The year 1922, key to the outbreak of modern art in Brazil, was also important in the affirmation of feminist agendas. In the world, the strength of the suffragette movement was experienced. With the new wave, women began to claim both their political-civil rights and freedoms in private life, by questioning customs and habits that marriage and cisgender values often hampered. That same year, the Brazilian Federation for Feminine Progress (FBPF) was founded in Rio de Janeiro. At that time, the practice of football among women was nothing new, especially in the Rio-São Paulo axis.
Despite all the skepticism and prejudice, women mobilized to, formally or informally, create their own teams and play football on periphery football fields, or even in exhibition and performance spaces, such as the circus. If it is customary to credit Vasco da Gama with being a pioneer in the racial issue, by introducing in the 1920s a team made up of workers of black origin, it is also worth mentioning that women used this same club to found their female team in 1923.
The continuity of the practice was interrupted by a government decree in 1941, issued by the National Sports Council (CND), which officially prevented women from practicing a set of sports, under biological and physiological claims. However, in contrast to the almost 40 years of prohibition (1941-1979), male and female researchers today have revealed evidence of how women continued to play football, circumvented the permanence of naturalizing conceptions, as well as gender stigmas, acquiring, in the 21st century, more and more the space and protagonism that have been taken away from them, and that so deservedly belong to them.
Cover of Le Petit Journal, November 1923, demonstrating the prejudice against women’s football in the article “Will female frailty adapt to this violent sport?”. Photograph: Le Petit Journal, nov. 1923 | Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
In the mid-1920s, football played by women was developed among clubs in São Paulo, as recorded in the important periodical of the time, the magazine A Cigarra, with actresses from the circus families Queirolo and Seyssel, in Minas Gerais, 1926. Standing, from left to right: Leontina Nogueira, unrecognized, Vitória Argentina Seyssel, Olinda Seyssel and unrecognized. On the floor: unrecognized, Emma Seyssel and Benedita, wife of the clown Piolin. Photograph: A Cigarra, 1926 | Public Archive of the State of São Paulo.
One of the oldest records of women’s football in England, this 1895 poster advertises a game organized by the British Ladies’ Football Club, which formed two teams, called North and South.. Photograph: W. & W. J. Mizen | National Football Museum.
Players from the Brazilian National Team that won the 1995 South American Championship, in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais. Photograph: Personal Archive | CRFB Collection.
Headline of the newspaper A Batalha, from June 1940, reports one of the first actions to combat women’s football in Brazil. The following year, they were officially banned from playing football in the country. Photograph: A Batalha, jun. 1940 | Fundação Biblioteca Nacional.
Fémina Sport is a women’s sports club founded in July 1912 in Paris, France, still active. The photo portrays its team in 1925. Photograph: Agence Rol | Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Brazilian team at Parque do Sabiá stadium, in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, before the match against Argentina, valid for the 3rd round of the 1995 South American Championship. From left to right, standing: Meg, Marisa, Elane, Solange, Rosa, Bel, Russa and Nalvinha; squats: Cenira, Leda Maria, Pretinha, Fanta, Michael Jackson, Sissi, Roseli and Duda. Photograph: Personal Archive | CRFB Collection.
The cover of the publication Le Miroir highlights a women’s football match between the French teams Fémina Sport and Academia in the early 1920s. Photograph: Le Miroir, Feb. 1, 1920 | Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Fémina Sport didn’t just play from the Paris region, as this photo of its early years taken in the city of Quimper, in Brittany, over 600 kilometers from the French capital. Photograph: Agence Rol | Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
This replica represents the uniform used by the actresses of Circo Irmãos Queirolo, from São Paulo, in a presentation in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. The girls wore football club uniforms from the cities where they performed, within the circus environment, which featured women’s football matches among its attractions. The black and white photo prevents the perception of the team’s colors in a posed photo, whose original version was distinguished by the green and white coloration, alternating with vertical stripes and strips of short width, but symmetrical, sui generis composition for the standards of the uniforms since then. The uniform belongs to Atlético (with thin stripes) Photo: A Cigarra, 1926 | Public Archive of the State of São Paulo.