Some Turn-of-the-Century Ladies

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The first international tournament of women took place in 1897.  It was instigated by Rhoda Bowles who had also begun the famous Ladies' Chess Club of London in January of 1895. Many of the participants in the tournament came from that relatively strong club as well as other places across both Great Britain and the globe. What the tournament did more than anything was to spotlight, highlight and encourage these women players, many of whom were quite talented amateurs.  These ladies were, above anything else, pioneers.  Though greatly forgotten and unappreciated today, in their own day they had earned and attained the respect of their contemporaries.

Several of the ladies who participated in the internation tournament of 1897 have been introduced in an earlier posting. Mrs. Rhoda A. Bowles earned not one, but two individual postings. Here, I'd like to introduce some ladies from Great Britain who helped propel women's chess beyond the 1897 highwater-mark.

Let's start with Lady Newnes [nee Priscilla J. Hillyard], pres. of the British Ladies' Chess Club and the wife of Sir George Newnes. Sir George was a publisher and member of Parliment. He was also a fine chess player who contributed the 1st prize of the Ladies' International of 1897.

[photo from The Life of Sir George Newnes by Hulda Friederichs, 1911]

American Chess Magazine 1898
Lady Newnes

Lady Newnes, though not great in stature, being the same height as Her Majesty the Queen, has full compensation in being endowed with  an energetic temperament, which enables her, like her husband, to get through with the hard work of innumerable social functions with  comparative ease. She is a bright and witty conversationalist, and with characteristic large-heartedness is always ready, sparing neither  time, labor, nor money, to assist in charitable and other movements for the well-being of her fellow-creatures; but with all this tax upon her  energies and time, chess claims its due meed of attention. When, a few years ago, a few ladies conceived the idea of starting a ladies'  chess club, it was but natural that Lady Newnes should be asked to become its president, and it is largely due to her acceptance of this  office that the club has grown and prospered until it is now one of the largest and certainly the most popular of the chess clubs in London.  Last year, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Charles of Denmark (Princess Maud of Wales), Lady Newnes presided  over that unique event, the Ladies' International Chess Congress, which was one of the most successful and popular celebrations of Her  Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Lady Newnes was taught chess by her mother at a very early age. and when ten years old could play a fair game.It was a bright day in early  spring when the writer had the pleasure of meeting Lady Newnes amidst her home surroundings at their beautiful London suburban  residence on Putney Heath. From the moment one enters the hall may be seen on every hand the most charming appointments that luxury  and good taste can suggest, all contributory and in harmony with that delightful "Home, Sweet Home," feeling that is so marked a  characteristic of English homes. Lady Newnes spends much of her time among her birds, of which she has a great number, amidst a  collection of tropical plants and choice exotics in a conservatory which forms an annex to the main building. For outdoor recrealion she has  recently taken to cycling, and with her usual "go" has quickly mastered its difficulties, and now enjoys many an exhilarating spin along  country lanes. She is also devoted to music and almost her principal home pleasure is derived from the magnificent organ which was  specially-built for her as a birthday present from her husband. The drawing-room is most elegantly decorated in gold and cream, with  drapery and panels of silk tapestry, and the room bristles with curios and presentation tokens, which bear testimony of the very large part  which she and her husband have taken in the promotion of undertakings for public advantage. Among the numerous articles, we specially  noticed a handsome and richly-chased silver wheelbarrow, which was presented to Lady Newnes as a memento of the Barnstable and  Lynton Railway, when she performed the ceremony of cutting the first sod. This undertaking was due to the initiative of her husband, and is  but one of the numerous projects conceived and carried out under his auspices, which have added so much to the public convenience.  Another conspicuous artistic object was an ebony elephant, bearing upon its back a howdah filled with most exquisitely carved ivory  chessmen, the most handsome set we have seen.


In Womanhood, 1900, Mrs. Bowles tells us:

THE completion of the winter tournament of the Ladies' Chess Club enables me to give the portraits of the four prize winners.

Mrs. Donald Anderson came out with flying colours in the first section with the capital score of 6½ out of 7 games. Miss Dakin won the  second, Miss Read third, and Mrs. W. W. White fourth section, and in playing off for the prizes at the prescribed odds, the first prize winner  is Miss Read, [Mrs. Bowles writes a bit perplexingly here, by "first prize winner" she doesn't mean the winner of the first prize, but rather the first of the four prize winners she'll be discussing]  for whom I predict a brilliant chess future. Her style is excellent and exhibits a thorough knowledge of many of the openings.  She has carefully watched Dr. Lasker's play, and by making a study of his plans of campaign, has moulded her play upon the lines  recommended by the champion — an example which many older players would do well to follow. She is an exceedingly bright and clever  girl, and has a charming manner which adds much to the pleasure of playing with her over the board.

The second prize winner, Mrs. Donald Anderson, is one of the most vivacious members of the L.C.C., full of life and spirits, and never  happier than when in someintricatc combination which involves much calculation and thought to enable her to announce " mate " in so  many moves. She is a brilliant player, and has won many match games for the ladies' against some of London's strong amateurs. She is, I  believe, the only lady blindfold player, and once she undertook the task of playing four members of the club simultaneously, sans voir,  besides which she is a problem composer of no mean order.

