This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Where necessary paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading. — David Skilton

The date of this article makes it historically important as an early eye-witness account of women’s football. Samuel tries to pose as superior to those men who scorn women while looking for titillation, although to the modern eye he is implicated in their attitudes. It seems that in his eyes the women players have renounced any claim to decent consideration. There is a crudity in the jokes which would not have been permitted in any other context.

Upon my word, sir, I am almost afraid to pen anything about football, so disputatious have the lovers of the game become lately, but of course I have no alternative, as you ask me so nicely, even though I may get a drop kick or be picked up a dead ball in consequence. And if male lovers of the game are so fractious, what must female ones be? There's a nice little sum for you to do on your slate. Perhaps if I say anything about the Amazons (‘Hammer-zons’ perhaps I might, ‘axin' yer pardin,’ call them) they will apply for an injunction to restrain me from doing something or other -- but here goes — I must venture my awl, as the shoemaker said when he pawned his tools. I went to a North-country town, sir, to see, as was announced on a very bilious looking bill. ‘A Grand Ladies' Football Match, between Madam Kenney's Famous Edinburgh Team and Madame Wills' Grimsby Town Team," the prize being a ‘Handsome Silver Cup." You will please note, sir, that it was announced as a Grand Ladies' Match — therefore, presumably, a match between ‘grand’ ladies, and not a mere scuffle between persons of the common herd. Going down from the station in a waggonette, I was pleased to notice that nearly all my male fellow-passengers were going "merely out of curiosity, you know," and that they, without a dissentient voice, strongly deprecated such an exhibition. Still they were going, you see, sir. Much profitable and ingenious speculation was indulged in as to what sort of apparel the ‘ladies’ would wear. It was agreed on all hands that for a player in petticoats to kick the ball would be well-nigh impossible, though it was decided in a very emphatic manner that the wearing of a good strong elastic improver [bustle] would have its strong advantages, and with this sentiment I found myself able to agree.

There was not, by any means, a brilliant rush at the gate; indeed, it seemed to strike me there were a good many more people outside the walls of the grounds than inside. Possibly the former folks belonged to the see-all-you-can -for- nothing, climb-up-a-telegraph-pole, hang-up-by-your-eye-lashes, sit on-the-broken-bottles-on-a-wall-top brigade. (By-the-way, I should think that these last-named folks must be those to whom novelists refer when they speak of persons with a ‘glassy stare.’) There were, at first, not many people on the grand-stand, but such as did patronise that elevated, but decidedly chilly, position were chiefly of the bald-headed, ancient masher order of loveliness. There were, however, several ladies present to give countenance to the proceedings –– very remarkable-looking ladies they were. too, some of them. They were, in sooth, chiefly distinguished for the brightest of golden locks and the blackest of eye-brows and eye-lashes, and they appeared to be well known to the crowd. Several solitary strangers sat apart in gloomy exclusiveness, and one of these, who looked like a poet, had doubtless come not out of ‘curiosity,’ like the rest. but to sing of the glories of the new era of female muscularity. A spirit of jocosity pervaded the waiting assemblage, and one gentleman with a short clay pipe audibly expressed himse[l]f to the effect that be ‘was fair an’ glad ‘at his missis couldn't fake at football, as she was good-like enough to tackle him as it was, partickler when she reached down the rollin' pin." After much waiting, much chaffing, and much stamping of feet to keep the cold out, a shout went up that the teams were coming. 'Pon my word, sir, the two bodies of players came down to the ground as though they were a party of convicts in custody. Policemen were on all sides of them, but whether the beauties in blue were on mashing bent, as is their bent (sly dogs), or whether they were there for the purpose of protecting the female footballists from other mashers, deponent sayeth not. The ladies themselves were tor the most. part attired in capacious ulsters which, doubtless through the absence of petticoats, seemed to hang on them like sheets might be supposed to do on clothes-props. But immediately the ladies reached the enclosure they instantly began to ‘doff thersens,’ as a gentleman near me said. This rather questionable act so excited the admiration of a young man in a big overcoat, who stood on the grand stand, that he began to dance wildly about, and to shout. ‘By gum, it's like a transformation scene’ [in a pantomime]. I regret to say that m his exuberance he overbalanced himself and fell down four steps right upon the poodle dog of one of the fair ones with the golden locks, and that lady –– considering that she was a lady –– used language which I can only characterise as unbecoming.

