BY Nduta Waweru, 7:31am August 28, 2018,

Almost lost to history, Emma Clarke was the first black female footballer in the UK in 1895

Photo: Freedom News

Her prowess on the field was so surprising that they were attributed to a white goalkeeper who was mistaken as coloured.  However, a re-examination of history indicated that Emme Clarke was the first black woman to play football in 1895.

Clarke was born in 1876 in Liverpool to William and Wilhelmina Clarke. Little is known about her childhood apart from the fact that she worked as a confectioner’s apprentice from age 15. Her experience in sports was gained in the neighbourhood of  Bootle.

Clarke’s football career kicked off when she made a debut for the English Ladies, a football team patronised by Lady Florence Dixie.

She later joined Mrs Graham’s XI, a football team found by suffragist Helen Graham Matthews who had submitted Clarke’s name. Clarke played for the team as an outfield player, and was often described as “the fleet-footed dark girl on the right wing.”

She was a part of the team when it toured Scotland in 1896 and due to the interest in the matches, quite a number of people showed up to watch them play.  According to reports, she earned about a shilling a week on tour.

Almost lost to history, Emma Clarke was the first black female footballer in the UK in 1895

The following year, Clarke made an appearance for “The New Woman and Ten of Her Lady Friends” team which played against the “Eleven Gentlemen”. Clarke’s team won amid mixed reactions from the public.

Unfortunately, no additional information is available about her life after she stopped playing football in 1903.

Her efforts in football disappeared when they were attributed to a goalkeeper Carrie Boustead. It took the discovery of a photo of the team on tour in Scotland by an artist, Stuart Gibbs, for Carter to be accorded her rightful place in history.

Clarke’s story is the subject of  Futures Theatre’s play called Offside that dramatises her life.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: August 28, 2018


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates