De Courant, 1920, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.
De Courant, 1920, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Unpacking women’s football history one picture at a time

A rare picture sheds light on Dutch women's football

Jurryt van de Vooren
Jurryt van de Vooren

This article is kindly reproduced with permission from the Dutch sports history portal Sportgeschiedenis.

History traditionally is the study of written evidence, depending on written sources, and with regards to the early development of women’s football in the Netherlands, there are not so many available sources. It is therefore quite possible that there was a match somewhere at the beginning of the last century, but without reports, we do not know for sure. The oldest documented report is from July 25, 1920, in Oostzaan near Amsterdam. There is even a picture of a women’s team from that time.

Beyond the image

That picture is of the Amsterdam football club Wittenburg, which after its establishment in September 1919 existed for just three years only. In that short period, a women’s team was put together in June 1920. This was so startling that various media posted a team photo, such as De Courant and De Prins der Geïllustreerde Bladen. That makes it the oldest photo of Dutch women’s football. What we don’t know is whether this team has ever played a match.

De Courant, 1920, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.
De Courant, 1920, Allard Pierson, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Matching the matches

What we do know is that OSV in Oostzaan sent an invitation to Wittenburg for a friendly match on July 25, 1920, against a local occasional team, with female members of the Union korfball Club. Unfortunately, and without any canceling, Wittenburg did not show up. Much to the disappointment of the hundreds of spectators, including some counselors of the municipality of Oostzaan. A second occasional team was formed on the spot so that there was still a match to be played.

From Necessity to History

And that is the first registered women’s football match in the Netherlands because a reporter from Algemeen Handelsblad was there as an eyewitness. ‘’The female football players were brought to the field accompanied by music. The match started at 2.15 A.M. Immediately a nice game developed.’’ The Union team scored the first and only goal after ten minutes.

Digging the past

This story is just one of many examples which can show us how much we do not yet know about the history of women’s football. Educators could use this example to discuss the many ways in which history depends on evidence, and what further could be inferred from just a sliver of evidence. Dutch sport history portal Sportgeschiedenis frequently publishes updates and new discoveries from this field and is worth following, including a timeline on women’s football in The Netherlands and – most recently – a discovery of some of the names of the 1920 players.

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