Women in Curling

It is impossible to say when women first began curling. Probably they had always tried their hand at it. Yet it appears from their records that the early curling clubs were all male organisations.

By the early 1800s reports of womens’ curling matches begin to appear in local newspapers, but generally written in a tone which implies that these events were curiosities. Interestingly, many of these early references to women curling originate from Dumfries and Galloway.

The earliest recorded womens’ match occurs in the Dumfries Weekly Journal of 7th January 1823. It recounts a game at Sanquhar in which,

the sides were pretty numerous, and composed exclusively of women - the wives against the lasses. After the match the women curlers followed tradition and retired to the local inn, How the husbands relished this unusual display of masculine prowess, and convivial dispositions, on the part of their wives, need not be enquired into. A similar occurrence has not happened since.

A more overtly hostile comment on women curling was published in the same newspaper in 1826, On Tuesday last, 28 blooming damsels met on Dalpeddar loch, in the parish of Sanquhar, to play a friendly bonspiel. They formed themselves into two rinks, and although wading up to the ancles in water, seemed to enter into the spirit of the game, and to contest it with as much intense anxiety as if the question that the losing party should all die old maids had depended upon the issue… and as the ladies, like true curlers, had resolved to adjourn to the toll-house, where a het pint had been ordered, …

our heroines resorted to whisky toddy. It may be true that there is no good reason why females should not have their hours of recreation as well as men, but it seems advisable that these recreations which they do engage in should be of a character befitting their sex.

Ice playing is certainly not a game of this description - it has nothing feminine pertaining to it either in theory or practice. If, therefore, prudence and propriety are to be consulted, the fair maidens of the lower end of Sanquhar parish will not again resort to the same expedient for obtaining a day’s relaxation and enjoyment.

The Countess of Eglinton and her ladies curling at Eglinton near Irvine, 1860. Other reports of local womens’ curling matches occur at Lock Ged, in Keir and Loch-hill in Buittle. In the latter match the married women of Buittle parish challenged the unmarried and the match was played twenty a side.

Despite these early pioneers, in 1890 the Rev John Kerr of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club could write,

Ladies do not curl - on the ice. The Rational Dress Association has not yet secured for them the freedom that is necessary to fling the channel stane.

However he was to be surprised during the first Scottish curling tour to Canada in 1902 when the team he captained not only met with women curlers but were beaten by them on three occasions!

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