England & Team GB Women’s International Hockey Representatives, 1951-2016

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1955 Vera Chapman Eng v Wales Wembley   

Georgie Twigg by Steve McCarthy

Left: Vera Chapman, England vs Wales at Wembley Stadium, 1955.
Right: Georgie Twigg at EuroHockey Nations Championship, Lee Valley, 2015


A University of Wolverhampton and The Hockey Museum Collaborative AHRC PhD research project.

This project, starting in October 2018, will produce a collective biography of women who have represented England at the 41 Wembley international matches between 1951 and 1991, at the Women’s Hockey World Cup between 1974 and 2014 and as part of Team GB at the Olympic Games from 1980 to 2016. Research will include collected oral histories of England International players from 1951 to the 2016 Olympics and, where appropriate, their family members and the administrators, medical and coaching staff who enabled the players to travel on behalf of their national teams. This is significant because women’s work as national representatives of England and, at the Olympic Games as Team GB, used to be amateur but is now increasingly professional. This chronology evidences women’s improved specialisation as elite players and a consequent broader public recognition, as shown by the gold medal in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The initiation of this research is very timely and topical with many of the earlier post-World War 2 representative players now elderly or deceased. Importantly, international women’s hockey developed as part of the All England Women’s Hockey Association since 1895; as part of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) since 1924 and as part of professional league competition beginning at about the same time. As several commentators have indicated, although ostensibly led by key female administrators, women’s hockey has long been supported by significant male administrators, coaches, medical and coaching staff as well as the family and friends of representative players.

Particular research questions include, who are the women who have appeared as international representatives since 1951? What have been their social origins, class, age, education and sexuality? How has their experience changed with the change from amateur to professional? What have been the politics of women’s relationship with male coaches and administrators? How have their experiences of different tournaments and touring shaped their perception of representative competition? How important have family and friendship networks been in sustaining hockey careers?

 1990 Eng v Holland Jane Sixsmith

From left to right: Karen Brown, Carina Benninga and Jane Sixsmith, England vs Netherlands, 1990.


Research will include collected oral histories of England International players from 1951 to the 2016 Olympics and, where this is not possible, on family history sources. This project will unlock personal and institutional sporting heritage. Together with what already exists, the acquisition of the oral histories will enable THM to have the largest collection of artefacts related to women’s hockey anywhere in the world.

The All England Women’s Hockey Association held early international tours against Australia and New Zealand before World War One and during the inter-war period. However, after 1948, more people began to travel by land, sea and air for leisure and pleasure. Sport was part of this story and mega events began to grow like the Olympic Games and World Championships. An important part of the project will be to uncover women’s experiences of touring as representatives of their country from the 1950s onwards. However, aside from Jean Williams’s work on women’s cricket, hockey and football, very few academics have captured what being ‘on tour’ meant to the individuals concerned; even less work has looked at women’s experiences. ‘Crossing the Equator’ for the first time was, and remains, a pivotal moment in any traveler’s life however.

So, the changing status of women’s hockey gives an insight into the changing nature of women’s lives (work and leisure) and those of increasing numbers of girls. Oral history can help to fill voids in the extant textual collections. As well as using the text-based material at THM, the student will undertake interviews using Oral History Society guidelines. This will create supplementary archival sources for future researchers to remain at THM, thereby creating new knowledge.


More About The Programme

Sporting Heritage and the National Football Museum work in partnership to deliver a programme of Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded PhDs. This is part of a programme of funding specifically aiming to engage greater partnership activity between cultural heritage organisations and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). It includes many different consortia from across the UK. For further information please click here.

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Professor Jean Williams

Lead Academic Supervisor – Professor Jean Williams, Professor of Sport, in the Institute for Sport, University of Wolverhampton.

Jean is a leading historian of women’s sport in the UK and has established research contacts in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Jean also runs a heritage consultancy, JJ Heritage, in partnership with project management specialist Joanna Compton and is a Non-Executive Director of Silverstone Heritage Trust, launching a new £18.2 million museum and archive at the circuit in 2018.

Other than motor sport, and the artistic and cultural heritage of sport, Jean's main academic interests are the history of women’s sport and literature. Jean has worked with the THM since 2013 and has written extensively on the All England Women's Hockey Association (AEWHA) including their tours and key pioneers as part of her publication, A Contemporary History of Women's Sport.

In addition, Jean wrote the entries for hockey players and administrative pioneers Edith Thompson and Hilda Light for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

If you would like to know more about Jean’s academic research, or have questions about your own heritage project, please contact her by email at Wolverhampton University.


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