Parr was born in St Helens on 26th April, 1905. Her brother was
a keen sportsman and he taught her how to play football and
Barbara Jacobs has pointed out in The Dick, Kerr's Ladies: "She
(Lily Parr) was as adept at rugby as she was at football,
spending hours on her own perfecting the technique of the power
kick. She'd sorted that out by the time she was thirteen and in
football could score from any place on the pitch, or in rugby
kick the finest penalty or drop goal. A left-footer, her ability
was natural, magic, but honed by her refusal to conform to the
art of being a woman. She wasn't having any of it."
In 1919, the 14 year old Parr started playing football for the
St Helens Ladies football team. Her second game was against Dick
Kerr Ladies. St Helens lost 6-1. Alfred Frankland, the manager
of the team from Preston, was very impressed with the
performances of Lily Parr and her team-mate, Alice Woods. 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.
Frankland agreed to pay Lily 10 shillings every time she played
for the team. This worked out at about £100 in today's money.
Lily was a great success and in her first season scored 43 goals
for the club. Gail J. Newsham wrote in her book on the team, In
a League of their Own (1994) about Lily: "Standing almost six
feet tall, with jet black hair, her power and skill was admired
and feared, wherever she played. She was an extremely unselfish
player who could pin-point a pass with amazing accuracy and was
also a marvelous ball player. And she was probably responsible
in one way or another, for most of the goals that were scored by
In 1920 a local newspaper wrote about this talented 14 year old:
"There is probably no greater football prodigy in the whole
country. Not only has she speed and excellent ball control, but
her admirable physique enables her to brush off challenges from
defenders who tackle her. She amazes the crowd where ever she
goes by the way she swings the ball clean across the goalmouth
to the opposite wing."
One of her team-mates, Joan Whalley, remarked on Parr's sense of
humor: "When the older players were getting ready for a match,
there were elastic stockings going on knee's and strapping up of
ankles, there were bandages here there and everywhere. Then Parr
walked in, and she stood looking around at them all and said,
"well, I don't know about Dick Kerr Ladies football team, it
looks like a bloody trip to Lourdes to me!"
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
menfolk, 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 Lily Parr, Jennie Harris,
Daisy Clayton, Alice Kell, Florrie Redford, Florrie Haslam,
Alice Woods, Jessie Walmsley, 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, Lily Parr, Jennie
Harris, Florrie Haslam 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
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
While working at the hospital Lily Parr met her partner Mary and
together they bought a house in Preston. Lily continued to work
and eventually became a Ward Sister at the hospital.
During the General Strike English Electric stopped Preston
Ladies from playing on Ashton Park. Alice Norris pointed out:
"It was our training night and we were told not to go up to
Ashton Park anymore. Something must have gone wrong between him
(Frankland) and the firm."
Despite the lack of sponsorship, Preston Ladies continued to be
the best team in England. In 1927 they beat their rivals for the
title, Blackpool Ladies, 11-2. Lily Parr, Florrie Redford and
Jennie Harris all scored goals in the game.
Alice Woods stopped playing for Preston Ladies when she married
Herbert Stanley in September, 1928. Other players like Alice
Kell got married and gave up football. Florrie Redford emigrated
to Canada in 1930 to pursue her career as a nurse whereas Carmen
Pomies returned to France. Jennie Harris kept playing until the
Lily Parr, who never got married, continued to play football for
Preston Ladies. Lydia Ackers, who played for many years with
Parr argued that: "I have never seen any woman, nor many a man,
kick a ball like she could. Everybody was amazed when they saw
her power, you would never believe it."
Joan Whalley was another one who played in the same team as Lily
Parr later wrote: "She had a kick like a mule. she was the only
person I knew who could lift a dead ball, the old heavy leather
ball, from the left wing over to me on the right and nearly
knock me out with the force of the shot.... When she took a left
corner kick, it came over like a bullet, and if you ever hit one
of those with your head... I only ever did it once and the laces
on the ball left their impression on my forehead and cut it
Some shrewd observers believed she was good enough to play for a
club in the Football League. Bobby Walker, a Scottish
international player, belied that she was the "best natural
timer of a football I have ever seen." Alfred Frankland went
further describing her as the "best outside left playing in the
On 8th September, 1937, Preston Ladies beat Edinburgh Ladies to
win the "championship of Great Britain and the World". Preston
won 5-1 with Lily Parr scoring one of the goals. Joan Whalley,
who was only 15, also scored. A World Championship Victory
Dinner was held at Booths Cafe in Preston.
Alfred Frankland made a speech where he claimed: "Since our
inception we have played 437 matches, won 424, lost 7 and drawn
6, scored 2,863 goals and had only 207 scored against. We have
raised over £100,000 in this country and in foreign lands for
charity. We have won 14 silver cups, 5 of them outright, and
hold a trophy awarded for the most meritorious assistance given
Preston Ladies only played a small number of games during the
Second World War. The rationing of petrol made it difficult to
travel to games. Alfred Frankland also worked as a ARP Warden
during the war and did not have the time to organize games.
