Remembering Sporting Greats this International Women’s Day
On this International Women’s Day we acknowledge that historiography has often excluded women. Gender is a social construct that has long objectified women and created systems of oppression.
Despite their contribution to all aspects of life, women still carry a disproportionate load, earn less than their male counterparts and are underrepresented in senior positions in government, business and sporting clubs.
For over one hundred years women have consistently carved out a league of their own in all of Australia’s most cherished sports. In a recent interpretation project at a Sydney sporting ground, we learned about pioneering women in cricket history, whose stories deserve to be celebrated.
Women’s Cricket has a Long History
Women have been batting and bowling in backyards since the earliest days of the colony. The official organization of teams and clubs for women appeared at the end of the nineteenth century and by 1931 the Australian Women’s Cricket Council was founded. The Australian women’s team toured overseas to England for the first time in 1937 with no woman ‘permitted to smoke or drink, or be accompanied by a husband or companion.’ [i]
The first international women’s cricket team to visit Australia was the English team, invited to tour in the summer of 1934-35.
The Stars of Women’s Cricket
The performance of these women quickly outshone the novelty of their cricket culottes. Hazel Pritchard (1913-1967) was soon known as ‘the Girl Bradman’, playing with style and scoring 306 Test runs. While Mollie ‘the Demon’ Flaherty (1914-1989) became a much-feared bowler not only for her fiery personality but also her fast pace bowling and strong right-hand batting. Mollie is considered the first fast bowler in international women’s cricket but also excelled in baseball and golf.
The expectations of balancing feminine virtues and domestic life versus a sporting career remained a common strain in media commentary. In 1976, Anne Gordon the captain of Australian Women’s Cricket team wryly commented:
‘I don’t tell many people I play cricket because they expect me to tear up phone books for breakfast.’ [ii]
Today more than ever women are levelling the playing field with the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) garnering huge audiences, sponsorship deals and broadcast revenue. A new generation of star players have emerged like Muruwari woman Ashleigh Gardner, the first Indigenous woman since Faith Thomas in the 1950s. At just 18 years old Gardner captained the Indigenous woman’s squad tour of India and at age 21 achieved the highest score in WBBL with an unbeaten 114 runs from only 52 deliveries.
At GML on this International Women’s Day we want to say thanks to the many wonderful women that have inspired us to have courage and lead in an inequal world, on the pitch and off.
[i] ‘Maiden Over: Women’s Cricket in Australia’ State Library of NSW https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/maiden-over
[ii] The Australian Women’s Cricket Team stumps the sceptics (1976, May 19). The Australian Women’s Weekly p. 4. Retrieved March 3, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51188014