Meet some of the women who played just before and after the 2nd World War.
These profiles have been put together as a result of my research and personal interviews with the players and I wish to assert my moral rights to be acknowledged as the owner of this work.
Joan Whalley was born in Preston in 1921 and she was probably one of the best women footballer's of her time. She went to school with a young boy named Tom Finney and the two could often be seen playing football together on the local park. They both had their own dreams of playing football when they grew up. Tom wanted to play for Preston North End, and Joan's ambition was to play for the Dick, Kerr Ladies. Tom Finney did become a star for PNE and England and Joan's dream was realised too when she made her debut for her team on Coronation Day,12 May 1937, at Roundhay Park, Leeds when she was just fifteen years old. They both played on the right wing and it was reported in the press at the time that Preston could boast having the two finest right winger's in the world, both male and female! Joan's football career was to last for over 20 years before she 'dropped out' from society to live a secluded and lonely existence on top of the Belmont Moors near Bolton, in a semi derilict farm house to care for her many animals. Forced to leave after having a serious fall and damaging her hip when she was 67 years of age, she moved to Yealand Conyers. Her hope's of a peaceful and quiet retirement were scupperd when fame found her all over again after the publication of 'In a League of Their Own!' In 1996 she became the first British female football player to feature in a national advertising campaign by sportswear giant Nike. Joan was delighted and proud to be among the likes of Eric Cantona, Ian Wright, Michael Jordan and Carl Lewis. Joan said, "I never expected when I played football all those years ago that at the end of my life, all this publicity was going to come. I thought I would just live out my retirement nice and quietly. But no way, they've brought me out with a bang I can tell you. When they put me in my box, I'm going out in a blaze of glory, believe me!" Joan Whalley died on 10 January 1998 and she did go out in a blaze of glory just as she had predicted. Her death made the headlines in all the local newspapers and BBC Radio Lancashire reported her passing in hourly bulletins throughout the day. It was a fitting tribute to 'Preston's other great winger', and Sir Tom Finney paid a personal tribute to his old pal when he said, "I am very sad and sorry to hear that she has gone." In 2007, Joan Whalley was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame. Represented by her neice, Gloria Butcher, the award was presented by Sir Tom Finney and Gail Newsham.
Joan Burke began playing for the Dick, Kerr Ladies in 1939 when she was fourteen years old. She was kicking a ball about more or less as soon as she could walk, she used to run rings around her brothers and all the lads in the area wanted her on their team! She was spotted playing football when she was very young by Alice Kell, the first ever captain of the team back in 1917. Alice had watched Joan's skill develop over the years and saw that she would be an ideal player for her former team. She had a great deal of footballing ability with incredible speed, and she was to become an invaluable and popular member of the team. Known as 'Tich' for most of her life, Joan joined the Army in 1942 and served with the Anti Aircraft Battery until 1946. She was leading goalscorer for three consecutive seasons from 1950-52 and continued playing until 1960. She died with great dignity in 2007.
Nancy Thomson started her career with the Dick, Kerr Ladies just before the outbreak of the 2nd World War. She came as a guest player at the invitation of Mr Frankland while on holiday staying at the home of Joan Whalley. She played for the team during the Belgian team's tour in 1939 and ended up staying for fifteen years! Mr Frankland arranged a job for her as a nurse at Whittingham Hospital and found a place for her to live. Nancy became an immediate regular in the team, playing either centre forward or centre half, and she soon earned the nickname, 'Cannonball' from her team mates. After her fifteen year stay, she joined the Colonial Nursing Service and was posted to a hospital in Gibraltar as 'Sister Thomson'. She was reunited with the rest of the team following the 1992 celebrations. She played in the exhibition match at the Lancashire Trophy in 2000, a remarkable achievement at 84 years of age. She passed away in December 2010 after a short illness, she was 94 years old.
Edna Broughton made her debut for the team in August 1946 when she was fifteen years old. Standing only 5 feet tall and playing in the centre forward position she was always in the thick of the play and she played some beautiful football. Mr Frankland often referred to her as 'his little star' and he always had a high regard for her talent. She was a regular goal scorer for the team and played until the late 1950's. Edna also played in the 2000 exhibition match after undergoing a triple heart by pass! In 2006 she took part in the BBC documentary Nation on Film, which looked at how women's football was filmed and reported in the early part of the last century.
June Gregson began her football career with the Dick, Kerr Ladies in 1950. When she made it into the side she initially played outfield and scored her first goal in a 2-0 defeat of Barnsley in May of 1951. In 1953 she moved to goalkeeper and would remain as the 'last man' for the rest of her time with the team. She would later tell of how joining the Dick, Kerr Ladies would prove to be a life changing experience for her. "I had never been outside of Preston before and I now found myself going on trips to many other parts of the country. I was meeting people from all walks of life and I realised there was a better life out there for me. I made many new friends because of football and became pen pals with one of the girls from the French team. I was later invited over to Paris for a holiday and this made me more determined to have a better lifestyle. Playing football certainly changed my life. It made me more independent and gave me the desire to improve myself. When I was 21 years old, I put an advert in a French newspaper, and the New York Tribune. I advertised myself as an 'au pair' and had several replies. I eventually worked for a family in Bordeaux in a very posh house. They were in the Champagne business. I stayed with them for six months and learned quite a bit of the language which would help me later in life. Football was my passion, and without it I would never have left Preston. My life would have been so different had I not joined the Dick, Kerr Ladies, and I will always be grateful for that opportunity."
Jean Lane played for the Dick, Kerr Ladies from 1950-1965. She scored her first goal in a 4-2 victory against Wythenshawe. She was a brave and gifted footballer and her family were very proud of her achievements with the team and would often go to watch her play. She was a regular goal scorer and was extremely proud to be a Dick, Kerr Player and remained so for the rest of her life. She scored her first hat trick for the team against Manchester Ladies in 1953 and was leading goal scorer for the next five consecutive seasons. Joan Whalley gave Jean her football boots when she finished playing. Jean wore them for the rest of her career and also in the teams last ever game in 1965. Jean said of her days with the Dick, Kerr Ladies, "It was a privilege to play for them. They talk today about what it means to put on an England shirt, but it's no more a privilege for them than it was for us to wear a Dick, Kerr shirt. They were a great team." Jean passed away suddenly on 20 March 2009, she was 73 years years old.