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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Just recently I was looking through Althea Gibson's autobiography " I Always Wanted To Be Somebody." and in it she tells of how Sarah Palfrey was one of the players who not only campaigned to get the USLTA to let Althea play, but she also was the one who helped her get ready for the US Nationals by hitting with her. But alas, today most people can only remember the letter that Alice Marble wrote. Sarah's part seems to have been largely forgotten. It's a shame. It seems poor Sarah is often the forgotten one. From what I've read she was a top player and one great doubles player. I know she played a fantastic match in the 1946, US Nationals Singles. She beat defending champ Pauline Betz 3-6, 8-6, 6-4. She was ranked as high as #1 in 1945. It seems doubles was were she was really great. Teaming with Jacobs, Marble, Osborne, Budge, Kramer and Perry to win titles. But once again she's over shadowed in doubles by Osborne. I've noticed that when many posters discuss the 30s and 40s her name seldom comes up. Any thoughts on this wonderful player from the past ?
 

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Hi RoanHJ, pity there's no little purple man in your post. I like that little guy.

I have always been intrigued by Sarah Palfrey. She seems to have been a foxy lady in her time - a very attractive woman. I have a great shot of her hitting an overhead on one of my walls! She was also much married - as in Sarah Palfrey-Cooke-Fabyan-Danzig, and there may have been another husband in their somewhere. One of the husbands was Elwood Cooke, runner up to Bobby Riggs at Wimbledon in 1939. Born in 1912 which made her 29 by the time she first won the US Nationals in 1941 and she won again in 1945. A bit of a late developer in some ways. It's interesting to compare that with the fact that 23 seems like an ancient age in wonen's tennis these days. Palfrey seems to have had the misfortune of being overshadowed by Alice Marble (and possibly Helen Wills) when she was in her early to mid twenties - and my hunch is the Betz was a better player as well.

She seems like an interesting lady. I had heard about her campaigning on behalf of Althea Gibson. She also had some sort of role with World tennis magazine in the 1960s - I seem to remember her name appearing in the masthead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sarah was attractive. There were several women during this time who were very pretty. Kay Stammers was pretty hot. Anyway, speaking of her husbands, during the war she and her then husband Elwood Cooke teamed up to play men's doubles. They made it to the final where they lost in the finals to Billy Talbert and Hal Surface. And just for you Tilden. The little purple guy :bolt:
 

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I can't remember where I read this, but on the day of the 1945 final against Pauline, Sarah was asleep in a chair after a practice session when she was suddenly awoken by a slap across her face. I think it was Molla Mallory who slapped her and then told her that she just had to win the final that day because she was the last of them and Molla wanted her to win for all the old-timers.

Sarah wrote a good instruction book in 1966, filled with many interesting anecdotes, called "Tennis for Anyone." Althea wrote the foreword & Gladys Heldman the introduction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Zummi said:
I can't remember where I read this, but on the day of the 1945 final against Pauline, Sarah was asleep in a chair after a practice session when she was suddenly awoken by a slap across her face. I think it was Molla Mallory who slapped her and then told her that she just had to win the final that day because she was the last of them and Molla wanted her to win for all the old-timers.

Sarah wrote a good instruction book in 1966, filled with many interesting anecdotes, called "Tennis for Anyone." Althea wrote the foreword & Gladys Heldman the introduction.

Good old Molla Mallory. Boy, that was one tough looking woman. Another player who I like to call one of "Tilden's girls". Along with Jacobs and Mary K. Browne. Anyway, I've kinda had a grudge against her. In a nice sort of way :) In 1920, in the quarters of the US Nationals she's the one who beat Eleanor Tennant, thus denying her a chance at her own US Nationals title. I read the NY Times account of the match and "Teach" gave her a tough match but, oddly enough she didn't come to the net often enough to really hurt Molla. So, Molla beat her. :sad:
 

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Hi RoanHJ and Mr Purple! :bounce:

