Woods, the daughter of a miner, was born in St Helens in 1899.
Margaret Woods was 48 and this was her seventh child. Alice's
father died in 1902.
Alice attended Sutton National School. It provided her with a
good education and as Barbara Jacobs has pointed out in The
Dick, Kerr's Ladies: "She wrote with a fine copperplate hand,
and her reading had included the plays of Shakespeare, for which
she developed a strong liking and a keen memory."
John Woods, her elder brother, was a fine sportsman and in 1913
began playing football for Stalybridge Celtic. Alice used to
play football with her brother. She was an all-round athlete and
friends described her as being as fast as a "miner's whippet."
On 4th August, 1914, England declared war on Germany. The role
of women changed dramatically during the First World War. As men
left jobs to fight overseas, they were replaced by women. Women
filled many jobs brought into existence by wartime needs. The
greatest increase of women workers was in engineering. Over
700,000 of these women worked in the highly dangerous munitions
In 1917 Alice Woods became a munitions worker in St. Helens. As
her biographer, Barbara Jacobs, points out: "Alice's
intelligence was noted by the overseers drafted in from the Army
to assess the women's skills, and instead of selecting her to
work on the heavy lifting and welding in the forging shop, for
which her strength would have made her eminently capable, or
filling the shells, she was assigned to a more responsible role,
numbering the completed shells."
Like many women in the munitions factories, Alice began playing
football. She also took part in athletic meetings and in 1918
became the unofficial British 80-yard champion.
Alice lost her job in the St. Helens munition factory at the end
of the First World War. However, the women had enjoyed playing
football and in 1919 joined with others in forming the St Helens
Ladies football team. Alice's brother, John Woods, who was now
playing for Halifax Town, helped coach the team.
St. Helens Ladies second game was against Dick Kerr Ladies. They
lost 6-1 with Alice scoring the team's only goal. Alfred
Frankland, the manager of the team from Preston, was very
impressed with the performances of Alice and her fourteen
year-old team-mate, Lily Parr. After the game Frankland asked
the two women to join his team. He also offered to arrange for
them to live in Preston. Lily agreed to live in the home of
fellow player, Alice Norris. However, Alice's mother, refused
permission for her daughter to move. Frankland therefore agreed
that Alice could continue to live in St. Helens and he would pay
all her travelling expenses. It was also agreed to pay Alice 10
shillings every time she played for the team. This worked out at
about £100 in today's money.
Women's football games were extremely popular. For example, a
game against Newcastle United Ladies played at St. James's Park,
in September, 1919, attracted a crowd of 35,000 people and
raised £1,200 (£250,000) for local war charities.
In 1920 Alfred Frankland arranged for the Federation des
Societies Feminine Sportives de France to send a team to tour
England. Frankland believed that his team was good enough to
represent England against a French national team. Four matches
were arranged to be played at Preston, Stockport, Manchester and
London. The matches were played on behalf of the National
Association of Discharged and Disabled Soldiers and Sailors.
A crowd of 25,000 people turned up to the home ground of Preston
North End to see the first unofficial international between
England and France. England won the game 2-0 with Florrie
Redford and Jennie Harris scoring the goals.
The two teams travelled to Stockport by charabanc. This time
England won 5-2. The third game was played at Hyde Road,
Manchester. Over 12,000 spectators saw France obtain a 1-1 draw.
Madame Milliat reported that the first three games had raised
£2,766 for the ex-servicemens fund.
The final game took place at Stamford Bridge, the home of
Chelsea Football Club. A crowd of 10,000 saw the French Ladies
win 2-1. However, the English Ladies had the excuse of playing
most of the game with only ten players as Jennie Harris suffered
a bad injury soon after the game started. This game caused a
stir in the media when the two captains, Alice Kell and Madeline
Bracquemond, kissed each other at the end of the match.
On 28th October, 1920. Alfred Frankland took his team to tour
France. On Sunday 31st October, 22,000 people watched the two
sides draw 1-1 in Paris. However, the game ended five minutes
early when a large section of the crowd invaded the pitch after
disputing the decision by the French referee to award a
corner-kick to the English side. After the game Alice Kell said
the French ladies were much better playing on their home ground.
The next game was played in Roubaix. England won 2-0 in front of
16,000 spectators, a record attendance for the ground. Florrie
Redford scored both the goals. England won the next game at
Havre, 6-0. As with all the games, the visitors placed a wreath
in memory of allied soldiers who had been killed during the
First World War.
The final game was in Rouen. The English team won 2-0 in front
of a crowd of 14,000. When the team arrived back in Preston on
9th November, 1920, they had travelled over 2,000 miles. As
captain of the team, Alice Kell made a speech where she said:
"If the matches with the French Ladies serve no other purpose, I
feel that they will have done more to cement the good feeling
between the two nations than anything which has occurred during
the last 50 years."
