National Women's Football League

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Two teams participated in the National Women's Football League in Texas in the 1970s. The league, a loosely structured organization with autonomously operated franchises, started in 1965 and gradually developed teams in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. In Texas the first team to organize was the Dallas Bluebonnets, which played its opening game in Texas Stadium on February 18, 1973, losing to the Toledo Troopers 37–12. This first team had forty-two members and five coaches. Like their counterparts on other teams, the Bluebonnets included a varied group of women, mostly in their twenties, all of whom enjoyed playing a variety of amateur sports. Players on the interracial team included single and married women, mothers, professional women, and students. Most of them indicated that their desire to play football came from their love of the sport rather than any interest in making a statement about their abilities as women. In 1974 the Bluebonnets were joined by a second Texas team, the Fort Worth Shamrocks, which consisted primarily of former members and coaches of the Bluebonnets who lived in Fort Worth and preferred to play closer to home. Both franchises were owned by brothers Joe and Stan Matthews of Garland. The Texas teams, whose players received twenty-five dollars a game plus workers' compensation, played opponents from Los Angeles, Pasadena, Toledo, Detroit, and Toronto. Initially the teams drew as many as 5,000 fans, but attendance gradually decreased. The Bluebonnets eventually moved from Texas Stadium to a small football field in east Dallas. This declining support led to financial difficulties for the teams, and by the end of 1974 both franchises had disbanded, although the NWFL continued in other states for a while. Despite the negligible financial rewards, small crowds, and limited facilities and equipment, the National Women's Football League provided a unique opportunity for Texas women to participate in a professional team endeavor.

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Dallas Morning News, February 18, April 22, 1973, July 21, 1974. John Bridges, "Women's Professional Football and the Changing Role of the Woman Athlete," in American Sport Culture: The Humanistic Dimensions (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 1985).
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Football)
  • Organizations
  • Agencies
  • Women
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “National Women's Football League,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

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