In 1971 an unofficial tournament was held in Mexico.
In 1988 – 58 years after the first Men's FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930 and approximately 17 years after the FA ban on women's football was eliminated in 1971 – FIFA hosted an invitational in China as a test to see if a global women's World Cup was feasible. Twelve national teams took part in the competition – four from UEFA, three from , two from CONCACAF and one each from CONMEBOL, and . The tournament saw defeat 1–0 in the final to win the tournament, while clinched third place by beating in a penalty shootout. The competition was deemed a success and on 30 June FIFA approved the establishment of an official World Cup, which was to take place in 1991 again in China. Again, twelve teams competed, this time culminating in the United States beating Norway in the final 2-1.
In the 1999 edition, one of the most famous moments of the tournament was American defender Brandi Chastain's victory celebration after scoring the Cup-winning against . She took off her jersey and waved it over her head (as men frequently do), showing her muscular torso and sports bra as she celebrated. The 1999 final in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California had an attendance of 90,185, a world record for a women's sporting event.
The 1999 and 2003 Women's World Cups were both held in the United States; in 2003 China was supposed to host it, but the tournament was moved because of SARS. As compensation, China retained its automatic qualification to the 2003 tournament as host nation, and was automatically chosen to host the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Germany hosted the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, as decided by vote in October 2007. In March 2011, FIFA awarded Canada the right to host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. The 2015 edition saw the field expand from 16 to 24 teams.
During the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, both of and Homare Sawa of made a record of appearing in six World Cups, a feat that had never been achieved before by either female or male players. Christie Rampone is the oldest player to ever play in a Women's World Cup match, at the age of 40 years.
In March 2015, FIFA awarded France the right to host the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup over South Korea. The tournament will begin on 7 June 2019 and the final will be played on 7 July 2019; the final match will be played at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, a venue with a capacity of 58,000 in the Lyon suburb of Décines.