They paved the way for women’s football, but over the years have received little recognition or support – not least from the FA, who banned them from pitches, saying that the game was “quite unsuitable for females”.
But 100 years since they were formed, the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC are finally being honoured with a blue plaque.
Formed as a morale-boosting exercise during the First World War, the team became hugely popular, drawing a crowd of 53,000 when they played St Helen’s at Everton’s Goodison Park in 1920.
But their success attracted detractors, and in 1921 the Football Association banned women’s football from being played in FA grounds.
The ban lasted until 1971 and changed the face of women’s football forever.
But on Thursday, the ladies finally achieved the recognition they deserved with a blue plaque – used to mark historic achievements – erected at the Alstom Factory on Strand Road, where the team was formed.
David Taylor, pro-chancellor and chairman of the board at the University of Central Lancashire, which helped organise the plaque, said: “The Dick, Kerr Ladies story is a key part of Preston’s sporting heritage. In our role as a civic university, we are delighted to work alongside Gail and the many other hard working volunteers to highlight and commemorate the amazing achievements of these pioneering women.
“The Dick, Kerr Ladies all came from very traditional working class backgrounds and became the most successful women’s football team in history. For the people who live, work and study in our city, their success is something we should warmly celebrate.
“We have already given our backing to establishing a bronze relief in Preston to further celebrate these amazing sporting trailblazers and look forward to working with Gail on several other events planned this year to mark the Dick, Kerr Ladies centenary year.”
Gail Newsham, author of In a League of Their Own: A History of Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, said: “I have been championing the Dick, Kerr Ladies for 25 years. No other town or city in the world can boast the proud history of this pioneering team. I have always believed in them and been in awe of their success.
“They certainly deserve this long overdue honour. This blue plaque is the first in the world for the best in the world.
“Words cannot express how thrilled I am for them today.”