Story: Gender inequalities

Women play football, 1921

Wellington's Aotea women's club play association football in 1921. By the early 1920s women were determined to play football of some kind, and the first teams were formed in Wellington and Auckland in 1921. The first inter-provincial women's match was played that year between Wellington and Canterbury before a crowd of 2,000 (Canterbury won). Early players were enthusiastic; in 1922 Wellington women turned up at a men's rugby match and offered to play against them, or to replace injured players. The men refused the challenge.

An attempt in 1891 to organise a women’s rugby team horrified some people. Some reports considered the ‘rough and dangerous’ game was ‘essentially unwomanly’, destructive to dignity and health. Others simply noted the intention of Mrs Nita Webbe to form a team, have it play two games in Auckland and then take it on a tour of Australia. The costume that would be worn – a jersey, knickerbockers, and a short skirt – was radical and skimpy for the time. It may be that Webbe’s interest was commercial entertainment rather than sporting glory. In any case, the tour does not appear to have gone ahead.

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New Zealand Herald
Reference: Auckland Weekly News, 15 September 1921, p. 42

Permission of the New Zealand Herald must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Anne Else, 'Gender inequalities - Sport', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/zoomify/28660/women-play-football-1921 (accessed 18 August 2019)

Story by Anne Else, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 20 Jun 2018