The trailblazing female footballer has been commemorated ahead of the Women’s World Cup
With the FIFA Women's World Cup kicking off on June 7, Lily Parr has become the first female footballer to be honoured with a statue in the UK.
Parr’s statue was unveiled today at the National Football Museum to celebrate her trailblazing story, 100 years after she joined Dick, Kerr Ladies team in 1919.
Throughout her 32-year career, Parr scored a massive 980 goals for the Dick, Kerr munitions factory team during and after the First World War. Following her success for the Preston team, the St Helen’s-born player went on to play for Preston Ladies until the age of 46. With an impressive record and reputation, she was the first female player to be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2002.
The life-size bronze statue, created by sculptor Hannah Stewart, was commissioned by FA sponsors Mars as part of their #SupportHer campaign; which aims to promote awareness about female sporting success. There are worryingly few statues celebrating individual sportswomen in the UK, as Parr joins the slim ranks of double Wimbledon tennis champion Dorothy Round and Olympic pentathlon champion Dame Mary Peters.
The statue kick-starts a month of dedicated Women’s World Cup coverage at the museum. Throughout the tournament, visitors can follow a special Women’s World Cup trail, discovering new objects and stories about the sport’s unconventional history.
According to Collections Officer Belinda Scarlett, one of the most prized objects in the museum is the Hackney Women’s FC pennant from 1992. Founded in 1986, Hackney was the first openly gay women’s team in England and the image of two women embracing speaks volumes about the inclusiveness of women’s football.
Tim Desmond, Chief Executive of the National Football Museum, said: “We’re delighted to have been given the opportunity to display (Parr’s) statue at the museum to coincide with our strategy to rebalance our collection and increase representation of women in football to 50%.”
Parr isn’t the only woman to be immortalised in art recently. Only last December, a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst was unveiled in St Peter’s Square following the WoManchester Statue Project. Prior to the campaign, sixteen of the city centre’s seventeen statues were of men.
Last month, meanwhile, late comedy legend Victoria Wood received her very own bronze statue in hometown of Bury. The BAFTA award-winning writer and actress rose to fame in the 1980s and was best known for her comedy series Dinnerladies and Victoria Wood as Seen On TV. Created by Graham Ibbeson, her tribute stands at Library Gardens after a successful fundraising campaign to commemorate the national treasure.
Finally, Bruntwood’s Trafford House has been adorned with a 38-metre-high artwork dedicated to the suffragette movement. Created by visual artist and graphic designer Venessa Scott, who won the commission following a global competition, it’s one of the UK’s biggest murals.
We may still be a long way from full gender equality (over 200 years by recent estimates) but such artworks reflect a vital movement to celebrate women’s achievements. Long may it continue.
Written by Lucy Milburn
Main image (left): Gail Newsham