On Christmas Day 1916, a football match provoked profound change in British society.
A team of women from Ulverston munitions factory in Cumbria, took to the field against a side of female players from the rest of the country, winning 11-5. The idea caught on. Over the following months, teams emerged from other munitions factories where, in support of the war effort, hundreds of thousands of women were entering the workplace for the first time.
Matches were played with the aim of raising money for hospitals and charities for wounded soldiers and, initially, the Football Association and the press were both supportive of these games. Though with the praise, unfortunately, also came the publication of letters condemning players for the “unmentionable garments” they wore on match days.
Yet the sport grew exponentially. By September 1917, so many teams had formed that a nationwide league was under way, and the inaugural final of the Munitionettes Cup was played in May 1918, in front of 22,000 people at Ayresome Park.