Derbyshire Cricket – Peakfan’s blog: Book Review: Forgotten Pioneers by Giles Wilcock

Giles Wilcock is the author of one of my favourite online cricket resources, the Old Ebor cricket blog, which covers the game and its social importance in the period before the Second World War.

There could thus be no better author of a book on the world’s first professional women cricketers

Initially there was a curiosity value in watching women play the game, but eventually sceptics were won over by the skill that they showed in doing so. At the same time, they were not professionals in the modern sense, as evenings would find them performing in theatres and music halls, singing and dancing, fencing and undertaking an array of gymnastic exercises.

The first season was a triumph but the Original English Lady Cricketers, which sounded more like a Vaudeville act, ran into problems in the second season, 1891. The organisation collapsed and although weather problems and changes in playing personnel had some impact, there was a strong suspicion of fraud, by the team’s mainly male managers. 

For fans of the modern women’s game and how it has evolved through Molly Hide, Enid Bakewell and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, this book is quite an eye-opener. I loved it, but then was always likely to, given it combines both cricket and social history.

It may not be a subject that leaps out at some of the book buyers out there, but again, I applaud the publishers for getting this book into print. 

As for the author, I am a confirmed fan anyway and he can do little wrong in my eyes. This really is a very enjoyable read, admirably researched and beautifully written, accompanied by photographs and illustrations that I had no idea existed.

While the modern women’s game has come on in leaps and bounds, I would be fairly confident in saying that none of the stars have finished a game, headed off to the theatre and entertained another audience with diverse and quite remarkable skills on the trapeze and banjo…

Forgotten Pioneers: The Story of the Original English Lady Cricketers is written by Giles Wilcock and published by Pitch Publishing

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