Women’s sport and the feminism conundrum: the case of interwar English cricket

Adam McKie

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Women’s cricket has not typically been viewed as a bastion of feminism, especially between the wars when the feminist movement was often thought to have dissolved, but this article will argue surface impressions of the sport have masked deeper feminist ambitions for independence, sovereignty, and physical liberation. By engaging with recent debates on the interwar feminist movement in Britain – and new historiography on women’s sport between the wars – this paper maintains that women’s cricket should be viewed as a new area of female emancipation after the First World War. However, this was a conservative feminism that largely excluded working-class women by embracing middle-class value systems to court (male) public opinion, which helps explain the divisions within the sport in these years. The Women’s Cricket Association’s (WCA) fixation with ‘high’ amateurism and its public rejection of political motivations has led some historians to interpret the sport as lacking feminist intent, but these arguments overlook the tightrope women had to walk between alienating and attracting public support for this precarious game. It concludes by arguing the WCA’s separatist philosophy was ultimately successful in safeguarding the longevity of the sport when compared with more competitive, male-controlled women’s cricket organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalSport in History
Early online date27 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2020

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