In 1946 Lily Parr was made captain in recognition of 26 years
service. She had only missed 5 games since joining the team in
1920. The local newspaper reported that she had scored 967 goals
out of the teams total score of 3,022.
The Football Association refused to lift its ban on women
players. In 1947 the Kent County Football Association suspended
a referee because he was working as a manager/trainer with Kent
Ladies Football Club. It justified its decision with the comment
that "women's football brings the game into disrepute".
In 1950 Alfred Frankland calculated that since 1917 Preston
Ladies had played 643 games. Of these, they had only lost 9
games. He also claimed that that the team had raised £140,000
Lily Parr was aged 45 when she played her last game on 12th
August, 1950. She scored a goal in an 11-1 victory over
Scotland. During her long career she had scored more than 900
goals. Preston Ladies folded in 1965. Five years later the
Football Association agreed to lift its ban on women's players.
Lily Parr retired from the hospital in the early 1960s. A
life-long smoker she developed cancer and in 1967 had a double
mastectomy. Lily commented: "It's taken me 62 years to grow
these, now they have taken them off me!" She refused to give up
smoking and asked her friends to bring in packets of Woodbines
while she was in hospital.
Lily Parr died of cancer in her home in St Helens on 24th May
1978. In 1992, Lily Parr, England's best ever woman player, was
inducted into the Football Hall of Fame at the National Football
Museum in Preston.
We are 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.
(1) Football Bits Magazine (October, 1921)
It is an interesting question as to whether girls' schools should take
up football. Personally I should hesitate to introduce football among
very young girls. It has been done, however, in one or two schools and
with success. Football is more strenuous than the usual games played at
schools, and for very young girls to play might involve the risk of
doing them harm internally. Most ladies' football clubs, I know, have
young players and often they are very good. The Dick, Kerr's star
player, Lily Parr, is only 16; and Miss Chorley, the clever little
centre-forward of the St Helens team, is 16. Indeed there are few clubs
which haven't 16- and l7year-old players.
On the other hand, the Atalanta club have a rule that no girl under 18
may play football, and I think such a rule is wise. The girl may seem to
stand the strain all right, but it is probable that she will suffer
later in life. On the whole, if football is to be introduced into
schools, I think it should only be played at the colleges where the
girls are usually in their late teens or early twenties.
(2) David J. Williamson, Belles of the Ball (1991)
Nor surprisingly, it was extremely difficult for many men to accept the
idea of ladies playing what had always been regarded as a male preserve,
their sport. Those who had been away at the front during the Great War
would have had no real idea as to how the country was changing in their
absence; how the role of their womenfolk within society was beginning to
change quite dramatically, responding to the opportunity they had been
given. The response to girl's football was quire mixed, anything from
apathy to ridicule. Few took the ladies seriously, at least amongst the
general public. But it must he remembered that it was men who helped the
ladies in their formative years and organized the matches that were to
give the girls the foothold in the sport that they so desperately wished
for. Many were merely dismissive about the whole idea; women could not
play football and that was that. But they would need to put up a better
argument than this if they were to face the hundreds of girls up and
down the country who had begun to defy such opinion, turning out
regularly to fly down the football field in the face of adversity. It
could he said that, with all the attention given to the suffragettes in
the political sphere, the men of the day felt their dominance threatened
in the world of sport also, almost as if they were besieged on all
sides. Many other male bastions were being eroded away, such as cricket
and golf and there were those who had the sense to accept the
inevitable. But the stalwarts of male superiority were determined to
fight to the end to defend what with hindsight was a dying era. What
they did not bank on was that the ladies felt just as strongly and were
prepared to fight just as hard.
(3) The Washington Post (9th October, 1922)
The fair kickers of the Dick, Kerr's women's soccer club of Preston,
England, lived up to their reputation yesterday at American League Park
when they battled the Washington soccer eleven to a 4 to 4 draw. The
women showed a fairly good dribbling game, but their kicking lacked both
speed and force. The Washington kickers were extended most of the way.
Although the men players, through good team work were given many
opportunities they were not successful in registering goals, due to the
brilliant defense of Miss Carmen Pomies, the Preston goalkeeper. She
checked eleven of the fifteen attempts made by the local booters. Miss
Lily Parr, at outside left, put up an aggressive game registering two
goals in seven tries she had at the net. The girls were able to
penetrate the Washington right wing with success, but were checked
several times on attempts at the left wing and midfield. The District
kickers counted first, Green placing one past Miss Pomier after 26
minutes of play. Miss Parr evened it up shortly before half time. The
second half was rather loosely played by both clubs, but the women
showed to better advantage with teamwork.