Celebrations to mark 150th anniversary of Australia’s first women’s cricket match held in Bendigo

Media release

As the birthplace of Australian women’s cricket, Greater Bendigo is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first women’s cricket match, which was played at the Bendigo Easter Fair in 1874 at Camp Hill (now known as Rosalind Park).

To mark this special anniversary, the community is invited to a free commemorative day from 12.45pm to 5pm on Good Friday at the Queen Elizabeth Oval. The event is supported by the City of Greater Bendigo, Bendigo Easter Fair Society, the Bendigo Historical Society, the Bendigo District Cricket Association and Cricket Victoria.

Australian cricket stars Cathryn Fitzpatrick and Kelly Applebee will host a special all-girls’ cricket clinic at 12.45pm. Young female cricketers of all abilities are invited to participate in the cricket clinic and be part of the guard of honour for the 150th anniversary match. Registration is required for girls to participate on the day, head to:

All-girls cricket clinic - 150th anniversary of women's cricket in Bendigo (office.com)

A representative T20 match between Bendigo V Ballarat will start around 2pm until 5pm.

Clothing worn by women cricketers in the 19th century will also be on show to give an idea of how challenging it was to play in women’s outfits of the time. They will arrive by a horse-drawn carriage in a reenactment of the original match. Author of Bowl The Maidens Over Louise Zedda-Sampson will also be attending.

Mayor Cr Andrea Metcalf said the historic match in 1874 paved the way for women’s cricket which is now enjoyed globally.

“It is incredible to think that the first recorded women’s game in Australia happened right here in Bendigo when the Blues won by 21 runs over the Reds*,” Cr Metcalf said.

“This group of local women challenged the values of 19th century society.

“This a historic milestone in women’s sporting history as these players faced many barriers and discrimination for wanting to play cricket publicly.

“It’s a moment to reflect on the courage of these 22 women who made a stand and led the way for women’s cricket in Australia, which is now going from strength to strength.”

The anniversary match will be watched by many families with close connections to the 1874 match. Diane Robertson is the great granddaughter of Barbara Rae, who played in the first match and was the top scorer. Ms Robertson will be presented with a special bat donated by Cricket Australia in recognition of her great grandmother’s sporting achievements. 

Diane Robertson said she was honoured to be part of the 150th anniversary and pay tribute to her great grandmother.

“I am delighted to learn that my great grandmother, Barbara Rae, was a trailblazer for women’s cricket. Although these women cricketers had a lot of local support, they also endured extreme criticism. The women were courageous, talented, and inspiring.”

Author of Bowl The Maidens Over Louise Zedda-Sampson said the anniversary was an opportunity to look back with pride at the bravery of the sporting pioneers who challenged gender barriers in sport.

“Without the sprit, resilience, and endurance of our pioneering sportswomen, we would not be where we are today. In 1874, women needed permission to play ‘male-only’ sports. Now, 150 years later, Australia’s women cricketers draw almost record-breaking crowds,” Ms Zedda-Sampson said.

“These difficult first endeavours in Bendigo gave others the courage to continue their fight for rights on the sporting field.” 

To mark this significant cricket anniversary, the Bendigo Historical Society will also open its inaugural exhibition, Frisky Matrons & Forward Spinsters**, at its new community museum. This exhibition tells the story of the 22 courageous local women who played in Australia’s first women’s cricket match, and the men who supported them in Bendigo, a cricket-mad gold rush town. 

Beautiful objects such as Bendigo Easter Fair pins, cricket belt buckets and other cricket paraphernalia loaned especially for this exhibition from private collectors will be on display, many for the first time. Objects from the Bendigo United Cricket Club’s collection and the Bendigo Historical Society are also part of this unique exhibition. 

The inaugural exhibition has been supported with assistance from the City of Greater Bendigo, Cricket Victoria, and the Bendigo Easter Fair Society. Frisky Matrons & Forward Spinsters is at History House, Bendigo Historical Society, 11 MacKenzie Street Bendigo from Good Friday March 29 until Saturday June 15. It is open 10am to 3pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Thank you to the Bendigo Easter Festival premium sponsor Agnico Eagle Fosterville Gold Mine for their support.

Locations:
Greater Bendigo