Maidens fielding in their slides
Women’s cricket has a long history in the South, writes Ceri Austin-Hart.
New Zealand’s first all-women’s cricket match was held at Wairarapa in 1867, and the sport’s popularity among women has steadily grown.
With the combination of increased female physical education in schools and a growing female workforce, many girls and women have participated in social, professional, school and charity fundraising cricket games during of the next 50 years.
In the 1930s, competitive women’s cricket exploded in popularity.
During this decade women’s cricket went from strength to strength locally, nationally and internationally.
The era saw the establishment of the Otago Ladies Cricket Association in 1932 and the national body, the New Zealand Women’s Cricket Association, just two years later, in time for the 1934-35 English Women’s Cricket Tour of New Zealand.
The tour marked New Zealand’s first all-female Test match, played in February 1935, with three local women called up, Marjorie Bishop, Helen Miller and Meryl Hollis. The host country’s defeats to the tours did little to dampen the enthusiasm of Dunedin’s cricketers.
By the end of the 1935 season, 20 women’s teams entered the Otago Ladies Cricket Association competition, more than doubling the number of teams fielded two years previously.
These teams represented major Dunedin businesses, religious organisations, clubs and old maids’ school groups, for which the Hocken holds records.
Among these are the archives of Hallensteins Ltd and Albion Cricket Club, which give us a small but valuable insight into the lives of female cricketers.
Hallensteins and its affiliates fielded players representing the company. They manufactured and sold team blazers and trousers, worn by many female Dunedin cricketers from the 1933-34 season and for many years to follow, as seen in fabric swatches and advertising.
The archives of Albion Cricket Club, established in 1862, include an array of archival documents, minute books and photographs. As recorded in the minutes of the club’s October 1933 AGM, the decision was made to affiliate with the Arthur Barnett department store women’s cricket team. They officially merged less than a year later, becoming the Albion Women’s Cricket Club, “its members, though few in number, have shown commendable devotion”.
The club’s women’s division went from strength to strength and grew in number over the next 20 years, winning the OWCA Woolworths Shield for the 1951-52 season, as shown in fantastic club photography.
Two of the pictured women from Albion’s winning team, sisters D. and L. Meek, both played for the Otago side. By the end of the 1950s, D. Meek’s representative career had spanned a decade, playing for Otago and the South Island, including matches against the England women’s cricket team on their 1957-58 tour.
The souvenir booklet, which the Hocken holds in our collections, includes a magnificent advertisement for cricket blazers placed by Glassons, the sister company of Hallensteins to this day.
Although the game against England in 1958 was a draw due to rain, nothing has dampened the spirits of pioneering New Zealand women cricketers over the past 150 years.
Let’s just hope the weather holds up for the next ICC Women’s World Cup matches!
– Ceri Austin-Hart is curator at the Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago.