The Black Ferns have participated in most WRWC events since its inauguration in 1991, only missing the 1994 championship in Scotland. They also won the Canada Cup in 1996, 2000, and 2005, and the Churchill Cup in 2004.
Farah Palmer was captain of the Ferns from 1997 to 2005, when she lost her captaincy due to a shoulder injury. That year, she was honoured as International Women's (Rugby) Personality of the Year at the IRB Awards. For the 5th Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada, Palmer fought her way back into the team and again led the it to World Cup victory. After the win, Palmer announced her retirement from the Black Ferns in September 2006.
While rugby is the most popular spectator game in New Zealand, the Black Ferns have suffered in the past from similar problems to any women's sport: under-funding, lack of support and lack of publicity. The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and IRB have been criticised for not doing more to promote women's rugby, although support is beginning to improve in those organisations, in large part due to the Ferns' successes. The NZRU started funding the Black Ferns in 1995, thus giving a great boost to their game. Accordingly, the Black Ferns have benefitted from being included in NZRU High Performance initiatives. Along with professional coaches the team has had access to professional development resources such as analysis. In more recent times, the team's profile has risen greatly at a grassroots level, due in great part to their string of successes, and it is increasingly seen to be a national team on the same basis as any other.
In January 2010, the Women's Provincial Championship (WPC) came under severe threat after the NZRU announced that the championship series would have to go due to budget cuts. As the championship was a prime builder of training, skill and competition for New Zealand women's rugby, the decision was a shock for players and supporters, including former captain Farah Palmer (especially since it was a World Cup year). NZRU said women's domestic rugby was one of many victims of the tight financial times. They faced a barrage of criticism for their decision, and eventually reinstated the WPC after the Black Ferns won the 2010 World Cup.
The WPC was renamed the Farah Palmer Cup in 2016, in honour of the influential former captain.
The first four games listed below - played at RugbyFest 1990 - are not generally accepted as being internationals by New Zealand authorities. However, in men's rugby it is general practice to award full international status to any games where ONE side considers a game to be an international. As a result all games in that tournament have been treated as full internationals in this article.
^"Sport, Fitness and Leisure". New Zealand Official Yearbook. Statistics New Zealand. 2000. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2008. Traditionally New Zealanders have excelled in rugby union, which is regarded as the national sport, and track and field athletics.
Curtin, Jennifer (2016). "Before the 'Black Ferns': Tracing the Beginnings of Women's Rugby in New Zealand". The International Journal of the History of Sport. 33 (17). doi:10.1080/09523367.2017.1329201.