But about the players. They having taken off their superincumbent garments, stood revealed attired in –– well, attired in the ordinary garments of male footballists, nothing more nor less. I should not like to say that their costume was any better than that usually worn by corpses des ballit, a[s] coryphics are popularly called, but it was certainly no worse. (It couldn't very likely be worse, but that's got nothing to do with the case.) If fat meant muscularity, some of these females, sir, would have been muscular indeed. In regard to certain of them, I couldn't but think, on contemplating their bulk, that they had somehow missed their way, and come to the football field instead of going, as they ought, to the agricultural show. The enthusiasm — if enthusiasm it was — of the crowd, when the ladies stood fully displayed in all their war paint, vented itself in shouts of laughter, for very stiff (‘lumpy,’ a friend of mine called) did some of the players look. But the farce went on, and the ladies, after pulling their fringes straight, a little feminine act which they had evidently not yet forgotten, got to work. Now, sir, I am no footballist myself, but I certainly am one in a sufficient degree to tell you that the game was an uncommonly slow one. It rather suggested that the players in it had suddenly been awakened up out of a dead sleep and that they had not yet got their eyes fully open. The ladies seemed to find rapid locomotion emphatically difficult: they ran, in fact, as though the lengthy garments usual with their sex still hung about them, and when they fell, they smoothed down their ankles as though they fancied that petticoats were still there. In this they suggested the young ladies who come a cropper on the ice, and most beamingly endeavour[ed?] to conceal their ankles. The admonitions from the crowd were both numerous and impolite; indeed, the latter bad. quality, that of pronounced unpoliteness, was apparent in all the playful humour indulged in by the crowd, but even this verbial [sic] fusillade did not succeed in galvanising the ‘grand lady’ teams up to concert, or rather football, pitch.

The game grew most wearisome, despite occasional fratches (which might or might not be part of the show) amongst the players themselves. In regard to these wrangles, the evidences of the players being females were particularly observable. There was distinct inclination on the part of the ladies to indulge in tooth and nail contests –– in fact, to seize hold of each other’s hair and to scratch each other. One conclusion I certainly did arrive at and that is that I should not like to act as referee in a ‘ladies' match’ –– in fact, I'd rather be a second Brigham Young at once. More and more tiresome did the game become, for the players therein were certainly not fair to gaze upon; indeed they seemed to monopolise a considerable share of the snub noses, toothless gums, and frowsy hair which afflict this troublous world. ‘It's awf'ly slow, dear boy,’ drawled a young man near me to his companion, who was chewing the stump of a cigar in a disconsolate manner; ‘let's cut it.’ What this brilliant youth expected to see I don't know, but be sidled off, and so did many more people, including a stout elderly female, who very bitterly designated the players ‘forrard hussies’ and ‘brazen things.’ Whether she, in the first category, referred to the" forward" players I can't say. Perhaps the disappointed young gentlemen expected to see the lady players stand on their heads, or something of that sort; anyhow, they were evidently suffering from some grievous disillusionment. I went away early myself, good sir, for I had had enough, and more than enough, of such an unedifying exhibition. Whether the ladies played a Rugby or an Association game I can't say, but, as a stern moralist, I should rather think that it must have been ‘bad association’ game. The rising generation were clamouring to get into the show for nothing as I emerged from the ground, sir, but you can best judge as to how they looked as they gazed through the vacated pay places by gazing at the appended picture.

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Last modified 24 October 2021