I have done a little research on Sarah P over the weekend. I actually found a copy of her book, "Tennis for Anyone" on my bookshelves. It has a foreword by Althea Gibson and an introduction by Gladys Heldman. The introduction reveals that all five Palfrey sisters held US national tennis titles (mostly junior titles in the 1920s, but Sarah was clearly the family star. She won the US National Doubles title nine times with four different partners - Betty Nuthall in 1930, Helen Jacobs in 1932, 1934, and 1935, Alice Marble in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940, and Margaret Osborne in 1940. She was twice the US National singles champion, beating Pauline Betz in 1941 and 1945. She won the US Mixed title four times with Fred Perry, Enrique Maier, Don Budge and Jack Kramer. She also teamed with Alice Marble to win the Wimbledon doubles twice and was on every Wightman Cup team from 1930 to 1939.

Here book is an interesting amalgam of information - tips on tennis strokes and how to start a tennis club - and unfortunately the chapter on "Gamesmanship and Sportsmanship" doesn't name names. There are some great phots including a series of photos analysing Althea Gibson's service.

Another book I have "Illustrated Histrory of Forest Hills" refers to Marble as one of the great women's doubles players, but says that in Palfrey she had almost the perfect partner. The other interesting reference I found is Helen Jacobs book "Gallery of Champions" published in 1951, which has a chapter on Sarah. Jacobs point seems to be that Palfrey did not have the stuff to be a singles champion in the 1930s, but that her confidence, match temperament and tennis technique underwent a transformation after she married Elwood Cooke in 1940. It was after that when she scored her greatest triumphs in the US singles events. Another footnote is that she scored the 1945 victory over Betz after taking a year's break from tennis to have her first child.

This raises some interesting questions - like how many Mums have won grand slam titles - and who was the first. I think that Mrs Lambert Chambers produced children at some stage. But Sarah P must have been one of the first. This may be one for Rollo
 

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I would guess Blanche Hillyard was the first mum to win a slam Tilden-but don't quote me on it!

:wavey: Great thread Roan.

Zummi's post was typical Molla! What a bitch-and I mean that as a compliment. She did something similar to Helen Jacobs in 1933. One wonders what she meant though by "one of us". My guess is Molla meant someone from the East. After Helen Wills took over all the women champs came from the west. Crowds took to cute little Sarah due to her origins (eastern and high class) and her looks. The serve and volley helped too.

Sarah's nickname was "Little Miss Almost". When she finally won the US Nationals in 1941 most everyone had given up on her winning a major.

Gallery of Champs is a gem of a book. Sarah also had a chapter devoted to her in Once a Champion. In that book she went into a bit of detail about her marriages.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I would guess Blanche Hillyard was the first mum to win a slam Tilden-but don't quote me on it!

:wavey: Great thread Roan.

Zummi's post was typical Molla! What a bitch-and I mean that as a compliment. She did something similar to Helen Jacobs in 1933. One wonders what she meant though by "one of us". My guess is Molla meant someone from the East. After Helen Wills took over all the women champs came from the west. Crowds took to cute little Sarah due to her origins (eastern and hifg class) and her looks. The serve and volley helped too.

Sarah's nickname was "Little Miss Almost". When she finally won the US Nationals in 1941 most everyone had given up on her winning a major.

Gallery of Champs is a gem of a book. Sarah also had a chapter devoted to her in Once a Champion. In that book she went into a bit of detail about her marriages.


Thank you, Rollo

Sarah came from a fairly well-to-do family. In the April 1991, issue of "World Tennis" Sarah mentions that her brother John Palfrey went to Harvard with John Kennedy.

Back then, players seemed much more loyal to their home state than players of today. The East Coast papers made a big deal out of the whole West Coast/East Coast rivalry. Players from California were even more specific. You weren't just a Calfornian, but either a Northern Californian or a Southern Californian.
 

