The Girls of the Period Playing Ball, watercolour from 1869 Harper’s Bazaar magazine and the oldest item in the collection. Photograph: Nation Football Museum Hide Pinterest features Pinterest Share on Facebook Was this helpful? Williams’s favourite item is the watercolour of girls having a kickabout, from a Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1869. “For me it doesn’t matter that it’s not a proper match because kickabouts and street games are something we long suspected that women did but it’s the hardest evidence to find. I had a close look at the background with a magnifying glass – the figures in the background are women playing sport. The whole painting is about the topicality of women’s physicality, as a centrepiece to explore some aspect of women and society.” Twitter Quick guide A brief history of women’s football Twitter A major international conference on women’s football, hosted by the museum and taking place around International Women’s Day in March, will provide a platform to tell more of these stories and, it is hoped, continue to raise the profile of the game. Show Share on Messenger Facebook Reuse this content “Unfortunately Chris is no longer with us,” says the University of Wolverhampton’s professor of sport, who first met Unger at a conference in Los Angeles in 1999, “but this collection is the legacy of his enthusiasm for women’s football.”Williams, who has been researching the history of the women’s game for more than 25 years, says the collection shows women’s football historically was not a niche sport in the way it is so often presented. “You realise when you look at this material that women’s football has been mediated so widely throughout all its history – there’s postcards, photos, little dolls, little cups, stamps, pin badges, fine-art statuettes, posters. It was mainstream news in the press, from the 1860s onwards, with photographs and line drawings. Women’s football was so topical you see it covered extensively, and often as front- or back-page news.” Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn The largest ever collection of women’s football memorabilia and historical items has been acquired by the National Football Museum in preparation for an exhibition expected to be opened this year.The items in the collection date as far back as 1869 – the same decade as the founding of the men’s Football Association – and continue throughout the 50-year ban of the women’s game and into the modern era.Professor Jean Williams, the academic lead on the project, describes the collection as “all your Christmases come at once”. The museum applied for a £150,000 grant to purchase an approximate 25,000 items from Chris Unger, a supporter of the women’s game who played and coached football in the US. He was a frequent attendee at women’s football events and conferences, and well known in the sport. When Unger became unwell he wanted to ensure his lifetime’s work would not be broken up. An unexpected moment came with the discovery of a Mexican pornography magazine that included coverage of the 1971 unofficial World Cup held there. Williams chuckles as she relates hastily flicking through several pages of topless mud wrestling to find the match reports. “My journey has taken me down many different avenues but I never thought I’d be looking in a Mexican porno mag. The football is the only non-smutty thing in there,” she says with a laugh.Domestically the strength and growth of the women’s game, despite the ban, is apparent. Williams highlights the iconic Manchester Corinthians teams of the 1950s and 60s. Such was their draw the Red Cross flew them out to South America to raise funds for it by playing matches there. “Stop and think about that for a minute. It’s working-class women who would not likely have gone to South America by plane under any circumstance. That’s very interesting information to unpick.”Belinda Monkhouse, lead curator on the project, says the team have been working their way through the collection since May last year, and have catalogued more than 48 boxes – just over half of the total. At the Sporting Heritage conference last November she gave a presentation on the photographs from the collection – from the personal scrapbook of the 1970s and 80s England footballer Liz Deighan (“her material covers her entire career, if we had an equivalent collection of someone like George Best people would be falling over themselves to get hold of it”) to some of the Corinthians snapshots. “There are so many photographs which are unnamed, and we have no idea who they are. We hope to get as much publicity for these items as possible so that people might come forward and help us to identify some of these women.” Facebook Share on WhatsApp Pinterest Stoke Ladies FC were one of the more successful women’s teams at the time of the FA’s ban on women’s football and in 1922 won the first and only English Ladies FA Challenge Cup; A 2013 edition of Sepp magazine featuringLea T who was born Leandro Medeiros Cerezo and transitioned aged 19. She has modelled for Givenchy and opened the 2016 Olympic Games; Typical bloomers that would have been worn to play football in the 19th century – they were part of the rational dress movement led by Amelia Bloomer; A tiny woollen and felt collectible Grecon doll from circa 1937. Composite: National Football Museum Arsenal’s Lisa Evans launches scheme to get more women playing football Thank you for your feedback. Read more Facebook Twitter Williams cites the example of one of the items – a Lyons cake box, thought to be from the first world war period, with a drawing of its women’s team on the front. Lyons supported a number of women’s teams, drawn from its own workforce, as part of an ethos around promoting health and social values through sport and exercise. Its chain of coffee shops and tea houses was famous in London in the early part of the 20th century. “It’s like going for McDonald’s and seeing a picture of Steph Houghton on the packaging. It’s that casual promotion of the women’s game. We talk about women’s footballers being pioneers now, but actually this stuff has been pioneered as far back as the 1920s.”That the game lost its profile in the late 20th century, says Williams, is only in part due to the 50-year ban – which wiped out living memory of those who played before 1921. But the “tabloidisation” of the media, from the 1970s onwards, also played a key role in sexualising the depiction of women and marginalising women’s sport. Topics Football meets Art on the cover of the Mexican magazine Futbol Magazine with over painted features on the black and white football. The issue featured coverage of the 1971 unofficial Women’s World Cup Photograph: National Football Museum Share on Pinterest Women’s football Share via Email 1881 First recorded women’s match in England.1895 North vs South match, Crouch End, 10,000 spectators.1920 Dick, Kerr Ladies play in front of record crowd of 53,000.1921 FA bans women’s football as a game “unsuitable for ladies”.1970 Coppa del Mondo, Italy, unofficial World Cup (Denmark triumphed over Italy in the final, England finished 4th after losing the 3rd place play off to Mexico).1971 FA lifts ban.1991 First official Fifa women’s World Cup – but no sponsor, no prize money, the matches only lasted 80min, and the USA’s victory was not even broadcast in USA.1993 FA brings women’s game under its umbrella.1998 Hope Powell appointed as England coach, first ever full-time role for the position.1999 USA host and win the World Cup, Brandi Chastain’s iconic winning celebration sends the sport stratospheric. A record 90,185 watch the final at the Rose Bowl. 2005 FA hosts women’s Euros2007 Fifa finally introduces prize money to women’s World Cup. England are knocked out by USA in the quarter-finals. Marta is the star of the tournament, and golden boot winner. 2011 FA Women’s Super League is launched – an eight team, summer competition format. England are knocked out of World Cup in the quarter finals, losing on penalties to France.2013 England fail to make it out of the group stage at the Euros. Hope Powell departs. Mark Sampson appointed.2015 World Cup in Canada expands to 24 teams, but lawsuit over artificial turf threatens to overshadow proceedings. England thrill reaching third place. The total prize money is the highest ever at $15m, still a drop in the ocean compared to the men’s 2014 World Cup at $576m.2017 FAWSL switches to winter competition.