The South team may have lost 7-1 to the North team that day, but for Emma, as well as the other players, the match was a victory for women’s rights. She later wrote of being a female footballer: “We were here to fight our cause [...] My mind was so taken by the light I dreamed for future versions of me [...] My eyes were in the sky and my feet were deep in soil.”
Emma was a goalkeeper and winger. Between 1895 and 1897, the British Ladies’ Football Club played more than 100 exhibition matches. Unlike earlier football matches of the 1880s in Scotland, the players of the British Ladies’ Football Club no longer had to wear corsets. Yet they continued to be constrained by the expectations of Victorian society and were often ridiculed in the press. Several played under different names. Mary Hutson, the Club’s founder, was known as Nettie Honeyball. Similarly, Scottish footballer Helen Matthews was known as Mrs Graham and only revealed her true name in 1900, ten years after she founded her team Mrs Graham’s XI.
Emma played for Mrs Graham’s XI in 1896. It was from a photograph with the team that her story was uncovered by historian Stuart Gibbs in 2017. Previously, she had been mistaken for goalkeeper Carrie Boustead, a white player. So much is still unknown of Emma, including how long she played and when she died. But what we can be sure of is that she was a genuine pioneer.
Lily Parr: 900 goals, back of the net
Across her 32-year career, Lily Parr became one of the top goal scorers in the history of football. In 1919, she scored 43 goals in her first season. In 1920, she played for England in the first women’s international match and bagged all five goals, leading her team to defeat France. In 1951, she played her last match achieving an 11-1 win over Scotland. In total, it is thought that she notched up more than 900 goals.
Lily started out playing for her local team, St Helens Ladies, near Manchester, when she was 14. In her second match, she impressed the opposing team’s manager so much that he asked her to join his team, Dick Kerr Ladies, in Preston.