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Zummi said:
I can't remember where I read this, but on the day of the 1945 final against Pauline, Sarah was asleep in a chair after a practice session when she was suddenly awoken by a slap across her face. I think it was Molla Mallory who slapped her and then told her that she just had to win the final that day because she was the last of them and Molla wanted her to win for all the old-timers.

Sarah wrote a good instruction book in 1966, filled with many interesting anecdotes, called "Tennis for Anyone." Althea wrote the foreword & Gladys Heldman the introduction.
I absolutely adore and miss Sarah Palfrey. She reminded me of the late Lillian Gish in many ways- very beautiful, not in a classical way, but the kind of beauty that catches one's eye when you see her, and makes you forget everything you were previously thinking, as if a hummingbird had just entered the room. I have a sizeable autograph collection, and received most of them by simply mailing 3x5 cards with letters and return envelopes to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, requesting that they forward them to the players' homes. I wrote to Sarah, mentioning I had a copy of her "Tennis for Anyone" book, and how it helped my doubles game, especially. Her reply is the one I treasure the most. Not only did she sign both cards, she responded with a lovely 2 page hand written letter thanking me, and (if memory serves me) encouraging me to press forward with my tennis. I'll try and dig it out tonight and scan and post it for everyone tomorrow.

Thank you for this thread- Sarah Palfrey was a great lady!
 

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Okay, my humble apologies for the slight embellishment, but it was only a 1 page little note. Still, very sweet of her. I'll attach it, but it didn't scan too well, as it's from January 1991 and showing it's age. It reads:


Dear Jeffrey,

Thanks for your note and Good Luck with your tennis. Keep it up!

Happy New Year!

Sarah
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
alfajeffster said:
Okay, my humble apologies for the slight embellishment, but it was only a 1 page little note. Still, very sweet of her. I'll attach it, but it didn't scan too well, as it's from January 1991 and showing it's age. It reads:


Dear Jeffrey,

Thanks for your note and Good Luck with your tennis. Keep it up!

Happy New Yeah!

Sarah

That was a very nice note that she sent you and thank you for sharing it. The only autograph I use to have was Martina Navratilova. Actually, it was my sister who got it and she's not even a tennis fan, so she gave it to me. I then lost it while moving. Yeah, I know how stupid could I be :lol:

Anyway, I was looking at an old World Tennis mag over the weekend and I think Sarah wrote something like how she and Alice went several years without being defeated as a dubs team. I can't help but wonder if anyone has ever compared their dubs record with Martina and Pam and how the two teams would stack up against each other.
 

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Re: Sarah Palfrey Fabyan Cooke Danzig

What were the names of her 4 sisters? I think I know 3 of them: Joanne, Margaret (nicknamed Polly?), and Mianne ("Minnie"). Margaret married Charles Woodrow. Mianne married Hill (unknown given names). What about Joanne and the other sister? Birth, death, and marriage dates?
 

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Hi RoanHJ and Mr Purple! :bounce:

I have done a little research on Sarah P over the weekend. I actually found a copy of her book, "Tennis for Anyone" on my bookshelves. It has a foreword by Althea Gibson and an introduction by Gladys Heldman. The introduction reveals that all five Palfrey sisters held US national tennis titles (mostly junior titles in the 1920s, but Sarah was clearly the family star. She won the US National Doubles title nine times with four different partners - Betty Nuthall in 1930, Helen Jacobs in 1932, 1934, and 1935, Alice Marble in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940, and Margaret Osborne in 1940. She was twice the US National singles champion, beating Pauline Betz in 1941 and 1945. She won the US Mixed title four times with Fred Perry, Enrique Maier, Don Budge and Jack Kramer. She also teamed with Alice Marble to win the Wimbledon doubles twice and was on every Wightman Cup team from 1930 to 1939.

Here book is an interesting amalgam of information - tips on tennis strokes and how to start a tennis club - and unfortunately the chapter on "Gamesmanship and Sportsmanship" doesn't name names. There are some great phots including a series of photos analysing Althea Gibson's service.