Soon after arriving back in Preston, Alfred Frankland was
informed that the local charity for Unemployed Ex- Servicemen
was in great need for money to buy food for former soldiers for
Christmas. Frankland decided to arrange a game at between Dick
Kerr Ladies and a team made up of the rest of England. Deepdale,
the home of Preston North End was the venue. To maximize the
crowd, it was decided to make it a night game. Permission was
granted by the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill,
for two anti-aircraft searchlights, generation equipment and
forty carbide flares, to be used to floodlight the game.
Over 12,000 people came to watch the match that took place on
16th December, 1920. It was also filmed by Pathe News. Bob
Holmes, a member of the Preston team that won the first Football
League title in 1888-89, had the responsibility of providing
whitewashed balls at regular intervals. Although one of the
searchlights went out briefly on two occasions, the players
coped well with the conditions. Dick Kerr Ladies showed they
were the best woman's team in England by winning 4-0. Jennie
Harris scored twice in the first half and Florrie Redford and
Minnie Lyons added further goals before the end of the game. A
local newspaper described the ball control of Harris as "almost
weird". He added "she controlled the ball like a veteran league
forward, swerved, beat her opponents with the greatest of ease,
and passed with judgment and discretion". As a result of this
game, the Unemployed Ex Servicemens Distress Fund received over
£600 to help the people of Preston. This was equivalent to
£125,000 in today's money.
On 26th December, 1920, Dick Kerr Ladies played the second best
women's team in England, St Helens Ladies, at Goodison Park, the
home ground of Everton. The plan was to raise money for the
Unemployed Ex Servicemens Distress Fund in Liverpool. Over
53,000 people watched the game with an estimated 14,000
disappointed fans locked outside. It was the largest crowd that
had ever watched a woman's game in England.
Florrie Redford, Dick Kerr Ladies' star striker, missed her
train to Liverpool and was unavailable for selection. In the
first half, Jennie Harris gave Dick Keer Ladies a 1-0 lead.
However, the team was missing Redford and so the captain and
right back, Alice Kell, decided to play centre forward. It was a
shrewd move and Kell scored a second-half hat trick which
enabled her side to beat St Helens Ladies 4-0.
The game at Goodison Park raised £3,115 (£623,000 in today's
money). Two weeks later the Dick Kerr Ladies played a game at
Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, in order to raise
money for ex-servicemen in Manchester. Over 35,000 people
watched the game and £1,962 (£392,000) was raised for charity.
In 1921 the Dick Kerr Ladies team was in such demand that Alfred
Frankland had to refuse 120 invitations from all over Britain.
The still played 67 games that year in front of 900,000 people.
It has to be remembered that all the players had full-time jobs
and the games had to be played on Saturday or weekday evenings.
As Alice Norris pointed out: "It was sometimes hard work when we
played a match during the week because we would have to work in
the morning, travel to play the match, then travel home again
and be up early for work the next day."
On 14th February, 1921, 25,000 people watched Dick Kerr Ladies
beat the Best of Britain, 9-1. Lily Parr (5), Florrie Redford
(2) and Jennie Harris (2) got the goals. Representing their
country, the Preston team beat the French national side 5-1 in
front of 15,000 people at Longton. Parr scored all five goals.
The Dick Kerr Ladies did not only raise money for Unemployed Ex
Servicemens Distress Fund. They also helped local workers who
were in financial difficulty. The mining industry in particular
suffered a major recession after the war. In March, 1921, the
mine-owners announced a further 50% reduction in miner's wages.
When the miners refused to accept this pay-cut, they were locked
out from their jobs. On April 1 and, immediately on the heels of
this provocation, the government put into force its Emergency
Powers Act, drafting soldiers into the coalfield.
The government and the mine-owners attempted to starve the
miners into submission. Several members of the Dick Kerr team
came from mining areas like St. Helens and held strong opinions
on this issue and games were played to raise money for the
families of those men locked out of employment. As Barbara
Jacobs pointed out in The Dick, Kerr's Ladies: "Women's football
had come to be associated with charity, and had its own
credibility. Now it was used as a tool to help the Labor
Movement and the trade unions. It had, it could be said, become
a politically dangerous sport, to those who felt the trade
unions to be their enemies.... Women went out to support their
men folk, a Lancashire tradition, was causing ripples in a
society which wanted women to revert to their prewar roles as
set down by their masters, of keeping their place, that place
being in the home and kitchen. Lancashire lasses were upsetting
the social order. It wasn't acceptable."
The 1921 Miners Lock-Out caused considerable suffering in mining
areas in Wales and Scotland. This was reflected by games played
in Cardiff (18,000), Swansea (25,000) and Kilmarnock (15,000).
Dick Kerr Ladies represented England beat Wales on two
successive Saturdays. They also beat Scotland on 16th April,
The Football Association was appalled by what they considered to
be women's involvement in national politics. It now began a
propaganda campaign against women's football. A new rule was
introduced that stated no football club in the FA should allow
their ground to be used for women's football unless it was
prepared to handle all the cash transactions and do the full
accounting. This was an attempt to smear Alfred Frankland with
On 5th December 1921, the Football Association issued the
Complaints having been made as to football being played by
women, the Council feel impelled to express their strong opinion
that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and
ought not to be encouraged.
