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  • Ladies and Lords: A History of Women's Cricket in Britain by Rafaelle Nicholson
  • Oneil Hall
Nicholson, Rafaelle. Ladies and Lords: A History of Women's Cricket in Britain. Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd., International Academic Publishers, 2019. Pp. xvi+ 399. Index. $69.95, pb. $69.95, eb.

Historians have given little attention to the study of women's involvement in cricket in Britain. However, in Ladies and Lords: A History of Women's Cricket in Britain, Rafaelle Nicholson analyzes and documents the evolution, development, and contribution of women to the field of cricket in Britain. The book spans from the game's origin in the eighteenth century to the present day. Nicholson's work provides a comprehensive account of women's cricket; thus, her contribution to sports history is not only original but monumental. Her work intertwines scholarships of feminism, sports, and cultural history, thus making the historical records colorful and enriched. The work is divided into seven chapters that present a chronological depiction of women's history in cricket. This chronological approach helps assess the development of women's cricket, the challenges faced by female cricketers, and their contribution.

Nicholson begins by exploring the genesis of women's cricket as a local village pastime that became a modern sport. Women's cricket expanded throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a result of the incorporation of sports into the British curriculum, the advanced development of women's hockey, religious organization, and the formation of the Women's Cricket Association. Another factor that led to the expansion of women's cricket was the impact of the First and Second World Wars when women replaced men in the manufacturing industry. These factories provided women with space and opportunities to play sports, including cricket. Nicholson also highlights the periodic decline of women's cricket, but its major decline began after the 1960s from a lack of finances, a reduction in school affiliation, and the expansion of other leisure activities. Nicholson also addresses the [End Page 82] challenges faced by women's cricket: the constant discouragement faced by female participation in cricket, society's preoccupation with Victorian norms and values, misogynistic ideals, reliance on male-owned resources, financial woes, and negative representations by the British media.

Nicholson also highlights the importance of the Women's Cricket Association from its formation in 1926 to its disbandment in 1998 when the group handed over the governance of women's cricket to the England and Wales Cricket Board. The book documents the organization's structure, affiliated clubs, codification policies, and international tours. The organization faced several challenges with their members and their constant role to rebut misogynistic ideals. In fact, the narrative of women's cricket is largely a battle against misogynistic ideals, which was also reflected in the disbandment of the Women's Cricket Association. Thus, women's cricket was thereafter controlled by a board with a majority membership of men.

Another important contribution is Nicholson's examination of women's cricket and the media. The British media represented female cricket in a negative light based on biases embedded, again, in misogynistic ideals. One such thought was that cricket was not a "feminine-appropriate" sport. During the interwar years, the Women's Cricket Association made several attempts to build a stronger relationship with the media, including the appointment of a press representative and the establishment of their periodical Women's Cricket. Nicholson notes "Women's Cricket, therefore, became crucial in presenting an image of women cricketers which challenged the prevailing discourses of female ignorance and apathy" (72). In the 1970s, women's cricket continued to face criticism with the advancement and popularization of the women's liberation movement. The media constantly linked women's cricket to this feminist movement because, at that time, women cricketers could not access male-owned cricket grounds. This representation has always been a challenge for the women's cricket industry. Although these cricketers never declared themselves feminists, they had to disassociate themselves publicly from the feminist movement to silence their critics. The hostility, voyeurism, and sexualization of women cricketers by the media also highlighted inequalities within the fabric of the society.

Nicholson uses a wide range of...


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pp. 82-84
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