“With women’s soccer abuzz in the news, it’s high time we take a look back to the first organized women’s soccer league, also known as “association football.” The British Ladies’ Football Club (BLFC) held their first match at Alexandra Park in Crouch End, London, in 1895. Ten thousand “jammed the pitch” to see the Blues play the Reds. They wanted to see what BLFC organizers Lady Florence Dixie and Nettie Honeyball—yes, that was her name—were up to. The responses, at least as represented in the press of day, will be familiar to those who have watched the rise of organized women’s sports in the last several decades.
“Reporters from nearly every London newspaper provided comment on the event, from the crowd’s reaction to the quality of the women’s play, obsessively detailing the players’ clothing and appearance,” writes James F. Lee in his survey of the media response to the match.
Their observations illustrate with pinpoint accuracy the fissures, pressures, and angst of a society that feared ‘masculine’ women and ‘effeminate’ men, and highlighted the double standard that women playing sports with skill and energy were freaks, while those playing poorly provided the proved the popular belief that women were physically incapable of playing football.”
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