First World War recruitment poster for women

Before the First World War, women weren’t really allowed on the pitch.

The earliest organised women’s football match took place on 9 May 1881, but ladies football didn’t catch on until the outbreak of war, largely as a result of women working on the home front.

Women's football during the First World War

At the outbreak of war, women stepped into traditional male roles in munitions factories, farms and forests. At the same time, they took up football, creating a grassroots wave of enthusiasm for ladies on the pitch.

Ladies’ football matches, often played after a long day’s work, attracted huge crowds of thousands of people. The female players kept the flame of football burning during our country’s darkest hour.

Games were played locally and also internationally, with large crowds cheering on our women against France, Belgium and other European teams.

Dick Kerr's Ladies

Dick Kerr's Ladies and the end of the war

The Lancashire United Transport Company had a women’s football team from as early as 1915 but the most famous team, Dick Kerr’s Ladies of Preston, first kicked off in 1916.

Unfortunately, when the men returned home in 1921, the women’s football was suspended. It would be almost a hundred years before the girls’ game would reach the same level of popularity once more.

The Woodland Trust and National Football Museum have joined together to commemorate the role of football in the First World War - Help make sure that our women's football legacy lives on by supporting the For Club and Country appeal.