IWM: Bath Ladies AFC case Calendar

8 Mar 2023

Bath Ladies alt 1

What is it?

It is a silver cigarette case presented to Mr. Alfred Edward Manns, the Hon Secretary and Treasurer of Bath Ladies AFC, by the players and officers of the club in June 1922. The case is inscribed on the front and back. The front includes a personal message that reads “Beyond D [Duty] Old B [Boy].

Bath Ladies alt 2

On the reverse are the names of 24 club officials and players who subscribed to have it presented. Such gifts were a common way to recognise the efforts of key individuals. But this one relates to a very special, if relatively unknown club.

Alfred Manns

Credit: British Newspaper Archive

Who was Alfred Edward Manns?

Alfred was one of several men who took on administrative roles in women’s football clubs at this time. Mann worked in a company that made musical instruments but in his spare time he supported the Bath Ladies AFC in their short but prominent career in women’s football.

His young daughter Beryl accompanied the Bath Ladies as the team mascot, wearing a miniature version of the team’s distinctive hockey-style outfit and appearing in several team photos. Mann went onto become a director of his company. He died in 1970.

Who were the Bath Ladies AFC?

Bath Chronicle - 7 May 1921 - Bath v Plymouth - second half page of photos - great

Credit: British Newspaper Archive

The Bath Ladies AFC were one of around 150 teams in existence in 1921 as women’s football grew in the aftermath of the First World War.

Between 1920 and 1921 they played at least 10 games, attracting over 70,000 spectators. In their second game they played Dick, Kerr Ladies FC of Preston before 25-30,000 spectators at Manchester United’s ground at Old Trafford. They also played in Huddersfield, Bristol, Plymouth, Bath, and Weymouth against teams like Atalanta Ladies and Bramtoco Ladies.

Bath Chronicle - 23 April - match photos and teams

Credit: British Newspaper Archive

Like other women’s teams at this time, they played to raise money for post-war charities, raising over £3,000, and stimulating interest in the women’s game. They played on after the FA’s ban of 1921, but don’t seem to have played many games.

Bath Ladies case names

Why is this item so important?

Artefacts from women’s football in the 1920s are very rare. They also tend to be photographs or newspapers. So, to have something like this is very special. The cigarette case is perhaps unique in carrying the name of every club official and player. As such, it’s a rare physical item naming the individuals who made up this team. It also captures something of the camaraderie that bound officials and players together, especially in the face of the FA’s ban the previous year.

It’s also important because the Bath Ladies AFC illustrate how interest in women’s football was beginning to spread among different social classes. While many women’s teams were working-class in background, the Bath Ladies AFC seem to have been more middle-class.

Thanks to the Bath Chronicle, it’s been possible to start researching some of the life histories behind the names on the case. Many of the players already knew each other through membership of the Bath Rowing Club and the Bath Dolphins Swimming Club and they would continue to participate in these sports after they had stopped playing football.

Especially prominent were the Harrisons – Dorothy was at different times the Captain and Vice-Captain, playing alongside her sisters Edie, Mabel, and Audley. Another prominent player was Constance Zillah Rawlings, ironically nicknamed “Tiny” due to her height.

Over time, we hope to piece together and share more of the history of this club and its place in the history of women’s football.

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