“Nettie Honeyball”: Pioneer of women’s game

Jul 28, 2020

Life Stories

“Nettie Honeyball”


It is not known when or where “Nettie Honeyball” was born. Her real name may have been Mary Hutson. “Nettie” seems to have come from a middle-class family in Pimlico, South London. She first got involved in Football in 1894, placing adverts in newspapers to recruit young women for, in her own words: “the manly game that could be a womanly game as well”. “Nettiejoined Lady Florence Dixie to found the British Ladies Football Club in 1895. Most of the players were middle-class women. This might suggest that “Nettie” must have had some wealth and important social connections.

British Ladies FC

“Nettiegot JW Julian of Tottenham Hotspur to coach her players and used newspapers to raise interest. She told The Daily Sketch: “women are not ornamental and useless creatures”. In March 1895 British Ladies North played British Ladies South; better known as the first women’s match by official FA rule. 12.000 people came to watch. Several papers sent reporters. Also involved was Helen Matthews (“Mrs Graham”) who had promoted football for women since 1881. BLFC played more matches in 1895: at Brighton, Bury in Lancashire, Reading, Bristol and Newcastle.


The matches played by British Ladies FC on their “national tour” in 1895 were watched by large crowds. Nothing is known about “Nettie Honeyball” after 1895.

Thinking points

Educators could look at the life story of “Nettie Honeyball” and work with young people to consider these questions:

  1. Why may “Nettie Honeyball” have felt the need to use a false name when she was playing and organising football matches?
  2. How is the pioneering of women’s football related to emancipation?

Find out more

Find out more at Spartacus Educational. There is a portrait of “Nettie” in the National Football Museum. Also a special profile is available at the FIFA World Football Museum. You can also read about the life of “Nettie” on the BBC.


British Ladies North, on 23 March 1895.

British Ladies North, on 23 March 1895.

Life Story

"Nettie" was a pioneer of women's football. Her story is about diversity, equality and education.


Article Tags:   19th century  |   diversity  |   gender history  |   Industrial Revolution  |   social history

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