Long skirts and bowler hats-Pioneers til 1914 - TennisForum.com
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 102 (permalink) Old Apr 27th, 2002, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
Long skirts and bowler hats-Pioneers til 1914

Long skirts and bowler hats-the pioneers of the game deserve credit for the birth of women's tennis. Here's a thread just for them. They had to fight prejudice and hardships today's women can't imagine. Early opponents of women's tennis debated if the ladies should be allowed to play in public at all! For modesty's sake, the first major women's event(the 1879 Irish Open) was held more or less in private.

Add to that the pressures of getting married and having children, shoes and clothes not suitable for sports(such as whalebone corsets and long sleeves), and it's a wonder these women played at all. But play they did, causing a stir, drawing crowds, and even having a bit of contoversy too.

After 1914 this tennis world of the upper class was swept away by World War One. 1919 brought shorter skirts and a different style. Without the pioneers though, women's tennis wouldn't be where it is today.

Last edited by Rollo; Apr 27th, 2002 at 03:44 PM.
Rollo is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 102 (permalink) Old Apr 27th, 2002, 03:41 PM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
Link to a short piece on Charlotte Sterry-5 time Wimbledon champ.
It has a pic

If there ever was a first family of Wimbledon it is the Sterry-Cooper alliance. Since the early days of 1894 there has always been a Sterry or Cooper in the All England Club. They are as ubiquitous as strawberries and cream.

What the Renshaws did for men's tennis, the Sterrys and Coopers did for the women. There was the original Charlotte Cooper (Mrs Alfred Sterry), champion of the nineties. Her daughter Gwen (Mrs Max Simmers) and niece Valerie (Mrs Peter Weatherall) are still members.

I was sitting in the Members' Enclosure with Tony Cooper, now assistant secretary of the club by way of stockbroking in the City. He and his cousin, Rex Sterry (a committee member), are the last remaining males in a family whose very existence is woven in the tapestry of Wimbledon. They are both endearing characters, the one like Stilton and the other mellow as Gorgonzola.

'Ah yes, Aunt "Chatty",' Tony Cooper said. 'Of course I remember as a child being taken by her to Worple Road.

'Extraordinary, isn't it. You know she was in the days of May Sutton, Lottie Dod and that incredible Irish champion, Maud Watson. Aunt "Chatty" first won the championship in 1894, then five times in all, and I think I'm right in saying that she never heard the ball bounce because she was stone deaf. She was very accurate, of course, and she always knew exactly what the score was. In 1908, at the age of thirty-seven, which was getting on in those days, she was the oldest woman ever to win Wimbledon. That year she won all three events.

'Aunt "Chatty" used to live with her parents in a red-brick wistaria-covered house called "Founhope" in Ewell Road, Surbiton. In fact, it was right next door to the house where I was born. One day in 1908 my father, Harry Cooper, was in the garden with a chum of his, pruning the roses or wistaria or something, when "Chatty" arrived on her bicycle. He called out to her, because everyone was fond of "Chatty". She was that sort of girl. ' "Where have you been, 'Chatty'?"

'Propping up her bicycle, she replied: "As a matter of fact I have been to Wimbledon and I've just won the championship."

' "Oh, have you," replied my father, and went on with his pruning.

It was all taken rather for granted in those days. My aunt was, in fact, a jolly good player and even if she did wear a huge skirt almost to the ground and black shoes and stockings, she never served underarm and always used to rush up to the net. I remember that she cinched in her waist with a wide belt, the sort boys wear, with two silver buckles.'

Whatever Wimbledon meant to Charlotte Sterry, as she became on marriage, she was not overwhelmed by its splendour. Alter she died, the gold medal that she received as Britain's first Olympic tennis winner could not be found. Nor her Wimbledon trophies. 'Typical,' says Tony Cooper.

'I bet she gave it to the gardener,' says her son, Rex Sterry. The Sterrys and the Coopers were closely intermarried, and Tony Cooper tried to unravel it for me.

'Well, you see Rex's old mum (Charlotte Sterry and nee Cooper) is a sister of my father's and a first cousin of my mother's.' After she married 'Aunt "Chatty" ' carried on the tradition for tennis by laying a court at her home called Braemar Lodge. It was, in fact, laid the wrong way but this was no obstacle for 'Chatty' Sterry, who was never one to be put off. She had it moved round the right way.

Charlotte Reinagle Cooper was 30 years of age and a spinster, living at Surbiton, Surrey when she married Alfred Sterry on January 12th, 1901 at the church of St Mark, Surbiton. Charlotte's father was Henry Cooper (deceased at time of marriage), of professional rank, a gentleman. Alfred Sterry was 24, a bachelor and a solicitor, living at 6 Catherine Rd, Surbiton at time of his marriage. His father was John Sterry (then deceased), a Wine Merchant. Witnesses to their marriage were Teresa Georgina Cooper (Charlotte's mother), Harry Cooper, Emma P. Sterry (Alfred's mother) and John Sterry (Alfred's brother).

