Preston North End W.F.C., now Fylde Ladies, is unrelated to this team.
In popular culture
Nation On Film – Women's Football
The story of the Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C was featured in the BBC's Nation On Film – Women's Football in 2005 and featured archive film footage of the team in action shot by professionals and amateurs.
When Football Banned Women
Dick, Kerr Ladies' history was revisited in When Football Banned Women, a documentary presented by Clare Balding and broadcast on Channel 4 in 2017: the programme featured archive footage and still photographs as well as historians discussing the club and analysing the reaction of the football authorities to the women's game.
Famous and Forgotten
Famous and Forgotten is an award-winning play based on the story of Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C., written by playwright Andrew Colley. In 2004 the play won the 'Naked Talent' playwriting competition at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and has been widely performed by amateur and professional groups in the UK and abroad. It was performed at the College at Braintree in 2011.
Unfit for Females
The story of the Dick, Kerr's Ladies, set against the backdrop of the impact of the Suffragette movement and The Great War, has provided the inspiration for a play called, Unfit for Females, produced by London theatre company, Bold Over Theatre. The show ran from 24 March – 13 April 2014 at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith before embarking on a national tour.
No Man's Land
No Man's Land by Stephanie Alice McKervill was produced by Ribcaged Productions in 2014. It tells the story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies rise and their treatment both during and after the Great War. It toured Lancashire including The Grand Clitheroe, Blackburn Empire and Lowther Pavilion, Lytham in 2014. "The Amazing Tale of Dick Kerr ladies". Lancashire Telegraph. Lancashire. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
Not a Game for Girls
Not a Game for Girls by Benjamin Peel was performed by Matthew Wignall's Off the Rock Productions company at Friargate Theatre, York in June 2017 and it was directed by Alison Young. Using a mixture of real, composite and fictional characters it begins with the teams formation in 1917 and ends with the 1921 ban. Blending drama, songs, choreographed games and projections this fictionalised version takes in themes of social change during and after the Great War and also the effect of the conflict on men with the play garnering positive reviews such as on The One & Other Creative website.
- "Women's football". The FA. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- Buckley, Will (9 September 2009). "The forgotten story of ... the Dick, Kerr's Ladies football team". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- Gainey, Timothy F. (2012). Beyond Bend It Like Beckham: The Global Phenomenon of Women's Soccer. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 215–222. ISBN 9780803234703.
- "Team Highlights". DICK, KERR LADIES FC 1917–1965. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- "Trail-blazers who pioneered women's football". BBC News. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
- Williamson, David J. (1991). Belles of the Ball. Devon, England: R&D Associates. ISBN 0951751204.
- "Trail-blazers who pioneered women's football". BBC. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- "Let's Discuss the FA Ban". Dick Kerr Ladies. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- Hunt, Chris: "The Belles Of The Ball", FourFourTwo magazine, August 2005.
- "Dick, Kerr's Ladies". Spartacus Educational. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "OU on the BBC: Nation On Film – Women's Football". Open University / BBC. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
- "When Football Banned Women, review: a fascinating, and infuriating, piece of lost history". telegraph.co.uk. 18 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
- "The College at Braintree Performing Arts students performed Famous and Forgotten". Colchester Institute. Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- "Unfit for Females". Bold Over Theatre. Archived from the original on 2 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
- Jacobs, Barbara (2004), The Dick Kerr's Ladies, Constable and Robinson, ISBN 1-84119-828-5
- Grainey, Timothy F. (2012), Beyond Bend It Like Beckham: The Global Phenomenon of Women's Soccer, University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-3470-3
- Newsham, Gail J. (1994), In a League of their Own! The Dick, Kerr Ladies 1917–1965, Pride of Place UK Limited, ISBN 1-85727-029-0
- Williams, Jean (2007), A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women's Football', Berg, ISBN 1-84520-674-6
- Williamson, David J. (1991), Belles of the Ball: Early History of Women's Football, R&D Associates, ISBN 978-0951751206
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C..|
- Dick, Kerr Ladies FC 1917–1965 First official website dedicated to the Dick, Kerr Ladies
- Women's Football: Dick, Kerr Ladies
- The Dick, Kerr Ladies Soccer Tour, 1922 (USA Soccer Archives)
- The women's football team who conquered the world (BBC radio program)
- Dick Kerr's Ladies International Team 1921 Video footage of Dick, Kerr's Ladies
- North West Film Archive Footage of Dick Kerr's ladies football team playing several matches
- Unfit for Females Bold Over Theatre's production based on the story of the Dick, Kerr's Ladies