The First Captain of England

Helen Elizabeth “Betty” Archdale was the very first captain of the England women’s Test cricket team. Born on 21st August 1907, Paddington, Middlesex to an Irish aristocrat and an English political activist, Archdale had her childhood impacted by the First World War. Her father was a casualty and Betty was brought up by her Mother.

Betty’s Mum was an active suffragette. From an early age Betty would have to collect stones for her Mother to throw at windows during protests, after which she would then visit her in gaol.

One key aspect learned from an early age was that her Mother told her a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Betty clearly followed that advice set about creating a life of education, sports and leadership. She earned herself a law degree and it was this as much as anything else that earned her the captaincy of England. Why? On a long tour to Australia and New Zealand there would be many speeches to deliver.

Betty’s own form for the duration of her Test career was quite average, even for the times, but of the four Tests she captained, she won three of them. Notably the powerful England top order of Myrtle Maclagan, Betty Snowball and Molly Hide meant that the lower middle order didn’t get much of a run.

Following the successful tour of 1934/5, Betty was curiously dumped as skipper for the Australian tour of 1937 and did not make an appearance until the third Test, her last.

During the war, Betty served with distinction as a WREN and once again her leadership skills were on hand. Following the war Betty migrated to Australia where she served with distinction at Sydney University and then as headmistress at Abbotsleigh Girls School in Sydney.

This former England captain became a very much loved character in Australia where she lived for the remainder of her life and was announced in 1999 as one of Australia’s 100 Living Treasures. Betty Archdale died in Sydney on New Year’s Day 2000.

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