Margaret Peden was the first captain of the Australian women’s cricket team. She left such an indelible mark on women’s cricket that it is impossible to think how the game might have unfolded without her. She was a co-founder of the Australian Women’s Cricket Council in 1930, secretary in 1930-31 and 1936-46, and chair in 1946-50.
Born on October 18th 1915, Chatswood NSW, Peden was educated from 1918-1922 at Abbotsleigh, in the north west of Sydney – and by coincidence, England’s first Test captain, Betty Archdale would one day be the headmistress at that same school.
She attended Sydney University and achieved a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education in 1928 upon graduation. She won blues in both cricket and hockey and it was at the university that she also fostered an interest in sports administration.
She helped form the NSW WCA in 1928 and later the Australian Women’s Cricket Council and as Secretary of that organisation, penned a letter to the WCA in England in 1933 inviting them for a tour. The English agreed to terms and on December 28th, 1934 Peden led the Australian team onto the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane in what became the very first women’s Test match.
In 1935 she was engaged to be married to Maurice Ranald Emanuel, a graduate of science and engineering, but there is a twist. Three days before the wedding, the groom changes his name by deed poll and assumes his bride’s surname, so they became Mr and Mrs Ranald Peden.
Peden led the Australians on the tour of England in 1937. Due to the Coronation they had to make themselves scarce so the team went to the Netherlands and played two games, Peden arriving to the game by bicycle. Back in England the Australians won their first ever Test match, defeating England by 31 runs at Northampton, courtesy of the guile of Peggy Antonio’s leg-breaks.
On returning to Australia there was work to be done for a 1939/40 tour by England, but like everything else it was interrupted by WWII. Instead of playing cricket, the Australian team was busy working in munitions factories. Peden returned for one last match, a charity game against the visiting England team in 1948. She passed away in March of 1981, this colossal figure in Australian sport.Embed from Getty Images