First women awarded Honorary Life Membership

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The change of MCC’s rules to permit women to apply for Membership offered two clear routes for female applicants - either to play a number of qualifying matches for the Club over a two-year period, or to endure approximately 20 years on the waiting list.

But there were a number of women whose contribution to the game over many years made them obvious candidates for immediate recognition. For some of them, age presented an insurmountable barrier to the established routes but for all of them the wait was simply unjustifiable.

Fortunately, MCC had a well-established method of granting membership in exceptional cases. Immediately after the Second World War, Honorary Life Membership had been awarded to several significant figures, among them Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and future US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Notable overseas cricketers and administrators followed from 1960, including Don Bradman and Jehangir Khan.

Ten women were selected to become MCC Members immediately via this method. Among them were the Club’s first Curator of Collections, Diana Rait Kerr, who made such a huge contribution to preserving and communicating the heritage of cricket from 1946 to 1968, and Rachael Heyhoe Flint, whose application for membership almost a decade earlier had been the catalyst for the fall of cricket’s male-only citadel. The other eight were former Secretary of the Women’s Cricket Association Netta Rheinberg, former WCA Presidents Norma Izard and Audrey Collins, umpire and noted authority on the Laws of Cricket Sheila Hill, and former England players Jackie Court, Carole Cornthwaite, Edna Barker and Betty Archdale, who had been the captain of England’s first touring team to Australia in 1934-35.

Eight of the ten received their membership passes from MCC President Tony Lewis in a ceremony at Lord’s on 16 March 1999. "From today," Lewis said, "we have no women Members or lady Members. We are all Members of the same great club." The list of MCC’s Honorary Life Members now includes a total of 69 women, from all over the cricket-playing world.