According to the 1881 British census Charlotte was born abt 1871 at Ealing, Middlesex. In 1881 she was aged 10 and living with her mother, Georgina T. (then a widow aged 39, born in America), her brother Sam. E. (aged 13 born America) and her sister Maud J. (aged 11 born Ealing). Living with them in 1881 was a boy aged 10, also born in America: Herbert F. Patrickson and two others, who were probably servants: Caroline Jarvis (unmarried, aged 29, born Nettlebed, Oxfordshire) and Lizzie A. Bye (unmarried, aged 19, born Reading, Berkshire).
Rollo is offline  
post #3 of 102 (permalink) Old Apr 27th, 2002, 04:28 PM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
A match report form the 1898 US women's final from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I've edited out some of the less interesting parts.
What happened on match point was incredible!

A Tennis Battle That Was Royal

Championship play breaks a record for stubborness and quality

Miss Atkinson Wins--Successfully defends her cup against Miss Jones--Latter meets with misfortunes.

Miss Juliet Atkinson is again lawn tennis champion of the women players of the United States. Good luck, superior physical condition and hard, nervy play enabled her to win yesterday at the Philadelphia Cricket Club grounds. Miss Marion Jones is the daughter of Senator Jones of Nevada.

The match scores were: 6-3 5-7 6-4 2-6 7-5.

This is a total of 26 games for Miss Atkinson and 25 games for Miss Jones. The point total was 185 points for Miss Jones to 177 for Miss Atkinson.

It can be safely siad that none of the previous 11 women's contests(from 1887) was there such an exciting finish.
To show the grand excitement of the contest and to tell why the crowded grand stand remained nearly filled until long after the dinner hour, it is but necessary to explain the score in the deciding moments.

Each of the plucky girls had won two sets,a nd in the 5th and deciding set the score stood :Miss Jones 5, Miss Atkinson 3.
All Miss Jones had to do was win the set on hand. In it the score was 40 to 30 in her favor. All she needed was one point to win the game, set, match, and united States championship. Just one little point, and here is where Miss Jones' misfortunes commenced.
In the rally Miss Atkinson returned and the ball struck a ba;; not in play, lying in Miss Jones' court owing to the negligence of the umpires. The ball in play glanced off and shot along the ground, so that Miss Jones could not return it. This made the game "deuce" and Miss Atkinson won out.

This brought the score in games to 5 to 4 in Miss Jones' favor. Still she had the better chance. Four times in this set she needed but a point ot win,and yet she never got it, Miss atkinson "deucing" it and eventually scoring the two consecutive points. Once Miss Jones had "vantage" and neaded but a point. Miss Atkinson's return went outside of the court and and the match then and there belonged to Miss Jones, but the umpire on that line failed to do his duty and decided, contrary to the fact, that the ball was in. This decision alone cost Miss Jones the match. This little Westerner deserves unlimited praise for her splendid showing iin this, her first appearance in a Us championship match without the age and experience of her opponent.,lacking her physicla condition and having been unwell for several days, she all but defeated a champion twice.

As to the quality of play, it was the best that has ever been put up at these tournaments. The rallies were often long and spirited and both played well and made some splendid strokes. Miss atkinson went up to the net oftenerand was very effective, but the game was distinctly a back court struggle. Both used a well-judged, hard, low fore-hand stroke with good effect,a nd did some remarkablt clever back hand work as well. As the club's poet, Mr. "Cliff" Patterson, put it:

Good shots on both sides followed fast
But some one had to yield at last.

One thing that told very material in Miss Atkinson's favor was physique. To use a masculine athletic term of condition, "She was hard as nails". She is light and very active and this enabled her to cover more ground than miss Jones, whose stocky stature and weight were no inconsiderable handicap.

Last edited by Rollo; Jul 17th, 2009 at 02:23 PM.
Rollo is offline  
post #4 of 102 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 2002, 02:47 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 1,567
Very nice posts and thanks for putting the thread up.

I always enjoy reading about Charlotte Cooper-Sterry, one of the first aggresive players to play the game and also one of the first (if not the first) at Wimbledon to server overhead. Definitely, a player to be admired.

Just a minor correction or maybe I'm just reading it the wrong way, but I don't believe Maud Watson was Irish. The author might be confusing her with Helena Rice, the first non-British winner at Wimbledon. But I'm not sure if she was a contemporary of Sterry's. Her Wimbledon title came five years before Sterry won her first.
Zummi is offline  
post #5 of 102 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 2002, 04:39 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
You're right Zummi-Maud was certainly British(English to be exact) and not Irish
She did win the Irish title in 1884-perhaps that's what got the author confused.

