GRAY, MARY (Mary Gray Gray) Bermuda
Born circa 1860 or 1861 in Bermuda
Died 14 June 1947 at “Wentworth”, in Paget, Bermuda.
A seminal figure in lawn tennis history-she won the first Bermuda Championships in 1876. This is the first or second women’s tennis tournament in modern tennis history. Ireland also had a women’s event in 1876.
Mary Gray was born in Bermuda and lived at 'Clermont', Paget, the Gray's family home (see figue 2) where she played tennis on an improvised court and became a very enthusiastic player. Since children were not supposed to take part in games with any other adults, Mary found herself a partner of her own age to play against, a Miss Wood who was the daughter of the Chief Justice Mr. T.L. Wood. The pair played on the narrow 'court' using 'bats' made of wood and uncovered balls.
Mary lived at “Clermont House”, in Paget, Bermuda. In an article she wrote for American Lawn Tennis ('A Bermuda Tournament', 15 September 1924, p.534) Mary Gray explained how she came to play with one of the first private sets to have been brought over in 1875 by 'An elderly gentleman in Bermuda [said to be a Mr. Middleton who visited Britain in 1873] who saw the game advertised and sent to England for a set of net, poles, racquets, etc. On it's arrival he was so horrified at the idea of ladies playing such an undignified game that in order to prevent his equally elderly wife from attempting to take it up he decided to dispose of the whole concern - thus it came into our possession and the ball was started rolling in Berumda.' The set was in fact given to Sir Brownlow Gray, Mary's father by Mr. Middleton and although Gray himself was never an active participant in the game, Mary and Miss Wood were so enthusiastic that they were largely responsible for the game's growth in popularity in Bermuda and their games are recorded in a diary kept by Miss Gray (Todd, T., The Tennis Players, from Pagan Rites to Strawberries and Cream, Gurnsey: Vallancey, 1979, p.164). Mr. Wood even had a further set of racquets made for them and built a court at his home, "Dudley".
It is also likely, however, that Mary was introduced to the game by her brother Sir Reginald Gray, who who was one four gentlemen to have played the first game of lawn tennis at Wimbledon in 1874 and was also the 1874 World Croquet Champion. It is very probable that he brought a set back with him on his return from studying for the Bar at the Inner Temple in that year (Todd, T., The Tennis Players, ibid, 1979, p.164).
The first tennis tournament in Bermuda was organised a year later in 1876 at Admiralty House. Reginald Gray, pleaded that his sister should participate in the Ladies' Singles competition. There were only three entrants including Mary's sister Bessie and Rose Key, with Mary winning the tournament and defeating Miss Key in the final 2-0. Mary Gray noted -- 'The prize was the raquet which I still have: it weighs 9 ounces, the face measuring 8 x 10 inches and the handle sixteen inches. It had a red velvet handle covering (which I promptly tore off) and an inscription on a silver plate...which contains the following inscription "Ladies Prize for Lawn Tennis won by Miss M. Gray Bermuda 1876" (American Lawn Tennis, ibid, 1924, p.534).
It was not until 1880 that the next Ladies' Singles tournament in Bermuda took place. This was then followed by a memorable visit from America by Miss Ellie and Miss Grace Roosevelt in 1889. In that year the first American Tennis Club, the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, was founded and the Roosevelts were amongst the first players to visit Bermuda. Ellie had become the American Ladies' Champion of that year and both sisters had won the Ladies' Doubles title the previous year. Mary Gray along with a Mrs. Erskine played against the sisters in the Ladies' Doubles Final, losing 2-1, and Mary then played Grace Roosevelt in the Ladies' Singles final, defeating the champion 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Active in Bermuda tennis since 16, she played annually through 1924 according to at least one paper. King George declared that she was his favorite doubles partner when he visited Bermuda as a prince.
Her niece Mrs. R. G. Robinson, and the latter’s daughter, Miss Beryl Robinson, were also players.
The trophy Mary won in 1876 may be seen at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
So far it has been impossible to pin down her exact date of birth. Ship passenger lists, a newspaper death notice lists her as 86 strongly suggesting 1861, yet a family tree has 1860. Circa 1860 to 1861 is the nearest possible range.
Gray, Mary. 'A Bermuda Tournament', 15 September 1924, American Lawn Tennis, p.534)
Born 27 November 1882 in New York
Died 29 March 1970 in San Angelo, Texas
Married Frank Marshall Welty (of San Juan, Puerto Rico), born 1875. They got engaged in July 1916.
From Plainfield, New Jersey.
Finalist at Orange (1907) and US Championships (All-Comers) in 1913.
The best of 3 tennis playing sisters. QF in 19011, in 1913 she was the US All-Comers singles finalist, losing 6-2 6-4 to Dorothy Green. 5 times US doubles finalist (1907, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1916) Edna also was the Mixed Doubles finalist in 1910 and 1911.
Edna last entered the US Nationals in 1921 as Mrs Welty and played in New Jersey as late as 1922.