Complaints have been made as to the conditions under which some
of these matches have been arranged and played, and the
appropriation of the receipts to other than Charitable objects.
The Council are further of the opinion that an excessive
proportion of the receipts are absorbed in expenses and an
inadequate percentage devoted to Charitable objects.
For these reasons the Council requests the clubs belonging to
the Association refuse the use of their grounds for such
This measure removed the ability of women to raise significant
sums of money for charity as they were now barred from playing
at all the major venues. The Football Association also announced
that members were not allowed to referee or act as linesman at
any women's football match.
The Dick Kerr Ladies team were shocked by this decision. Alice
Kell, the captain, spoke for the other women when she said: "We
play for the love of the game and we are determined to carry on.
It is impossible for the working girls to afford to leave work
to play matches all over the country and be the losers. I see no
reason why we should not be re-compensated for loss of time at
work. No one ever receives more than 10 shillings per day."
Alice Norris pointed out that the women were determined to
resist attempts to stop them playing football: "We just took it
all in our stride but it was a terrible shock when the FA
stopped us from playing on their grounds. We were all very upset
but we ignored them when they said that football wasn't a
suitable game for ladies to play."
As Gail J. Newsham argued In a League of their Own: "So, that
was that, the axe had fallen, and despite all the ladies denials
and assurances regarding finances, and their willingness to play
under any conditions that the FA laid down, the decision was
irreversible. The chauvinists, the medical 'experts' and the
anti women's football lobby had won - their threatened male
bastion was now safe."
Alfred Frankland responded to the action taken by the Football
Association with the claim: "The team will continue to play, if
the organizers of charity matches will provide grounds, even if
we have to play on ploughed fields."
Frankland now decided to take his team on a tour of Canada and
the United States. The team included Alice Woods, Jennie Harris,
Daisy Clayton, Alice Kell, Florrie Redford, Florrie Haslam,
Jessie Walmsley, Lily Parr, Molly Walker, Carmen Pomies, Lily
Lee, Alice Mills, Annie Crozier, May Graham, Lily Stanley and R.
J. Garrier. Their regular goalkeeper, Peggy Mason, was unable to
go due to the recent death of her mother.
When the Dick Kerr Ladies arrived in Quebec on 22nd December,
1922, they discovered that the Dominion Football Association had
banned them from playing against Canadian teams. They were
accepted in the United States, and even though they were
sometimes forced to play against men, they lost only 3 out of 9
games. They visited Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, Washington,
Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia during their tour of America.
Florrie Redford was the leading scorer on the tour but Lily Parr
was considered the star player and American newspapers reported
that she was the "most brilliant female player in the world".
One member of the team, Alice Mills, met her future husband at
one of the games, and would later return to marry him and become
an American citizen.
In Philadelphia four members of the team, Jennie Harris, Florrie
Haslam, Lily Parr, and Molly Walker, met the American Women's
Olympic team in a relay race of about a quarter of a mile. Even
though their fastest runner, Alice Woods, was unavailable
through illness, the Preston ladies still won the race.
Dick Kerr Ladies continued to play charity games in England but
denied access by the Football Association to the large venues,
the money raised was disappointing when compared to the years
immediately following the First World War. In 1923 the French
Ladies came over for their annual tour of England. They played
against Dick Kerr Ladies at Cardiff Arms Park. Part of the
proceeds were for the Rheims Cathedral Fund in France.
Dick, Kerr Engineering was eventually taken over by English
Electric. Although they allowed the team to play on Ashton Park,
it refused to subsidize the football team. Alfred Frankland was
also told that he would no longer be given time off to run the
team that was now known as the Preston Ladies.
Frankland decided to leave English Electric and open a shop with
his wife in Sharoe Green Lane in Preston where they sold fish
and greengroceries. He continued to manage Preston Ladies with
Some of the players also lost their jobs with English Electric.
Over the years Frankland had raised considerable sums of money
for Whittingham Hospital and Lunatic Asylum. The hospital was
always willing to employ and provide accommodation for
Frankland's players. This included Lily Parr, Florrie Redford,
Jessie Walmsley, Lily Lee and Lily Martin. In 1923 Frankland
persuaded Lizzy Ashcroft and Lydia Ackers, two of St Helens best
players, to join Preston Ladies. Both women went to work for
In 1923 Alice Woods was taken ill with peritonitis and a
strangulated hernia. She had an emerceny operation that involved
having her appendicitis removed. Alice eventually made a
full-recovery and returned to playing football.
Alice Woods stopped playing for Preston Ladies when she married
Herbert Stanley in September, 1928. Over the next few years she
had four children - Bert, Lynn, Edward and Claire.
In the 1980s Alice Stanley was a guest of honour at several
women's FA Cup finals. She also appeared in a couple of
television documentaries about her time playing for the Dick
Kerr Ladies. Alice also obtained great pleasure from watching
her grand-daughter, Gaynor Stanley, become an international
Alice Stanley, aged 92, died at her home in Manchester in 1991.
I am indebted to the research carried out by Barbara Jacobs (The
Dick, Kerr's Ladies) and Gail Newsham (In a League of their Own)
for the information in this article.