I'll try to post some more when I can. I have some booklets on early champs put out by Wimbledon years ago.

We've missed you, have you been on vacation? The old 80's and 70's threads have been relocated here to the Blast and need some jump starting. Have a look at the Martina thread too and let Adrian know what you think of Marti's 1980 Colgate win being called an exhibition! Believe or not Zummi, you'll notice I defended you in your absence

See you around
Rollo is offline  
post #6 of 102 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2002, 02:41 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 1,567
No, I've been around. Just hadn't posted much since it appears the board has changed so much! Not that it's a bad thing, it all just looked rather new to me at first.

Thank you for the website plug on the Martina thread I didn't post anything there b/c I didn't want it to look like I was interrupting the flow or trying to get some attention. Adrian was doing a good job posting the results and everyone seems to have enjoyed it.

Yes, the 1980 Colgate series was not an exhibition - but the Tokyo results still count for official head-to-heads

P.S. I know you mean well, but please don't refer to Martina as Marti! Try Tina or Mar or Tini (she hates being called that, btw!) or Pluto or whatever, but please no Marti! That's just too "Hingish" for me!
Zummi is offline  
post #7 of 102 (permalink) Old May 2nd, 2002, 03:46 PM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
I'll try and remember not to call Martina "Marti". I'll need reminding though
Yes, it's a good thing Adrian was posting results, I just like for facts to be right, because as you know, someone else comes along, picks it up, and accepts it as gospel truth. This is a real problem these days due to the internet!

When I was digging around in the Library of Congress last week I found something eye-opening. It was in a 1910 issue of American Lawn Tennis.
It states that the Australasian final that year was won by Rose Payten. Most record books give 1922 as the first Aussie women's title! It's a mystery I'd like to get to the bottom of.
Rollo is offline  
post #8 of 102 (permalink) Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
Here's a piece on early women's clothing. For the most part these early women came from the upper classes. While this made their lives more comfortable than most, it actually made tennis a painful activity if contested vigourously. Clothes were starched, some so heavily the women creaked as they ran! Corsets of whalebone sometimes cut into flesh. Elizabeth Ryan, 19 times a wimbledon doubles winner, recalled that before the war in women's locker rooms one could often see blood-stained corsets.

Early womens tennis fashion

When women first began to play tennis, in the 1860s, heavy material like flannel or serge was deemed suitable, with the addition of a bustle or even furs, but by the time Maud Watson won the first Wimbledon Ladies’ Championship in 1884 white clothing had become popular since it helped to mask perspiration, the dreaded consequence of running.

Miss Watson, 19 years old and a vicar’s daughter, was all in white as she defeated her older sister, Lilian, in the final, but it was a constricting outfit, a bustled two-piece costume, topped by a sporty male straw boater. If that was not an early fashion statement, what is?

By the time the 15-year-old Lottie Dod won Wimbledon three years later her calf-length skirts had to be seen as acceptable, since they also formed part of her school uniform. But even by the turn of the century Miss Dod was pleading for “a suitable attire for women’s tennis which does not impede breathing.”

In 1905 along came the American May Sutton, who at home in California had taken to playing in her father’s shirts because of the extra freedom of movement they offered. That year she caused a stir, not merely by winning Wimbledon but by doing so after rolling back her cuffs and revealing her wrists. The sleeves on her dress, she complained, were “too long and too hot.”

By the time Dorothea Lambert Chambers, Wimbledon’s champion seven times between 1903 and 1914, came on the scene hats and bustles had disappeared but she triumphed on court while wearing two or three stiff petticoats, as well as corsets. All this was to change in 1919, the first Wimbledon to be staged after the First World War, by the daring Frenchwoman, Suzanne Lenglen.

Elizabeth Ryan, winner of 19 Wimbledon titles, said memorably of Lenglen, “All women players should go on their knees in thankfulness to Suzanne for delivering them from the tyranny of corsets.” Not only the corsets had vanished when Lenglen breezed into tennis history. She wore a flimsy and revealing calf-length cotton frock with short sleeves, as much a sensation at the time as Gussie Moran just after the Second World War. To this outfit Lenglen was to add flamboyant extras, such as several yards of coloured silk chiffon and, another first for women, a headband. Shiny white stockings, rolled to the knee, also caused a mixture of apoplexy and ecstasy.