Natalie and Mildred were her younger sisters. All 3 contested the 1907 US Championships. Edna and Nathalie made the doubles final, losing a close contest to Carrie Neely/Marie Wiemer 6-1 2-6 6-4.
The record of 3 sisters in the main draw at the US open wasn't matched until 1992, when the 3 Maleeva sisters performed.
In the 1920 census her niece Natalie is living with her and Frank. In the 1940 census she is widowed and living with her sisrter-in-law. She died in Texas near her sister Mildred, suggesting they lived together in later life. No children are known.
Born 25 November 1890 in New York
Died 22 October 1956 in Orange, California
Married Hart Scudder Farlee (1889-1962) by 1910 (in 1910 census) --divorced in 1917
One of 3 tennis playing sisters in the 1907 US Championships. Natalie made the doubles final with her sister Edna and the Mixed final with Herbert Morris Tilden-losing to May Sayres and Wallace Johnson 6-1 7-5.
Their Charles F. Wildey father was the owner of the Herald Square and Cosmopolitan Hotels in Brooklyn.
Daughter Natalie F born 16 March 1911. Divorced in 1917-she got $720 in alimony, a figure bumped up to $4,000 per year when she resued in 1927. Mr Farree was the grandson of the founder of the Western Union Telegraph company. The judge clearly wasn’t buying his pleas of poverty.
Natalie wanted an increase due to ill health. Her post divorce ventures included running a dance school, trying to write a Social Register of New Jersey, and secretarial work.
In her youth Natalie also was active as a sportswoman.
Source: “Mrs Farlee Wins Alimony of $4,000”. New York Times, 1 April, 1927, page 14.
HARGREAVES, “Molly” (Manon Gallie Hargreaves)
Born 11 June 1905 in Southport, England
Died 07 January 2002 in Sefton, North Liverpool, England
Married John Selwyn James (9 December 1906 to 29 January 1985) in April 1937
Miss Hargreaves hailed from Lancashire.
Played the main draw at Wimbledon 9 times , entering 1930, 1932, 1934-36, and as Mrs James in in 1937, 1939, 1946 and 1948. Her singles record at Wimbledon was 6-8, and she never progressed past the second round.
Born 16 May 1912 in Hendon, Middlesex
Married Kenneth Alfred Thomas Bowden on 26 October 1935 in Saint Clement Danes Church, The Strand, London
Kenneth Bowden appears to have remarried in 1959, but it is very difficult to trace what happened to Mary Burgess-Smith.
Played Wimbledon 1934 to 1937. Her win-loss record there was 4-4, and she made the third round in 1935.
The Wimbledon site also has her at Wimbledon in 1925, 1927-28, and 1933. Given her date of birth the earlier dates (especially 1925 to 1928) are more likely to be her mother.
Yugoslavia / Austria
Born 10 November 1911 in Vienna, Austria
Died 1999 in Cannes, France
Married Anton Strecker (born 3 May 1909) on 31 May 1941.
1939 French doubles finalist
1939 German finalist in singles.
Titles (at least 11 titles):
1951: Gallia Club, Cannes
Hella was the 1939 doubles finalist at the French Championships with Alice Florian. They came up short vs Jadwiga Jedrzejowska/Simone Mathieu 7-5 7-5. Later that summer Kovac was the losing finalist at the German Championships. In the last round she was crushed 6-0 6-1 by Hilde Sperling, the best clay courter in the world during the 1930s.
Kovac was a presence on the European tennis scene in the late 1930s, entering the French Campionships (1936-1939) and Wimbledon (1937-1939) until World War II in the autumn of 1939.
After World War Two she returned to Wimbledon from 1951 to 1954. As an Austrian she may well have been banned from playing in the late 1940s.
Hella was active as late as 1959, when we find her ranked #8 in Austria.
Yugoslav Rankings (missing several years of data):
Austrian Ranking: (missing several years of data)
An Austrian after her 1941 marriage, Hella was active into the 1950s. She won a tournament in Munich, Germany in 1953 and last competed at Wimbledon in 1954
POYNDER, JANE (Jane Charlotte Lee Poynder)
Born 1944 in Barnstaple, Devonshire
She was RU at Tally Ho! in 1966.
Jean Saunders Poynder is her mother. She competed at Wimbledon and in 1969 qualified as an LTA Professional Coach. It was then that the Poynder School of Tennis & Squash was born, to become Poynder Tennis Squash, Ltd. in subsequent years.
In 1973 Jane became National Coach for Women’s Squash and divided her time between the two sports. She represented both England and Worcestershire at both Tennis and Squash.
RODWAY, “BERYl” (Marguerite Beryl S Rodway)
Born 5 July 1918 in Birmingham, Warwickshire
Died December 1998 in Basingstoke, Hampshire
Married Jack B. Parker January to March of 1943 in Birmingham, Warwickshire
Sometimes listed as MBS Rodway.
Competed at Wimbledon in 1939 (she qualified that year) and from 1948 to 1951. Her overall singles record in main draw matches was 3-5 at the Championships.
[Thanks to Jimbo, Newmark, and Rollo for this biography]