Kirby Fenwick has been back in the archives and the history books to collate this list of five trailblazing women from the history of cricket.
Australian cricket is brimming with trailblazing women. As players, administrators and journalists, these pioneers worked hard to build the foundations (and in some cases, the actual grounds) that today’s stars play on. In this list we look at five trailblazing women from the history of cricket.
Richard Cashman and Amanda Weaver’s book, Wicket Women, describes Margaret Peden as having a “keen cricket brain”. She was, they say, “an astute leader who gained the complete respect of her team”.
While Margaret Peden had the respect of her teammates and no doubt her opponents on the field, she also had it off the field. Born in 1905, Peden, along with her sister Barbara, founded the Sydney University Women’s Cricket Club in 1927. It would be the beginning of a long administrative career in cricket. Peden was the founding secretary of the NSW Women’s Cricket Association (NSWWCA) in 1927 and was also very much involved in the development of the Australian Women’s Cricket Council (AWCC.) All this while leading the Australian team in the first women’s test series in 1934-35. Peden captained the Australian team in the inaugural series, which Australia lost to England. She was again at the helm in 1937 when the Australian team travelled to England for the second Test series.
According to Marion Stells’ Half the Race, Peden was the driving force behind a group of women cricketers purchasing an old market garden and running it into a cricket ground. Stell writes that “former players still remember fielding among potatoes”. Not content with a cricket field, Peden and her sister built what is likely to be the “first purpose-built indoor cricket nets” in the country.
While Christina Matthews is of the most powerful women in cricket today, growing up she wanted to play Aussie Rules. Luckily for cricket, there were few opportunities for her to do so. Instead, Matthews took to cricket and became not only Australia’s most successful wicketkeeper but also one of the game’s most influential administrators.
Matthews debuted for Australia in 1983, after breaking into the Victorian state team the year before. In the 1990-91 season she was part of the Australian team that defeated India, two Tests to none. It was a record-breaking series for Matthews three times over. First up, she set the record for the most dismissals in a match—nine all up. Then came the record for the most dismissals in a series—that was 19. And finally, she broke the record for career dismissals reaching 47. Twenty years later, many of Matthews’ records still stand, including most dismissals in a series and most dismissals in a match. Matthews also still holds the record for career dismissals with 58.
Not content with her stellar career on field, Matthews took her excellence off-field. She was the third woman to take on the role of National Development Officer for the Australian Women’s Cricket Council. It was a role introduced after the restructure of the AWCC in 1986, and was one of the first two paid roles in the Council. Today, Matthews is the CEO of the Western Australian Cricket Association.
In 1910, an article in The Sydney Mail described Ruth Preddy as “a remarkable athlete”. Ruth was 19 when she debuted for the NSW team, but it would be another twenty years before she appeared again. Not through any fault of her own. There just weren’t any opportunities to play. While Ruth was a handy player—she said of herself “I have not the patience to play a quiet game. I put all my power into every stroke”—she was also a significant administrator and played an important role in covering the inaugural women’s test match between Australian and England in 1934.
“I have not the patience to play a quiet game. I put all my power into every stroke”—Ruth Preddy
Preddy was the founding treasurer of the NSWWCA in 1927 and a founding member of the AWCC in 1931. But her role in cricket extended beyond just administrating the game. For that inaugural 1934 series, she was not only covering the series for the Australian Women’s Weekly (writing weekly stories that often took up a full page covering the matches, the atmosphere and the crowds), Preddy was also the manager of the Australian team, as well as a selector.
Preddy’s involvement in cricket continued into the post-war period. She was the president of both the NSWWCA and AWCA in the 50s and 60s and in 1958 she was elected as the inaugural president of the International Women’s Cricket Association. Preddy’s influence on the game, as a player, as an administrator and as a journalist, was considerable. Today, in recognition of her achievements and commitment to the game, the winner of the Women’s National Cricket League is awarded the Ruth Preddy Cup.
If you’re a regular Siren reader, the name Anne Gordon will already be familiar to you. Anne Gordon was a last-minute call up to the 1973 Australian team and played in the first ever women’s World Cup. Three years later, Gordon was captain of the Australian team in 1976 that played in the first game of women’s cricket at Lords
‘It was an honour for us to be playing. You know, I can’t get over that fact, the first women to play at Lords.” Gordon told Siren.
An all-rounder who was described as “elegant” with the bat, Gordon’s name is written alongside Betty Wilson’s in the history books thanks to her stellar Test debut in 1969 where she took 5-61 and 5-57, becoming the second player, after Wilson, to take 10 wickets in a match.
After retiring from cricket, Gordon became a selector, a role that took her overseas to England, where she was Chairperson of Selectors.
In 1935, newspaper reports said that a 13-year-old Una Paisley was set to be a champion in women’s cricket. Paisley had already played two seasons with Northcote in the Victorian Women’s Cricket Association A Grade competition, debuting at just 11-years -old. At 15, Paisley would be playing for Victoria, a side she would later captain.
Paisley made her Test debut for Australia in 1948 on a tour of New Zealand and she more than lived up to the early hype scoring 108, the first women to score a Test century for Australia. Coincidentally, when Paisley took on the captaincy of the Australian team in 1957, again playing against New Zealand she scored a second century.
In addition to her powerhouse efforts on the field, Paisley was a selector for Victoria and Australia and was involved in the Victorian Women’s Cricket Association and the Australian Women’s Cricket Council.