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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2004, 03:30 AM Thread Starter
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The Sutton Sisters

Some of you have probably already read this but maybe there are a few of you who are rather new to reading about the really early days of tennis. Since many of you got a chance to see Dorothy Bundy get inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame I thought I would share with you this selection from Allison Danzig's book "The Fireside Book of Tennis" It's actually a book made up not only of Danzig's work but many other writers too. There's even selections by Tilden and Lenglen. Anyway, this one is called "The Sutton Sisters" they played in the late 1890's and the early part of the 20th century. May Sutton was Dorothy's mom. This selection tells more about Dodo's family and their love of the game. It also gives you a view of the early days of tennis and what the women players went through.

The Sutton Sisters by Jeane Hoffman


There used to be a saying, "It takes a Sutton to beat a Sutton."
And because it did, the historic Southern California tennis championships were nearly renamed the "Sutton California championships."
Between them, the four Sutton sisters of Santa Monica-Ethel, Florence, Violet, and May-won the tournament eighteen times. May Sutton Bundy, who accounted for nine wins, won it first in 1900. Twenty-eight years and four children later, she won it again!
All of which gives an idea of the durability of the Sutton females and explains why no one in Santa Monica is the least surprised that the four Sutton "girls" are still going strong , still playing tennis, still the greatest tennis family in America.
Ethel, at seventy-two, plays doubles four times a week, teaches three classes of private pupils, and quips, "Only a tennis ball in flight can make me run!" Florence teaches twenty-five pupils on a private court on Margurita Avenue six days a week and grins, " Tennis? It's medicine. I feel great." Violet, twenty-five years an instructor at Marlborough, never misses her "daily doubles." "Little May," the baby who weighed fifteen pounds at birth, teaches at the Los Angeles Country Club and still sends shivers down opponents' forehands when she faces them across the court.
What made them great?
"An all-consuming devotion to the game that caused my brother Henry and me to go up into Eaton's Canyon in 1899 with two shovels, horse and buggy, and haul clay down to our father's ten-acre ranch in Pasadena to build our own court," declared Ethel, oldest of the famed quartet. "The court sloped over an embankment, so we had to run uphill for forehands. But it was one of ten private courts in Pasadena, and we were proud of it. We played with tennis balls minus covers, rackets with strings missing, and taught ourselves tennis."
"We first learned the game in England, where we were all born," explained Florence, the smallest. "Father was a captain in the navy. He had seven children:Adele, the oldest girl, two boys, the-after a lapse of four years-us four girls."
"Adele played tennis in a club near Ealing. She'd give her warped rackets to us youngsters, and my sisters and I played every game with them-rounders, croquet, cricket. When we came to America, we built the court, but we had no equipment. A nearby family, the Radcliffes, had nets and rackets but no court. We pooled our resources. We learned so well that Violet won the first tournament she entered (the first in the family too), the Ojai championship in 1899."
"Girls were faster in our days,' remembered Violet, whose children-May, Billy, Doris, and Johnny Doeg-became tennis stars. (Johnny was national champion.) "We ran more. But it's a wonder we could move at all. Do you know what we wore? A long undershirt, pair of drawers, two petticoats, white linen corset cover, duck shirt, shirtwaist, long white silk stockings and a floppy hat. We were soaking wet when we finished a match."
"Girls today have a greater variety of strokes, but I believe we had more fight and speed, even though nobody ever dreamed of taking lessons from a professional coach," said May, whose daughter, Dorothy Bundy Cheney, became a famous player. "Girls played the net even then. It wasn't all baseline. Our weakest stroke was the serve. We just hit the ball up without much windup."
"But ho May could hit that forehand!" enthused Florence. "She'd play all day without missing a forehand drive. She had power. When she won the nationals in 1904 and Wimbledon in 1905 and 1907, she weighed 160 pounds. Girls didn't worry about diets then May even beat a men. Our 'little sister' was the greatest of 'em all."

Last edited by Rollo; May 1st, 2016 at 04:08 AM.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2004, 11:18 AM
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Thanks Roan I read once that May had a habit of bruising her back because she hit herself with her forehand followthrough. She sounds like one tough cookie.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2004, 01:58 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo
Thanks Roan I read once that May had a habit of bruising her back because she hit herself with her forehand followthrough. She sounds like one tough cookie.

Here's a picture from Tennant's bio. It's dated 1905. From left to right: T.Finnigan, Florence Sutton, Goldmeyer Gross, Ethel Sutton Bundy,Hazel Wightman, Mae Sutton Bundy.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old Jul 14th, 2004, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoanHJ
Here's a picture from Tennant's bio. It's dated 1905. From left to right: T.Finnigan, Florence Sutton, Goldmeyer Gross, Ethel Sutton Bundy,Hazel Wightman, Mae Sutton Bundy.
Can you imagine playing tennis in those clothes?!? I imagine it's where the term "yours" first came to be heard on the tennis court!

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old Jan 12th, 2006, 10:19 PM
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Here's May in the 1920s, in her 30s after having children. Note the extreme Western grip on her forehand. May was what you might call a Steffi Graf prototype-running around her backhand to thump forehand winners with the first topspin forehand in women's tennis.


