It’s LGBT History Month! Since 2005, it’s been celebrated every February to raise awareness by uncovering and telling the often invisible and suppressed LGBT histories and stories. We will join in the celebrations by introducing some prominent LGBT figures from the North West to you. In our first entry we want to introduce you to Lily Parr, an openly gay football player who played for Preston’s Dick, Kerr Ladies.
Lilian “Lily” Parr was born in 1905 in St Helen’s, Lancashire and was from a working class background. A fearless and robust child, she showed little interest in traditional girl’s pursuits like cooking or sewing. Instead she played football and rugby. She played for St Helen’s football team in 1919, but her talent was noted soon enough noted by Preston’s Dick, Kerr’s Ladies team. This team mainly consisted of female munitions workers who worked for the factory of Dick, Kerr & Co. They signed Lily for 10 shillings in expenses per game and a job in the factory. It was a very successful football team.
Lily reputedly had a harder shot than any male player. She played in the first recognised international women’s football tournament between England and France in 1920, partly held at Deepdale Stadium. This wave of success soon stopped, as the Football Association banned women from playing on their member grounds. This ban was upheld for over 50 years.
Lily continued to play for Dick, Kerr Ladies team, who eventually lost the support of their factory and were renamed the Preston Ladies. She totaled over 900 goals during her career from 1919 until 1951. Apart from playing football, Lily trained to be a nurse and worked in the Whittingham Mental Hospital until her retirement. She lived for the rest of her life in Goosnargh near Preston and died in 1978. She lived openly with her partner Mary and became a LGBT rights icon. She was included in the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum in 2002, the first female player ever.
Her achievements were further celebrated when the Lily Parr Exhibition Trophy was held between 2007-09, with LGBT teams from England, France and USA playing.
Lily Parr’s openly gay relationship with Mary was unusual for the time, as lesbianism was frowned upon. Whilst not technically illegal, like male homosexuality, it was surrounded with many taboos.
We will be back soon, celebrating more of the LGBT history of the North West.
Lily Parr, image via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lily_Parr#/media/File:Lilyparr1.jpg
Dick, Kerr Ladies team in 1923, image via http://www.phillysoccerpage.net/2013/05/08/first-womens-soccer-team-in-philly-1922/
Lily Parr, image via http://spartacus-educational.com/FparrL.htm