The "New Woman"

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The New Woman was one of the earliest expressions of feminism. The term itself dates from around 1894, when the writer Sidney Grundy published a play with the same title. The popular press, as eager then, as now, to ridicule progressive movements in society, used the term freely when lampooning the efforts of forward-looking women to expand the boundaries of their social and political life. The publication of crude caricatures and doggerel verses was one manifestation of this reactionary tendency

New Woman postcard

An Edwardian view of the New Woman

On 23rd March 1895, following the suggestion by a local farmer in Bathgate, Scotland, that he would be willing to lend a field "for the benefit of lady footballers only," the West Lothian Courier published the following poem:

THE NEW WOMAN

"Where are you going to my pretty maid?"
Was a greeting I heard on the street
To a gay young lass with a cap on her head
And strange looking boots on her feet

"I go, kind sir, to Boghead Park
Where we open our field today
And our team are sure to make their mark
For I've been chosen to play."

"Dear maid," the youth then further asked,
"Of course, I'll be required;
You must remember how oft before
You soon got so very tired."

"Sir! Sir!" she frantically shrieked,
"We would but scorn your aid,
For it's a Ladies' Football Club,"
Replied the haughty maid.

The youth collapsed and speechless stood
And ne'er a word could catch
Before the main, with queenly smile,
Left - a ticket for the match.

An hour elapsed; the young man stood
Amidst the yells and shrieks,
And in a tone of ice exclaimed -
"They women wear the b-e-ks!"
 

A more personal attack on the lady footballers was made in a poem published by the Leek Post and Times, following the game which was played in Leek on 25th October 1895. The following three verses give the flavour of the piece:

Oh spare us this our winter game
-We don't mind a blue stocking
But in the football field! For Shame
Miss Honeyball 'tis shocking

Don't flatter your abandoned souls
Those thousands went for pleasure
Or went to watch you score goals
There's were but lewdest leisure.

Your pretty ankles look so thick
Your baggy breeks ungainly
And then when you attempt to kick
Nine times in ten tis vanity.
 

This last piece is particularly ironic, as Nettie Honeyball did not participate in the game, and it is not certain whether the players were members of the British Ladies' Football Club.

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