When Canada laid down the football gauntlet - and Sunderland’s ladies replied

Sunderland Ladies.

Sunderland Ladies.

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The strength of women’s football on Wearside is well known.

But this is no recent development. Trevor Thorne, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, explains how the ladies of Sunderland were ready to take on anyone as far back as the 1880s.

The 1918 Birtley Ladies team.

The 1918 Birtley Ladies team.

That old rivalry of England and Scotland stretches right back to May 1881 for women’s football.

It’s when an England team took on Scotland with the Scots winning 3-0. It was the first ever mention of women’s football in the press.

But up to 1889, there are few references to ladies playing the beautiful game.

And locally, one of the earliest pieces of evidence of organised women’s football begins with the Sunderland Daily Echo of January 11, 1889.

An insert in the Echo stated that the Canadians would play either men or women, preferably professionals. Local Wearside team, the Sunderland Daisies, immediately set out their stall stating they were ready to meet any female team willing to play them.

Trevor Thorne

Adverts began to appear in Sunderland from a Canadian female team laying down the gauntlet. The team was due to arrive at Liverpool in April 1889 and they wanted games once they got here.

There must have been some correspondence with local teams. Soon after, the Canadians told the Echo they would play either men or women, preferably professionals.

Local Wearside team, the Sunderland Daisies, immediately set out their stall stating they were ready to meet any female team willing to play them. They requested that any correspondence should be addressed to their secretary, care of the Dog and Pheasant pub in Coronation Street.

Local teams mentioned in the various exchanges included the Southwick Lilies, Craven and Speedings Angels (ropeworks in Roker Avenue), Greeners Violets and Greeners Cutters (glassworks in Millfield).

The Hendon Ropery Women's Team.

The Hendon Ropery Women's Team.

These lady footballers seem to either appear as a result of pub talk or had existed for some time.

It is not known whether the Canadian Ladies ever played any games in Sunderland or anywhere else.

A ladies football team in support of the Silksworth miners strike.

A ladies football team in support of the Silksworth miners strike.