A prolific attacker renowned for her powerful shooting ability, Lily Parr is considered one of the country's greatest players of her generation. Her exploits have captured the imagination as a figurehead for women playing football during the time of the Football Association ban.
Lily was born in 1905 in the working-class community of of St Helens, the fourth of seven children. It was during the First World War when she and other women seized the chance to play football. By the age of just 15, Lily was coming to prominence with the most successful team of the time: the Dick, Kerr Ladies.
This Preston works team played their first game on Christmas Day 1917. By 1921 they had played 123 games, attracting over one and a quarter million spectators and raising large sums of money for various charities. A clever and technically gifted player, Lily became one of the stars of the team and her playing style was often commented upon in the media.
In 1920, Lily was part of the DKL team that met St Helens for a Boxing Day match at Goodison Park, the home of Everton FC. Estimates of the crowd vary, but is likely that around 46,000 people saw the game that day, making it the largest recorded crowd for a women’s game during this period.
However, their success was not welcomed by everyone. In December 1921, the Football Association declared the game ‘unsuitable’ for women. It banned its member clubs from hosting their games, making it very difficult for women to play and attract significant numbers of spectators.
Despite the Football Association ban, Lily played on, scoring around 1,000 goals in a career spanning thirty years. During the 1920s and 30s, she and her teammates pioneered international competition and travelled to play competitive football against other teams.
Lily and her teammates continued to challenge stereotypes about women’s role in society, showing that they had the ability, and the right to play. In 1951, Lily was still playing, encouraging a new generation of players to take up the game. The Football Association ban was not fully lifted until 1971 and has had a long-term impact on the development of women’s football.
Since her death in 1978, Lily Parr has been recognised as a pioneer of the women’s game and is an inspiration to many communities. She became the first women to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2002 and in 2019 the museum revealed a statue of her, the first of a female football player in the UK.
In July 2021 we opened a new permanent display, funded by the Association of Independent Museums, celebrating Lily Parr’s life and her impact on the game.
Principal clubs: St. Helens Ladies, Dick, Kerr Ladies,