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Signorina Fagan

Dec 14, 2008, 7:12 PM 1

Most people know about the First Ladies' International Chess Congress of 1897 and about the eventual winner, Mary Rudge, but not many people stop to wonder about the lady who came in second.

At the top of the picture, close to the screen, is one lady wearing a hat : Miss Hooke. In front of Miss Hooke are four ladies in a row : Madame Bonnefiu stands almost in front of Miss Hooke ; at her left, wearing a hat, is Miss Watson ; to the left of Miss Watson is Miss Thorold, wearing a bonnet ; and standing at Miss Thorold's left, without a hat, is Miss Forbes-Sharpe. The next row of ladies, commencing at the left of the group, is, first. Miss Rudge, wearing a hat ; then, without a hat, is Miss Finn ;  the lady with the glasses is Mrs. Stevenson, then Madame de la Vigne ; Miss Gooding, who is next, is very small—she has a badge ; Mrs. Muller-Härtung, wearing a hat, is next; and the end lady ot that row is Mrs. Berry. The five ladies in the next row, seated upon chairs, are, commencing at the left of the group, and directly in Iront of Miss Rudge : Miss Field, then Mrs. Worrall, and the lady wearing what Mrs. Worrall calls an 1837 bonnet is the favorite, Mrs. Bowles ; the gray-haired lady next is Lady Thomas, and the end one is Mrs. Fagan. The four seated upon the floor are, commencing at the left. Miss Fox, Miss Hertzsch, Miss Eschwege, and Mrs. Sydney. - American Chess Magazine, 1898


The first-place winner defeats the second-place winner:

The second-place winner (with the great score of 15.5/19) with the unwieldy name, Mrs. Louisa Matilda Ballard Fagan *, hailed from Naples, Italy where she was born on January 9, 1850.
Her mother was Italian, but her father was an American living in Italy and an avid amateur chess player who taught her to play at a young age.  Her older brother, Dr.William Robert Ballard, would become a strong London amateur and a leading member of the St. George's Club.



Here's a game in which Dr. Ballard offered his sister odds, and won in style:


Mrs. Louisa Matilda Ballard Fagan
Louisa Matilda Ballard married Mr. J. G. Fagan, an Irishman and officer with the Bombay Lancers.  His position dictated that they live in India for a period of time.  During her stay in India, Mrs. Fagan became an active member in the chess scene and even had several of her chess problems published in the City of London Chess Magazine (around 1875).  In 1882 Mrs. Fagan played in an all-male tournament in the Chess Circle of Bombay and was disqualified in her final round for being a female, despite the fact (or perhaps, due to the fact) that she has already won the tournament.  Upon appeal, however, her victory was reinstated.
Mrs. Fagan, now an English citizen,  was one of the founding members of the Ladies Chess Club in London which boasted over 100 members at its peak and survived until the chess-downturn following WWI.
Her other chess accomplishments include:
1st place in the Southern Counties  Chess Union in Salisbury Class II tournament (9/11) in 1898.
2nd place in the Congress of Kent Chess Association at Folkstone Class II (6/8) in 1901.
She won the the  Ladies Chess Club of London championship in 1902, 1903 and 1904. 
In 1911, Mrs. Fagan was elected co-vice-president, along with Kate Belinda Finn (who was the first British women's champion), of the Ladies Chess Club of London.
All her life, Mrs. Fagan was a feminist with an abiding interest in the suffrage movement. She was a member of the Woman's Emancipation Union and the Fabian Society.
Louisa Matilda Ballard Fagan died in England on August 11 1931 at the age of 81 years.
*the spelling of her name appeared as Louisa/Luisa and Matilda/Mathilda.  In many places she was referred to as Mrs. J.G. Fagan
The bulk of this information came from this Italian-language article

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