Another book I have "Illustrated Histrory of Forest Hills" refers to Marble as one of the great women's doubles players, but says that in Palfrey she had almost the perfect partner. The other interesting reference I found is Helen Jacobs book "Gallery of Champions" published in 1951, which has a chapter on Sarah. Jacobs point seems to be that Palfrey did not have the stuff to be a singles champion in the 1930s, but that her confidence, match temperament and tennis technique underwent a transformation after she married Elwood Cooke in 1940. It was after that when she scored her greatest triumphs in the US singles events. Another footnote is that she scored the 1945 victory over Betz after taking a year's break from tennis to have her first child.

This raises some interesting questions - like how many Mums have won grand slam titles - and who was the first. I think that Mrs Lambert Chambers produced children at some stage. But Sarah P must have been one of the first. This may be one for Rollo
From what Jacobs wrote, Sarah's career sounds a bit like Clijsters
 

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That was a very nice note that she sent you and thank you for sharing it. The only autograph I use to have was Martina Navratilova. Actually, it was my sister who got it and she's not even a tennis fan, so she gave it to me. I then lost it while moving. Yeah, I know how stupid could I be :lol:

Anyway, I was looking at an old World Tennis mag over the weekend and I think Sarah wrote something like how she and Alice went several years without being defeated as a dubs team. I can't help but wonder if anyone has ever compared their dubs record with Martina and Pam and how the two teams would stack up against each other.
With all due respects to Martina and Pam, who definitely were a great doubles team, the fact is they were not winning against great players. In the 30,40,50, and 60's the top singles players also played doubles and mixed. Therefore, it was easier for a great player, Martina, and a very good singles player to beat lesser players. Brough-du Pont VS Hart-Fry, King-Cassals VS Court-Turner, Durr-Stove, Wade-Court, Hard-Arth, Bueno-Richey, etc.. The same is true of the Williams sisters today, two great players against second tier players.
 

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With all due respects to Martina and Pam, who definitely were a great doubles team, the fact is they were not winning against great players. In the 30,40,50, and 60's the top singles players also played doubles and mixed. Therefore, it was easier for a great player, Martina, and a very good singles player to beat lesser players. Brough-du Pont VS Hart-Fry, King-Cassals VS Court-Turner, Durr-Stove, Wade-Court, Hard-Arth, Bueno-Richey, etc.. The same is true of the Williams sisters today, two great players against second tier players.
A player can be a great doubles player without being a great singles player. Pam Shriver was a great doubles player, especially when playing with Martina Navratilova, who was a great singles and a great doubles player. Shriver was hardly a great singles player.

It's not the fault of Navratilova/Shriver that they didn't have a team like Brough/Dupont or King/Casals to play against. But Kathy Jordan/Anne Smith, Kathy Jordan/Liz Smylie and Claudia Kohde Kilsch/Helena Sukova were among the worthy opposition faced by Navratilova/Shriver. It's not their fault there wasn't much more opposition, and even if there had been, they may well have beaten it.
 

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What were the names of her 4 sisters? I think I know 3 of them: Joanne, Margaret (nicknamed Polly?), and Mianne ("Minnie"). Margaret married Charles Woodrow. Mianne married Hill (unknown given names). What about Joanne and the other sister? Birth, death, and marriage dates?
I don't have access to Heritage Quest to get exact dates, but here's what I've gleamed from various sources:

1. Elizabeth (sometimes called Lee?") md Harold William Fullerton in 1934
2. Joanna md Rodney Brown and settled in Canton, Massachuesetts
3. Mianne (born circa 1910 or 1911) md Arthur Hill Franklin
4. Margaret "Polly" md Charles Woodrow
5. Sarah (youngest of the 5 sisters) born Sept 18, 1912

6. John Gorham (younger than his 5 sisters) md Clodette Roosevelt, grandaughter of President Teddy Roosevelt.
 
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