Emily Valentine

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Emily Galway
Birth nameEmily Frances Valentine[1]
Date of birthca. 1878
Place of birthCounty Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Date of death1967[citation needed]
Place of deathLondon, England[2]
SchoolPortora Royal School
Rugby union career
Position(s) wing
Youth Career
1887-? Portora Royal School Wasps

Emily Frances Valentine, designated the first lady of rugby and "female William Web Ellis" by the media,[4] is the earliest documented female rugby player (at the age of 10) in 1887, and provides the only confirmed record of a woman playing in the nineteenth century.[5] Prior to the discovery of Valentine, the earliest named female rugby player was in 1917, who at the age of sixteen played for the Cardiff Ladies.[4]


Valentine, born in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland circa 1878, was the youngest of six brothers and sisters.[3][4][5] She played her first match of rugby union at the Portora Royal School, three years after her father William Valentine was named Assistant Headmaster.[5] According to her memoirs, in the winter of 1887, she removed her hat and overcoat to play alongside her two brothers' (William, aged 16, and John, aged 10 or 11)[6] as their team was a man short.[3][5][7] Valentine first kicked place, but then scored a try in her first game after moving to the wing alongside her brothers in the backline.[5][7] Valentine would continue to participate with the team in practices and intra-school matches according to the school's records which also includes correspondence from Valentine in 1951.[5]

Personal life[]

Valentine moved to South Africa in the late 19th century.[1] She became a nurse and changed her name to Galway after marrying military doctor Major John Galeway OBE in 1909.[3][5] Valentine moved to India until about 1915[3] (and possibly Canada)[6] before settling in England.[5][8]

One of Valentine's eight grandchildren is named Catherine Galway.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b "The Springbok Experience Rugby Museum". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Emily Valentine: Will 'the first lady of rugby' join Hall of Fame?". CNN. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Birch, John (16 January 2010). "Emily Valentine – the first girl to play rugby (1887/8)". Remembering Letchworth Girls' rugby teams. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Crewdson, Kay (11 February 2010). "Valentine was first lady of rugby". BBC Sport. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Donnelly, Ally (17 January 2010). "The remarkable Emily Valentine". Scrum Queens. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b "History of women's rugby". www.rugbyrelics.com. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b "First lady of rugby". World Rugby Museum. 13 August 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  8. ^ Barnes, Simon (11 January 2010). "Miss Valentine the mother of women's rugby". The Times. p. 61. Retrieved 18 January 2018.