with the ball at Her feet: a living history of Brisbane Women’s Football

Sue Monteath, Kerry Millman and Connie Byrnes

By Lee McGowan

On September 25, 1921, 10,000 people watched two women’s teams play football at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, or the Gabba, a venue now famous for Ashes Tests. The crowd is nowhere near as spectacular as those turning up to watch the Dick, Kerr Ladies during the same period, but this match is significant in that it is widely acknowledged as the first public game of women’s football in Australia.

There had been other games, but nothing like this. Yet there is no comprehensive account of the game, or exploration of its place in the context of women’s football in Brisbane or the State of Queensland.

Brisbane City Ladies' Football Club 1922

with the ball at Her feet aims to research women’s football in Brisbane, to capture its history and learn more about the pioneers of the Australian game and those still shaping the story today. As a digitally-delivered ‘living’ archive, its aim is to be a project of and for the community and, as we are seeing, even in the short time since its launch, be developed by the community.

We’ve sifted through archives, spun through microfiche, dusted shelves and spoke to and learned from as many of those involved as possible, including players, referees, coaches, fans, and administrators. We have established an expanding list of new sources, including historians, student researchers, and representatives from football organisations and clubs across the city. This approach has enabled construction of an initial framework to organise, store and navigate the broader story. It is our hope that it provides a platform to help capture the game’s rich heritage.

W-League Semi Final - Roar v Canberra

Following in the footsteps of Martin Johnes’ project Swans100, a physical exhibit, designed to mimic those in Football Museums, is being installed in a range of venues across the city, throughout the year. Accompanied by public presentations, this has been an extremely effective way to share a remarkable story, add to the collection and build a network of new contacts. Like the website, it is categorised by decade with key events, moments and people highlighted. There are some mistakes in the site’s text and in the naming of images, which are being corrected as we learn more. There’s already lots of additional content to be uploaded. The intention is not to build the authoritative narrative, but harness and present the heteroglossia. Through corrections, recommendations, contributions and new interviews and contacts, this multi-voiced project is already growing on its own.

with the ball at Her feet brings together old, established and new sources and stories from a community united by the game, its local history and their own contribution to its establishment and continuation.

You can hear more about the project here on this ABC radio broadcast. We’re always looking for contributions, so if you can help we’d love to hear from you.

The project would not have been possible without the funding and support provided by Brisbane City Council via the Lord Mayor’s Helen Taylor Research Award for Local History, Kettle of Fish Design, Queensland University of Technology, Football Queensland and Football Brisbane.

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