Helen Matthews

Helen Matthews, a Scottish Suffragette, created a stir when she organised the first all-female football match in Scotland. Matthews, who played under the pseudonym Mrs Graham, organised the match in 1881against a side from England. ‘Mrs Graham’s XI’ was based in Stirling, Scotland. Matthews had been fascinated by football since watching an all-male match between England and Scotland at the Oval, London, which Scotland won 6-0. Matthew’s decided to have a female equivalent in Scotland and organised a match against English Suffragettes. Her team even included the world’s first female black footballer, Carrie Boustead.


The first match against England was played in Edinburgh on May 7th 1881 at Easter Road, the home of Hibernian FC.


However it was the second match played at the Shawfield Athletic Ground in Glasgow on May 16th 1881 that caused controversy. The women were dressed in trousers (Matthews was a member of the ‘Rational Dress Movement’) for the match and some of the men in the crowd did not approve of this and the game ended in a riot despite Scotland’s 3-0 victory. This resulted in the government banning women in Scotland from playing football. This did not put off those women who were determined to play. Some played matches but used a pseudonym to hide their identities while others crossed the border to play matches in England. It was only in 1971 that the Scottish FA agreed to let women football teams use the training facilities of registered football clubs in Scotland.


However, as time progressed so did the attitude of some. Matthews formed the British Ladies Football Club and it had its first game on March 23rd 1895 in front of a crowd that numbered 10,000.


May 2012