Sunday’s fixture at St James Park will represent a considerable uprise in the history of Exeter City’s women’s team.
It is highly probable that the game will facilitate the second largest attendance of any football fixture in the County over the entire weekend, a significant and ground breaking moment for Women’s Football. Yet, as today’s players seek to lay the foundations for those that follow, there were many fought for the Women’s game to survive and provide opportunity for the heights it is now ascending to.
Rod Hawker’s book, Irrepressible Women – 125 Years of Women’s Football in Devon, is a literary walkthrough time. A journey commencing with Devon’s first recorded experience of women’s football in 1895 and ending in 2020 by when, for many females across the county, Sunday afternoons were for playing football.
It was written after several misleading newspaper articles were noted to have incorrectly cited a variety of women's games being played in Devon, notably in the 1990's and early 2000's, as being 'the first'; when in fact the game is known to have a rich history in Devon - although never formally recorded.
On the one hand, Rod’s book is a record of events that people had forgotten, for those who kept alive the dream of the early pioneers of the game. On the other, it provides a narrative that helps bring to life both the people and the challenges faced in simply playing a game of football.
It tells of players trapped in Exeter unable to pay hotel fees in the 1890s, disputes regarding the payment of players in Plymouth in the 1920s, and the lasting legacy of King James Book of Sports in respect of Sunday sporting activity.
It is more than all those things however. It is a story of female emancipation, of the fight for a social and sporting justice which in so many ways is still being fought today. Above all else, it is about the determination, resilience, tenacity and courage of women who continued to play football against all the odds.
You can purchase Rod Hawker’s book at the Club Shop at Exeter City or online at Rod Hawker.