When women went to football

Pictured above, spectators at Sturt versus Port Adelaide in 1923 - State Library of South Australia.

By Neil J Smith (SANFL History Centre)

Times certainly have changed for women and football over the past century, but among the excellent photographic collection at the State Library of South Australia are some charming photographs of women spectators at sporting events.   This one below was taken at Adelaide Oval in 1914.

Women standing on the fence at Adelaide Oval – State Library of South Australia.

Others are remarkable for how they depict the women (and the men) all dressed up for their day out at the footy.  Certainly different from today!

Norwood v South Adelaide, 1923 – State Library of South Australia

In 1956, a small booklet was published with the title “When Women go to Football!”

It includes a fixture of matches, a list of Magarey Medallists but the content is based on a couple of pages of verse, with this introduction:

“It is said that women are more refined than men at Football Games. They do not barrack and shout as do men, but may have a friendly little argument between themselves…”

The 1956 booklet, When Women Go To Football.

And so then the advice for women at the footy was:

When women go to football,
They don’t barrack, they don’t shout,
They just settle down upon the mound
And bring their knitting out.

They don’t go on like blokes I know
That take on all the mob,
They might whisper to the lass in front,
“Please, shut your ugly gob!”

You know the way some blokes go on.
Struth! Are they one-eyed?
But a woman. Ah !…she’s diff’rent,
She’s quiet…and dignified.

You never hear a woman
Tell a player here to go;
She reckons that’s the Captain’s job, And blimey! He should know.

If she sees her hero handled
In a way that’s most unfair,
She’ll relieve her outraged feelings
With a Sotto Voce swear.

Should her home-team be five points down
With but time on to go
And they grab a mark two yards in front
Is she excited?…No!

And if the mark be disallowed,
Then loudly blows the siren,
You’d never think to look at her
She’s inwardly perspirin’!

But as she staggers homeward,
Thinking Footie’s ‘up the pole’,
There’s a righteous wrath that’s rising
In her over-blasted soul.

‘Tis then she’ll wring her hands and cry,
“The dirty, low-down brute!
And as for that d__umpire…
I’d drown the flamin’ coot !”

My own introduction to football was through my Aunty Bess, who was an avid Norwood supporter.  She and her daughters would stand on the eastern terraces at Norwood Oval and I can assure you, she didn’t heed the advice…

They don’t barrack, they don’t shout,
They just settle down upon the mound
And bring their knitting out

And she wasn’t “quiet…and dignified”!  And she certainly didn’t bring her knitting out!  But she was a great supporter.  The umpires copped a fair bit, but never more than when Neil Kerley attempted to rough up her hero, “Big Bill” Wedding.  That would really get her going!  I reckon she’d have been yelling at “the dirty, low-down brute!”

Aunty Bess took me to my first Grand Final, 1960 versus North Adelaide.  That didn’t end well.  I just wish she’d still been around in 1984.  We waited a long time…

The crowd at Unley oval in 1923 – State Library of South Australia.

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