Mid-century: running smoothly

By the 1950s the WAAA was well established as the governing body for athletics at domestic level.

Scotland had formed its own WAAA in 1930, and Northern Ireland followed suit in 1953. Wales also formed its own WAAA but remained affiliated with England for some years following. The Race Walking and Cross-Country Association was established in 1950, they stayed under the umbrella of the WAAA but dealt with the ‘off track’ events.

Birchfield Harrier and Team England sprinter Winifred (Winnie) Jordan with her son Nicholas, 1951.
Photograph courtesy of Jordan family private collection.

In order to keep abreast of the many clubs and athletes the English WAAA subdivided into North, Midland and Southern territories, each with their own committees.

It must be remembered that the entire Association was a voluntary organisation:

almost unbelievably the whole of the administration of women’s athletics in Great Britain is done by honorary officials. The Association has not a single paid employees and no official headquarters. The Honorary Secretary receives correspondence at her private address.    

Pre-war long jumper, post-war women’s coach and official George Pallet    

Like the influential women of the previous generation, Muriel Cornell, Florence Birchenough and Mary Lines, there were those whose influence and commitment to women’s athletics shaped the mid-century era and beyond; in particular Vera Searle, Dorette Nelson Neale and Marea Hartman. All had been athletes and all held various of the Honorary Officer roles of the WAAA in this era.

Coaches too were honorary. Len Ward, Athletic Development Officer for the City of Stoke Education Department was WAAA Honorary Chief Coach in 1950 and coached the first team outside of London – City of Stoke – to win the WAAA relay title in 1950. Recognizing that coaching provision for women athletes was a necessity he instigated a coaching qualification, gained through examination; in order to ensure the provision of adequate coaching facilities for women athletes throughout the county.

Embroidered WAAA Honorary Coach badge
Private collection

The formation of the joint WAAA and AAA Coaching Committee in 1958 allowed those who held WAAA Coaching Awards to apply to be AAA coaches too, beginning a cross pollination between the WAAA and AAA.

1950 Winning relay team with coach. L-R, Ann Johnson (nee Pover). Rosemary Schomer. Len Ward (Coach). Kath Kelsall (nee Degg). Dorothy Window (nee Hindmarsh).
Len Ward was employed by the Stoke on Trent Education department to improve athletics in the city,
he moved from London to take the position.