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Lilian "Lily" Parr (26 April 1905 – 24 May 1978) was an English professional women's association football player who played as a winger. She is best known for playing for the Dick, Kerr's Ladies team, which was founded in 1917 and based in Preston, Lancashire.[1]

In 2002, she was the only woman to be made an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Museum.[2]

Parr was born in a rented house in Union Street, Gerrard's Bridge, St. Helens; the fourth of seven children born to George and Sarah Parr.[3] Her father was a labourer at the local glass factory and the family rented out space in the yard and rooms at their house for extra income.

As a girl Parr displayed little enthusiasm for traditional pursuits such as sewing and cookery. Instead her fearless streak and robust frame allowed her to compete alongside boys in both football and rugby. Under the tutelage of her elder brothers she became proficient in both sports.[3]

During the First World War in England there was a growing interest in women's football and Dick, Kerr & Co. was the name of the Preston munitions factory where most of the women on the team worked. The Dick, Kerr's Ladies team regularly drew large crowds including a famous event on 26 December 1920 at Goodison Park that drew more than 53,000 spectators.[4]

During her time working for Dick, Kerr & Co she lodged in Preston with one of her team mates, Alice Norris. She was good friends with her team-mate Alice Woods, who was also from St Helens. While playing for the Dick, Kerr's Ladies she was noted for her large appetite and almost constant smoking of Woodbine cigarettes.[5]

Unlike women's teams today, Parr played against both male and female teams and she reputedly had a harder shot than any male player.[6] She had started life playing football with her brothers on waste ground in St Helens, before playing for the St Helen's Ladies team. There she was spotted and recruited into the Dick, Kerr's Ladies and a job in the Dick, Kerr & Co. factory in Preston, with 10 shillings in expenses per game.[1]

Parr scored 43 goals for the team in her first season, when she was 14 years old.[7] She totalled more than 900 goals in her career between 1919 and 1951.[8]

Parr played in the first ever recognised women's international football tournament between England and France in London in 1920. There were four games in total, and a crowd of 25,000 saw the Dick, Kerr's Ladies—representing England—win 2–0 at Deepdale, home of Preston North End.[4][9]

The Dick, Kerr Ladies went on to tour France, playing against local teams.

The number of women's teams had continued to grow during this time until 1921 when the Football Association banned women from playing on their member grounds. Support for women's teams declined, but many women such as Parr continued to play on village greens and other non-associated land. The Dick, Kerr Ladies toured North America in 1922 following the English ban. Banned again on their arrival in Canada, they toured the US and played nine games. They won three, drew three and lost three against the top division men's teams.[10] Parr continued with the Dick, Kerr's Ladies even when they lost the support of their factory and were renamed the Preston Ladies.[1]

After working in the Dick, Kerr & Co. factory Parr trained as a nurse. She worked in Whittingham Mental Hospital until she retired. While working at the hospital she continued to play women's football for the Preston Ladies until 1951. This included taking part in a further tour of France.

Parr lived out most of the rest of her life in Goosnargh, near Preston. Openly lesbian, she lived with her partner Mary and has become a LGBT rights icon.[11][12] She died of breast cancer in 1978, aged 73, and is buried in the town of her birth, St Helens, Merseyside. Her heir was a nephew, Roy Parr.[1]

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lily_Parr#References