Preston's world champion Dick, Kerr Ladies team star in two new children's books

Two new children’s books will bring the story of Preston’s famous Dick, Kerr Ladies team to a new generation. Fiona Finch meets authors Gail Newsham and Eve Ainsworth

By Fiona Finch
Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:14 am
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:16 am

The inspiring story of Preston’s famed Dick, Kerr Ladies football team is being shared with a new generation.

A new book for children by Prestonian Gail J. Newsham is being published by city based UCLan Publishing.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies: Football’s Forgotten Legends paperback will introduce junior school children to the sportswomen who were the pride of Preston in the earlier years of the 20th century.

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Author and official Dick,Kerr Ladies archivist Gail Newsham who says: “Girls CAN play football, and they can play it extremely well.”

The book even includes a match report from The Lancashire Daily Post.

Gail is the official archivist of the Dick,Kerr Ladies team and has previously written a book entitled In a League of Their Own! for adults, chronicling the history of the team, which she is currently updating.

At the start of the book Gail addresses a letter to readers noting: “As a young girl growing up in Preston, all I ever wanted to do was play football, and was always out having a kick about in the street or on the park. But, when I was your age, girls weren’t allowed to play at school or have a girls’ team of their own. I didn’t know there had been a ban on women playing football -I just knew we couldn’t play, and knew it wasn’t fair.”

She recalled how many years later she learned about the Dick, Kerr Ladies team from the munitions factory “one of the most important teams in the history of football” and made it her mission to research more about them and share that information.

Part of the cover of Gail's new book, which also includes information about the Dick,Kerr factory and the WWI war years in Preston, as well as a full account of the World Champion Dick,Kerr Ladies team.

Now Gail, 67, a retired council visiting officer who lives in Bamber Bridge, says she hopes it will inspire today’s young readers to “never give up, no matter what obstacles are put in your way.”

She added: “I think it’s the best way to try to change opinions - to tell the true story of Dick, Kerr Ladies which is the history of women’s football."

Gail, who played for a series of local teams, was made an Honorary Fellow of UCLan for her research work. But she said: “It’s not my story - it’s their story. I want things to be right for them...It’s my life’s work.”

The Dick, Kerr Ladies played their first match in 1917 and over the years raised thousands for charity, the equivalent of £10m today, between 1917 and 1965 . But in 1921 women were banned from playing at all Association grounds. Undaunted they carried on playing until 1965. Gail’s book with illustrations by Thy Bui is published on May 6 at £9.99.

Football fan and author Eve Ainsworth pictured with her new book The Perfect Shot

UCLan Publishing is also publishing another book about the team which is again targeted at younger readers. The Perfect Shot by author Eve Ainsworth, a fiction book for eight -12 year olds is being published simultaneously at £7.99.

It is one of a trio of books, featuring the footballers and is based on the lives of players and the lives of other fictional characters. Eve was advised by Gail to ensure the historical detail is correct and Gail's book is being promoted as a companion book to the series.

Football loving author Eve says the players' inspiring story should never be forgotten.

Described as a "coming of age retelling of historical events" the book also features the character of team photographer Freddie.

The Perfect Shot is one of a trio of young fiction books featuring members of the Dick,Kerr Ladies team

Eve,42, from West Sussex, said: “They fought adversity, they came together. They came from working class families. It's just been so lovely finding out more about these women. I think they should be celebrated more....It's just making sure they are not forgotten. I think it’s an uplifting book.”

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Pages from the new book Dick,Kerr Ladies Football's Forgotten Legends
Pages from the Dick,Kerr Ladies Football's Forgotten Legends book, featuring details of the team's kit
Gail was made an Honorary Fellow of UCLan for her work reclaiming and sharing the history of the Dick, Kerr Ladies teams