American Woman

batgirl
Apr 14, 2008, 4:31 PM 2,650 Reads 5 Comments
 It seems like forever-ago, but it was only last Summer.  I had been reading about Frank Marshall, the Marshall Club and the foundation of the Official U.S. Chess Championship.  I was vaguely aware of the women's version to this, but knew very little of the details.  So, with a little help from my friends (OK, a whole lot of help) I researched that era of women's chess for several months and wrote about my findings in a rather detailed page with the catchy title, "The First Seventeen Years of Organized Women's Chess in America."

 

Rather curiously, just prior to that project, I had made a page, on a lark, that also examined women in chess entitled, "Love, Romance and Sex in Chess."  The curious element of this is that I have noticed that more people visit the latter site in a week than have visited the former site in toto.  It's curious, and it's rather sad. I don't mean it's sad because of the nature of human interest, but sad because the first site is really far more intriguing.  

 

The Championship site covers in detail such famous players as:

 

   Mona May Karff, who changed her name, for no apparent reason to N. May Karff and who was the long time lover of Edward Lasker, chess-master, go master and inventor of the breast pump, and who, in spite of anything anyone may have read to the contrary, was the first U.S. Women's Champion.

 

   Mary Bain, who was born in Hungary and was the first women to represent the U.S. in a Women's World Championship tournament (which Vera Menchick clearly won, but Mary Bain, along with 3 others had a close fight for second place, with Bain ultimately taking 5th).

 

   The elegant Gisela Kahn Gresser, who came from money, was well educated as a Greek scholar specializing in archaeological research, a painter and a sculptor and started playing chess only six years before winning the championship title.

 

There are also the lesser-known famous players such as:

  Nancy, or Nanny, Roos, formerly the Belgium Ladies' champion, who moved to New York, then to California where she could be found playing blitz chess in Herman Steiner's Hollywood Chess club and who co-won (with Gresser) the championship just a year and a half before her life was cut short by cancer.

 

The most lovely Adele Rivero who is often cited, incorrectly, as being the first U.S. women's chess champion.  When she could keep her nervous condition under control, she was simply unbeatable as she proved in the 1940 tournament that won her the title.  She played in the first and only Championship Match in which she got married the day before the match began (and Pearl Harbor was bombed on the last day of the match) - she lost miserably.  Adele Rivero went on play chess in Vermont, one time winning a 26 board simul +25=1.

 

As well as mostly unknown women players:

 

Marjorie Seaman  who won the first women's chess tournament hosted by the Marshall club with a perfect 11-0, even though her competitors included such talented players as Adele Rivero,  Mrs. B. W. McCready and  Miss Edith Weart. 

 

 Edith Weart who participated in and chronicled the early organized women's chess scene.

 

The persistent Adele Raetig who, although she beat the (male) Puerto Rican Champion one-on-one, was so disheartened after her performance in the 1940 tournament, when she was discovered buying a beginner's book on chess, she said humbly, "I thought I needed it."

 

Miss Rosemarie Fisher, former California beauty queen who moved to Milwaukee and became the strongest player, of either gender, in that city, and the Michigan women's champion. But never advanced because of Iowa's Mrs. Jean Grau who stopped her in her tracks.

 

It's was a great time in chess, clashing against the backdrop of the Second World War, with colorful individuals, lovely ladies and drama, such as the car crash returning to New York  from the U.S. Open in Boston, in which Mrs. McCready and Miss Weart suffered minor injuries and Mary Bain broke several vertebrae.

 

Is this an ad for my site?  You bet it is. 

But it's not in the least for my benefit.

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