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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old Mar 17th, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Here are the sisters in action at the Hotel de Coronado, near San Diego, in 1905. Amazingly over 100 years later May Sutton's daughter Dodo Cheney is STILL winning US national events.


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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old Jun 7th, 2006, 10:04 PM
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Bump up--reminder to fix photo and post May's article from 50 Year's in Tennis (1931).

May deserves to be be remembered for being the first female American tennis star. Her Western forehand produced so much topspin the other women couldn't handle it. Her follow through was so hard she often had welt marks on her back.

She was teenager when she hit the big time, and with a typical teen attitude May scandalized the English by playing with her sleeves rolled up.

She won the US Nationals so easily in 1904 that she never returned til well past her prime, missing a chance to win countless times. She was still good enough years later to beat the reigning US champ Molla Mallory in 1915!

Last edited by Rollo; May 1st, 2016 at 04:07 AM.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 2006, 02:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo
Here are the sisters in action at the Hotel de Coronado, near San Diego, in 1905. Amazingly over 100 years later May Sutton's daughter Dodo Cheney is STILL winning US national events.


Just read that Dodo got killed in a match she competed in about two weeks ago against her doubles partner, 0-6, 1-6.

Not sure when she lost a match like that previously.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 2006, 07:27 PM
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Was May happily married or did it because it was acceptable. It seems she did it because she was programmed? I ask this because there seemed to be a limit of what a woman can do and they showed abilities by strectching the boundaries of feminine convention with their "rolling up their sleeves." Also, the serve.

In reading this blog, I'm convinced May Sutton could have been the greatest player but did not work on that serve because of "feminine convention". Because she had speed, footwork, strokes, and toughness. In reading about women could do in their time was run fast in sprint. Now that is considered masculine. These days it is considered feminine to run long distance because sprinters tend to have muscles where long distances runners have "acceptable" muscles.

Last edited by trivfun; Jun 16th, 2006 at 07:41 PM.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old Jun 18th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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May did have a nice little rivalry with Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman. Hazel seemed to get under her skin just a tad. May refused to shake hands with her after a loss and alsoat a another tournament, after a second set which she lost, May took a 20 minute tea break instead of the 10 minutes allotted.
This ticked off Hazel and May won the match.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old Sep 11th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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the Sutton sisters

A hundred years ago the Sutton sisters were the best players in the USA, and the youngest, May Sutton was the best player in the world.
I know she had 3 older sister: Violet, Ethel and Florence.
Does any of you know the year in which they were born?
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old Sep 13th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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Re: the Sutton sisters

Here's what I came up with from a Geneological Forum:

1. May Godfray Sutton1, born 25 Sep 1886 in Plymouth, England1; died 04 Okt 1975. She was the daughter of 2. Adolphus De Grouchy Sutton and 3. Adelina E. Godfray. She married (1) Thomas Clarke Bundy2,3 19124. He was born 08 Okt 1881 in Santa Monica, CA5, and died 13 Okt 1945 in Los Angeles6. He was the son of Nathan Pearl Bundy and Harriet Smith.

Notes for May Godfray Sutton:

May Godfrey Sutton, born September 25, 1886 in Plymouth, England - died October 4, 1975, was a tennis champion and the first American to win the singles title at the Wimbledon Championships.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old Sep 13th, 2008, 01:53 PM
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Re: the Sutton sisters

Children of Adolphus Sutton and Adelina Godfray are (these are May's brothers and sisters):

i. Adele L. Sutton22, born Mrz 1874 in Jersey, Channel Islands22; died Unknown.

ii. Charles T. Sutton22, born Jul 1875 in Grouville, Jersey, Channel Islands23; died Unknown.

iii. Henry G. Sutton24, born Jul 1876 in Paignton, Devon, England25; died
Unknown.

iv. Ethel M. G. Sutton26, born Jan 1881 in Southsea, Hampshire, England27; died Unknown.

v. Violet Sutton 28, born 22 Jan 1881 in England29; died 03 Aug 1957 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California29,30; married Harold Hope Doeg; born Bet. Jan - Mrz 187731; died 22 Dez 1917 in San Bernardino County, California31.

vi. Florence Sutton32, born Sep 1883 in England33; died Unknown.



Notes for Violet Sutton:

In 1920 she was living at 824 5th Street, Santa Monica, Los Angeles Co., CA; she had no husband, with six children and her sister, Florence E. Sutton. In 1930 she was a tennis coach residing at 824 5th Street, Santa Monica with her children John H., Doris H., Violet H., and William H.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old Sep 13th, 2008, 02:05 PM
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Re: the Sutton sisters

I will see if I can dig up some more. Ethel Sutton's married name was Bruce.


The Suttons were quite a dynasty-May's daughter "Dodo" Cheney still competes (holding the record for USTA titles), she must be in her 80s by now. Violet's son John Doeg won the US Nationals.
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old Sep 13th, 2008, 02:28 PM
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Re: the Sutton sisters

Here is May Sutton Bundy's entry in Find a Grave

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...=gr&GRid=22825



If she looks like a tough old bird in this pic it's because she was in her 40s at the time. This is probably a snapshot at Forest Hills. May made the semis over 20 years after she won it as a girl!

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