More than a century after the first women’s football match and 110 statues of male players, the first prominent public sculpture of a female footballer will be unveiled next month.
A life-size statue of Lily Parr from St Helens, the trailblazing, goal-scoring winger of the 1920s and 30s, will be erected outside Manchester’s National Football Museum in June.
Parr, who died in 1978 aged 73, scored over 980 goals in her extraordinary 32-year career and was the first woman to feature in the museum’s Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
The monument, created by sculptor Hannah Stewart, was commissioned by FA sponsor Mars and will be unveiled before next month’s Women’s World Cup in France.
“We have come a long way since Lily Parr’s days and she deserves recognition as a true pioneer of the sport,” said Marzena Bogdanowicz, the head of marketing for women’s football at the FA.
“Women’s football is in a very strong place today with the England team helping us to drive participation and interest at every level. Lily Parr was the first woman to enter the Football Hall of Fame, an iconic achievement in itself, so it’s only fitting that she takes her place alongside other football legends and becomes the first woman to be celebrated with a statue in her honour.”
Parr played for the Dick, Kerr Ladies, a team comprised of workers at a munitions factory in Preston, Lancashire, which became the most successful women’s team of all time. Parr netted 34 goals for the club in her first season, aged just 14.
The 6ft (183cm) winger, who reputedly had one of the strongest left-footed shots in the game, represented England in the first women’s international game in 1920, when England beat France 4-0 in front of a 15,000-strong crowd.
Female participation in the game surged during the first world war and Parr’s career took off at a time when the women’s game overshadowed the men’s, with millions of fit young men sent to the frontlines to fight.
On Boxing Day 1920, a match between Dick, Kerr and St Helens Ladies at Goodison Park was watched by a crowd of 53,000 with thousands more locked outside. Just a year later, women’s football was outlawed by the FA who deemed it “quite unsuitable for females” – a decision that was only reversed in 1969.