Old values went out the window in 1919. representing a failed generation that had ruined Europe with war. The old guard cheered against Lenglen that year, but her victory was one of fashion as well. By 1920 half the women in the world wanted Suzanne's "look".
Rollo is offline  
post #9 of 102 (permalink) Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 01:20 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
Early images of Wimbledon:

Rollo is offline  
post #10 of 102 (permalink) Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 01:22 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
a lady plays tennis: 1915

Rollo is offline  
post #11 of 102 (permalink) Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 01:33 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
The "Little Wonder"

Lottie Dod was the first prodigy, winning matches and capturing her first event(Waterloo) at the age of 13! The press dubbed her "the little wonder". The older women she came up against had to wear long skirts as they were "proper" for 'ladies". As a schoolgirl Lottie could run about more freely in shorter skirts. Cheered by rowdy crowds who loved the idea of a "girl". it can be imagined that she was less than popular with the other women.

Last edited by Rollo; Jun 23rd, 2002 at 12:46 PM.
Rollo is offline  
post #12 of 102 (permalink) Old Jun 24th, 2002, 10:30 AM
Sam L's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Cryosphere
Posts: 39,717
Thanx for this thread Rollo very interesting don't have time to read it all yet

Dancing and Skating through Life

Sam L is offline  
post #13 of 102 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2002, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
A funny story from the first US champion Ellen Hansell. Sounds like Billie Jean King would have loved the crowd. I can't imagine what Capriati would think!

EllenHansell-1887 US winner

The following is from the Tennis hall of Fame:

The original U.S. female champion, Ellen Forde Hansell Allerdice was a Philadelphian who won the title in 1887, in her hometown, not long before her 18th birthday. She beat Laura Knight, 6-1, 6-0, at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, but lost the title the following year to Bertha Townsend, and wasn't a factor again. A right-hander, she served sidearm, as, she said, did most of the women in that inaugural.

Forty-four years later, she recalled that she had been an anemic child, who showed some "enthusiasm and aptitude" for tennis. Her mother was advised by the family doctor to take Ellen out of school and put her on a court daily to build herself up. She remembered her mother making her tennis dresses of red plaid gingham: "A red felt hat topped the tight-collared and be-corseted body. I also wore a blazer of red and blue stripes ...we did now and then grip our overdraped, voluminous skirts with our left hand to give us a bit more limb freedom when dashing to make a swift, snappy stroke, every bit as well placed as today, but lacking the force and great physical strength of the modern girl. Is it possible for you to envision the gallery? A loving, but openly prejudiced crowd standing within two feet of the court lines, calling out hurrahs of applause plus groans of disappointment, and some suggestive criticism, such as: 'Run to the net.''Place it to her left.' 'Don't dare lose this game.'"
Rollo is offline  
post #14 of 102 (permalink) Old Aug 13th, 2002, 07:12 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846

HUSTLE AND BUSTLE: Maud Watson, a tennis champ in the late 1800s (illustrated here in an 1886 drawing), "provoked much gossip by running about the court in her ankle-length white dress," reported the BBC News in 1998. Watson won Wimbledon's first two ladies' singles championships in 1884 and 1885, beating sister Lilian at the first one

* The "busltle" is the frilly thing on her back at waist level*
Rollo is offline  
post #15 of 102 (permalink) Old Aug 16th, 2002, 06:46 AM Thread Starter
Moderator - BFTP
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 24,846
Early American champ Eleanora Randolph Sears.

Eleanora went against all conservative efforts to control women’s behavior in the late 1800s. She was the first woman to receive nationwide publicity for playing sports. She excelled in any sport she attempted. She won 240 trophies in her sport career that lasted seventy years.

ERS was the four-times National Women's Double tennis champion in the 1911-17 period, but her tennis playing ability paled in comparison to the publicity she got when she decided to roll up her sleeves during a hectic match.

She was famous for breaking a number of taboos. One was in 1915, when she rode astride a horse at the National Horse Show. Until then women had always rode sidesaddle. .

ERS refused to conform to the requirement that women to wear corsets which restricted breathing under even normal conditions and especially when they engaged in sports activities.

Being from a prominent family gave Sears a forum to promote her beliefs-one of which was women should get the vote. She drove her own car(rare in those days) seen here: It's a 1914 Rolls Royce.

She dared wear jodpurs onto a men's polo field to ask that she be allowed to play with the men. The shocked judges refused and a mother's club passed a resolution requesting ERS wear proper women's attire. She then took to wearing trousers almost exclusively. She got her way, being the first woman to play polo vs. men in 1928.
She was also a noted walker, often walking huge distances. She walked the 47 miles between Boston and Providence, RI in under ten hours.
Her wealth allowed her to be eccentric and pursue her own ways. She did, doing whatever she damn well pleased

Glenn Stout did an article on her in September of 1993 in "New England Sport".

Last edited by Rollo; Aug 16th, 2002 at 07:53 AM.
Rollo is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the TennisForum.com forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome