Alice Ryan (1890-1976) – A Lawn Tennis Player In Her Own Right
By Mark Ryan
Alice Brooks Ryan was born on October 29, 1890, in Anaheim, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. She was the first child of Francis George Ryan and Matilda Ryan (née Brooks). Francis Ryan was a native of London, England, having been born there in 1853; his parents were William Ryan and Mary Ryan (née Adams). Francis’s parents, or at least his father, might have had Irish ancestors. By the early 1890s, Francis Ryan was living in San Francisco, California, where he was involved in land and property development together with the cigarette manufacturer Abbot Kinney (1850-1920). The latter, a native of New Jersey, is referred to as a “visionary developer” in some sources.
According to one source: “In September , Kinney & Ryan purchase a 1-1/2 mile long, narrow strip of sand dunes along the shore line south of Santa Monica extending from Strand Street to Brooks Avenue, [and] a 275-acre tract of partially marshy beach front land from Captain Hutchinson. At this time investors in beach properties favoured bluffs, but Kinney & Ryan believed that the time would come when the sand close to the ocean would be eagerly sought after. The property is bought with a long view to the future, and it is decided not to put any of it on the market. To encourage building, water was brought in, the tract was sewered, boardwalks laid, and lots leased to persons desiring to put up small cottages. Kinney & Ryan (Ocean Park Development Company) build a pier, golf course, horse-racing track, boardwalk and other resort amenities on the northernmost edge of their holdings.”
Alice Ryan’s mother, Matilda Brooks Ryan, was born on November 26, 1865, in Brattleboro, Vermont. Matilda, who was probably known as “Lilly” to family and friends, was the daughter of Francis Wycoff Brooks and Matilda Brooks (née Smith). One contemporary source states that, “Francis Wycoff Brooks was a California pioneer of 1850, a native of Boston, Mass., where he was born March 14, 1821. He was educated at Walpole Academy, Walpole, New Hampshire. Later he went to New York City and, with a brother, engaged in the wholesale paper business.
“When the reports of the discovery of gold in California became current in the east, he joined the rush to the new El Dorado. After some experience in the mines he, with his two brothers, Horace and George Brooks, engaged in the wholesale paper business on Sansome Street, San Francisco. He was a vigilante and did much for the establishment of law and order in San Francisco in the early days. The firm did a prosperous business for about twenty years, their field of operation extending throughout the state. The brothers, individually, acquired large property interests in the city.
“Francis W. Brooks married Miss Matilda Smith, daughter of Floyd Smith, a leading business man and prominent lay churchman in New York City, where she was born, reared and educated. The marriage took place June 20, 1855, and they came direct to California via the Panama route.”
Tragedy struck the Ryan family in 1898 when Francis Ryan died of a heart attack on October 8 of that year. He was 45. By that time a second daughter, Elizabeth Montague Ryan, had been born. Matilda Ryan remarried just four months after Francis’s death; her second husband was Thomas Horace Dudley. He had been born in the English county of Leicestershire on October 2, 1867; his parents were Thomas Melville Strong Dudley, a doctor by profession, and Emily Frances Dudley (née Draycott).
Thomas Dudley, junior, came to California in 1899, initially settling in Bakersfield. In 1896, he moved to Santa Monica, where he probably met the widowed Matilda Ryan for the first time. They were married in Los Angeles on February 11, 1899. On, or soon after, his marriage to Matilda, Thomas Dudley became Abbot Kinney’s new partner in the real estate firm Kinney and Ryan. However, Kinney and Dudley did not get on with each other and Dudley eventually sold his interest in the Ocean Park Development Company to three other businessmen.
In 1900, Thomas Dudley was elected as a member of the Santa Monica Board of Trustees, serving as Chairman of the Board until 1907. In the latter year the city government of Santa Monica was reorganized and Thomas Dudley was elected mayor of the city. Matilda Dudley’s marriage to Thomas Dudley did not work out and they separated, probably around 1910. They later divorced because Thomas Dudley remarried in July 1922, his second wife being a Louise R. Williams of Santa Monica. Thomas Dudley died in Los Angeles, California, on January 29, 1928, at the age of 67.
According to the legend, Matilda Dudley took her two daughters, Alice and Elizabeth, who had kept their father’s name of Ryan, to England following the break-up of her marriage. They first arrived in England on May 8, 1910, when their ship, “Cedric”, docked in the north-eastern port of Liverpool. What was apparently originally planned only as a holiday eventually turned into a permanent stay for Matilda, Alice and Elizabeth. Once settled in England, both sisters began to take part in lawn tennis tournaments there, although only Elizabeth, the more talented player, continued to do so regularly. (They had both previously taken part in tournaments from their early teens, playing up and down the western coast of the United States and Canada.)
At some point circa 1912, Alice Ryan met her future husband, Arthur Stanley Partridge. He had been born in 1882, in Leicester in the county of Leicestershire, and features in the census returns of 1911 for England and Wales, where his profession is listed as “slate merchant”. Alice Ryan and Arthur Partridge were married in Leicester during the first quarter of 1914. They would have two children, both girls: Elizabeth Partridge, born in Leicester in 1918, and Patricia Partridge, also born in Leicester, in 1920. The gap between the marriage of Alice and Arthur and the birth of their children can probably be explained by the outbreak of World War One in 1914. It is likely that Arthur served during this war in some capacity – he would have been only 32 when hostilities began.
In the late 1920s, Alice Partridge returned to competitive tennis, taking part in the doubles events at some of the German and Italian tournaments. Together with her younger sister she won the doubles event at the Lido tournament in Venice, Italy, in early 1927. In July of the following year Alice and Elizabeth again won the doubles title, this time at the tournament held in Pforzheim in south-west Germany. Alice was 37 years old at this point in time.
It appears that Matilda Brooks Dudley spent her final years close to her eldest daughter in Leicestershire. On August 28, 1940, Matilda died at The Warren in Beauchamp, an area in the Harborough district of Leicestershire located not far from Leicester. She was 74. Probate was granted to Alice.
Alice’s husband, Arthur, died in Chelsea, London, on December 30, 1951, an indication that the Partridges were probably living in the English capital by that point in time. Arthur was 69 at the time of his death. Again, probate was granted to Alice.
Alice Ryan Partridge herself lived to a grand old age, dying in Hampstead, London, in the final quarter of 1976 at the age of 86 after what had been a fascinating and rich life.
[With many thanks to Lindsey for all of the helpful genealogical information provided]
Last edited by newmark401; Jul 30th, 2013 at 08:49 PM.