Carmen Pomies

Carmen Pomies

Carmen Pomies was born in France. She studied dentistry at university but was also involved in sporting activities and became the best javelin thrower in France.

Carmen also played football and in 1920 the Federation des Societies Feminine Sportives de France decided to send a team to tour England. Madame Milliat, who had founded the federation, was a great advocate of women playing football: "In my opinion, football is not wrong for women. Most of these girls are beautiful Grecian dancers. I do not think it is unwomanly to play football as they do not play like men, they play fast, but not vigorous football."

The French team played four matches against the famous Dick Kerr Ladies on behalf of the National Association of Discharged and Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. A crowd of 25,000 people turned up to the home ground of Preston North End to see the first unofficial international between England and France. England won the game 2-0 with Florrie Redford and Jennie Harris scoring the goals.

The two teams travelled to Stockport by charabanc. This time England won 5-2. The third game was played at Hyde Road, Manchester. Over 12,000 spectators saw France obtain a 1-1 draw. Madame Milliat reported that the first three games had raised £2,766 for the ex-servicemens fund.

The final game took place at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club. A crowd of 10,000 saw the French Ladies win 2-1. However, the English Ladies had the excuse of playing most of the game with only ten players as Jennie Harris suffered a bad injury soon after the game started. This game caused a stir in the media when the two captains, Alice Kell and Madeline Bracquemond, kissed each other at the end of the match.

On 28th October, 1920. Alfred Frankland took the Dick Kerr Ladies on a tour France. Once again Carmen Pomies played for the French team. On Sunday 31st October, 22,000 people watched the two sides draw 1-1 in Paris.

The next game was played in Roubaix. England won 2-0 in front of 16,000 spectators, a record attendance for the ground. Florrie Redford scored both the goals. England won the next game at Havre, 6-0. The final game was in Rouen. The English team won 2-0 in front of a crowd of 14,000.

The French team arrived for another tour of England in May, 1921. Carmen Pomies played extremely well and Alfred Frankland persuaded her to remain in England and play for Dick Kerr Ladies. Frankland arranged for her to work in the offices of Whittingham Hospital and Lunatic Asylum in Preston. Her first game was against Coventry Ladies on 6th August, 1921.

In 1922 Frankland decided to take his team on a tour of Canada and the United States. The team included Carmen Pomies, Jennie Harris, Daisy Clayton, Alice Kell, Florrie Redford, Florrie Haslam, Alice Woods, Jessie Walmsley, Lily Parr, Molly Walker, Lily Lee, Alice Mills, Annie Crozier, May Graham, Lily Stanley and R. J. Garrier. Their regular goalkeeper, Peggy Mason, was unable to go due to the recent death of her mother.

When the Dick Kerr Ladies arrived in Quebec on 22nd December, 1922, they discovered that the Dominion Football Association had banned them from playing against Canadian teams. They were accepted in the United States, and even though they were sometimes forced to play against men, they lost only 3 out of 9 games. They visited Boston, Baltimore, St. Louis, Washington, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia during their tour of America.

Florrie Redford was the leading scorer on the tour but Lily Parr was considered the star player and American newspapers reported that she was the "most brilliant female player in the world". One member of the team, Alice Mills, met her future husband at one of the games, and would later return to marry him and become an American citizen.

In Philadelphia four members of the team, Jennie Harris, Florrie Haslam, Lily Parr, and Molly Walker, met the American Women's Olympic team in a relay race of about a quarter of a mile. Even though their fastest runner, Alice Woods, was unavailable through illness, the Preston ladies still won the race.

Dick Kerr Ladies continued to play charity games in England but denied access by the Football Association to the large venues, the money raised was disappointing when compared to the years immediately following the First World War. In 1923 the French Ladies came over for their annual tour of England. They played against Dick Kerr Ladies at Cardiff Arms Park. Part of the proceeds were for the Rheims Cathedral Fund in France.

Carmen Pomies eventually returned to France where she continued to play football. This stopped after the invasion of France in 1940. She wrote to a friend that "the Germans had stopped us from playing".

During the Second World War Pomies was a member of the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) and was one of the heroines of the French Resistance. In a letter to Alfred Frankland she explained that "I did it with all my heart and strength. I went on the barricades and fought my part."

Pomies worked in an office where a German officer signed passports. She was able to serve the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR) and help people escape France by obtaining passports for those who were wanted by the Gestapo.

At the end of the war Pomies returned to Preston where she lived with former team mate, Florrie Redford.

I am indebted to the research carried out by Barbara Jacobs (The Dick, Kerr's Ladies) and Gail Newsham (In a League of their Own) for the information in this article.