Friday, 17 June 2016

Munitionettes football: "decadence of womanliness and burlesque"

We have had a number of newspaper articles published on Durham at War recently about Munitionettes football. The following is a series of letters sent to the Evening Despatch, about whether women should be allowed to play football. They were contributed to the website by Darlington Centre for Local Studies.
To the Editor of the “Evening Despatch.”
Sir, – I see from your columns we are to have another exhibition of the unsexing of the fair sex in Darlington tomorrow. I refer to the munition workers’ football match. Is it not time a protest was made against this decadence of womanliness and burlesque of a national game? I am the first to admit that women have taken a noble part in the prosecution of the war. I would raise my hat to a girl in overalls or the habit of a land worker, for it is the insignia of a duty to the country nobly performed. But it is a different thing when a girl consents to run about before a crowd clad only in knickers and jersey, simply for what amusement she may get out of it. Such conduct is most reprehensible.

I suspect that it is not enthusiasm for football as a game which has brought these girls’ teams into existence, but the youthful and foolish desire to be daring. Little do they suspect the dangers to which they are exposing themselves, morally and socially. – Trusting you will find room for this protest, I am, yours etc.
Father of Daughters
28 September 1917, Evening Despatch p. 2

To the Editor of the “Evening Despatch,”
Sir, – I think “Father of Daughters” is very nasty and impolite. It is evident he is no “ladies’ man” and still more evident that he is no sportsman. Probably he has never seen a football match. I invite him to come and see our game today, and if the sight of the football girls adding to their health and strength by playing one of the healthiest of sports does not make him change his mind, then I must class him as prejudiced and old-fashioned.

I should like to know where the moral danger comes in. Girls have played cricket and hockey for years past. Have they become less womanly? On the contrary, their womanhood by their improvement physically has been raised to a higher degree of perfection. As to social degradation, the process so far has been mighty slow?

In deprecating a girl “running about before a mixed crowd clad only in knickers and jersey,” “Father” makes himself very prudish. Has he never seen mixed bathing?

I am afraid poor “Father” is horribly “off-side.” In trying to “score a goal” he has run his head against the post and is now seeing “stars.” – Yours etc.
One of the Unsexed
29 September 1917, Evening Despatch p. 4

To the Editor of the “Evening Despatch,”
Sir, – I am a munition worker and footballer, and on behalf of the girls among whom I play I wish to repudiate the statements of “A Father of Daughters”. He is a footballer himself, but because of his narrow ideas on the sex question he grudges the sport to the girls. Is there any reason why girls should leave football out of their sports simply because the men have monopolised the game for so many years?

We certainly do not pretend to give it the prestige that, as the national game, it has always had from the men – those men with whom we ourselves are linked with regard to our work. We have taken up their work (we do not want to boast), and there is no reason why we should not take up their games.
Is the absurd question of “clothing” to stop us? Some of us are working in trousers among a mixed crowd. That goes down all right. Why such a sudden change of opinion because we wish to play in trousers in front of a mixed crowd? Personally, give me a football rig-out to a bathing dress, and a mixed crowd watching us playing football, to a mixed crowd watching us bathing – and the latter is carried on year after year with never a word of protest.

But the main thing I would like to point out to “A Father of Daughters” is this: Sound in body, sound in mind, a little more of the football, and there would be a great deal less of the ever-growing and absolutely apparent lack of morality among the girls of today. I consider myself a modern girl, and I place the very highest value on the part that sports have played in my life.

A real sporting girl who plays games – hockey, cricket, lacrosse, and football – plays for the love of it, appreciating at the same time the good she knows it is doing her, even if she does happen to be wearing shorts in front of a mixed crowd. The wish to “show off” seems to me a statement which is purely the outcome of a narrow-minded and prejudiced person who grudges his national game to the girls. –Yours etc
A Munition Worker and Footballer
1 October 1917, Evening Despatch p. 2 

You can read more about Munitionettes here:

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