Ever since she was nine years of age she has made chess her chief delight, and when only fourteen played a match of fifty games with a  well-known doctor in Zurich, where, with her parents, she was spending the winter. Fortune, however, did not favour her, and her final score  was only eleven games won. Determined, however, to have her revenge, all her spare time on their return to England was devoted to  chess, and no sooner had they taken up their abode in Zurich for the succeeding winter than a dainty little note was sent by this bewitching  child to the doctor inviting him to play a short match of six games up. The challenge was accepted, and much to the discomfiture of the  doctor he lost every game. She played in the Ladies' Tournament at Hastings in 1895 and won the second prize. In the following spring she  won first prize in the L.C.C. Tournament, and in 1897 won one of the special prizes given by Mr. Pillsbury for the best individual scores in  the club matches. It was in February, 1897. that she met another chess enthusiast in the person of that well-known strong player Mr. Donald  Anderson, and having great literary tastes in common, it was not surprising when twelve months later they made a match for life, and  characteristically spent their honeymoon in Vienna amid the delights of the Master's International Tournament.
Mr. Anderson has composed a large number of problems which have appeared from time to time in the Field, Westminster Gazette, and  other papers.  He intends issuing them in book form shortly, and as many are very pretty productions, this should prove a useful addition to  the chess library.  I am indebted to him for this month's problem which he specially composed for Womanhood.

   The third prize winner, Miss Dakin, is what I should describe as a "solid" chess player, concentrating her whole attention upon the game  she is playing and becoming quite oblivious to her surroundings, which no doubt accounts for the great accuracy which always attends her  play.  Chess has been her hobby ever since quite a tiny child, and it was with much pleasure that she made one of the first party of ladies to  consider the question of starting a ladies' chess club durng the early part of '95.   Ever since then she has taken part both in actual  management and also one of the best players of the Club where her promotion into the first class is very popular, and the good wishes of  its members attend her in the present contest in which she is engaged.

The fourth prize was won by Mrs. W. W. White, who may certainly be entered as one of the "coming players." Seldom is such accurate  play to be found in the fourth class as that exhibited by Mrs. White during this competition, and if she goes on improving as she has done  during the past year she will become a formidable opponent lor many who now consider themselves much stronger. And, indeed, she has  every opportunity, for she breathes the very air of chess, her husband being the well-known hon. sec. of the Kent County Association,  which, since his appointment has been entirely revolutionised, and brought from a dying association to the brightest, largest, and most go -ahead chess body of to-day. Mrs. White's father is the hon. treasurer of the association, and consequently much chess is brought into her  private life, and she has exceptional chances for practising with many well-known chess people who constantly visit for " chess evenings."
Mrs. White is a member of the committee of the L.C.C., where her tact and business acumen render her one of the most useful members  of the executive.


More about Mrs. Anderson:

The June 1898 issue of the BCM tells us:
On the 14th [of May], Major A. K. and Mrs. Murray gave  an "At Home" at their residence, West Norwood, to the Ladies' Chess Club. In the course of the proceedings a  silver sugar basin and tongs were presented to Miss Field (Ladies' Club), on the occasion of her marriage to Mr.  Donald Anderson, a member of the British Chess Club.

In 1895, after winning at Hastings, Pillsbury toured England and at  his recption at the Manchester Chess Club (both Steinitz and Tschigorin were there), he gave a blindfold exhibiton of 14 boards, all played by members of the Ladies' Chess Club.  He won 11, drew 1 and lost two. One of his losses was to Miss Field, the future Mrs. Anderson.

In October of 1895, Miss Field emulated Pillsbury by giving her own blindfold exhibition. Womanhood magazine tells us:
On the 21st October, the new head-quarters of the Ladies' Chess Club was inaugurated by a  novelty so far as ladies are concerned, for there was both blindfold and simultaneous performances given by  ladies.  Miss Field was the blindfold performer, and Lady Thomas gave the exhibition of simultaneous chess.   Miss Field had four opponents, and her play was fairly good, but unfortunately time did not allow of any of the  games being completed.  Lady Thomas' performance was also a great success.  There was a large gathering,  presided over by Lady Newnes, and the proceedings commenced with a musical programme.


from Womanhood, June 1905

MRS. D. ANDERSON, after competing in a large number of tournaments, and taking many prizes, has this year  distinguished herself by winning the championship of the L.C.C., together with the cup, which she holds for one  year, or longer, should she remain unbeaten. The photograph herewith is an excellent likeness, Dy Messrs.  Wicksteed & Palmer; still, it conveys but a faint idea of the charm of her personality She is bright and vivacious  to a high degree, infusing life wherever she goes. Combine this with one of the sweetest dispositions, and you  have Mrs. Anderson. Her accomplishments do not end at chess—she has many others, among which is her  great aptitude for portrait painting, as I can testify from the fact that one of myself by her hangs in my drawing- room. In chess Mrs. Anderson has essayed to do what no other woman has ever before attempted; that is to  play—successfully, too—several games simultaneously sans voir. She is the proud mother of a handsome little  curly-headed boy, whose father is Donald Anderson, well known in other circles, but in chess for his problems,  one of which recently took a prize in London Opinion. Mrs. Anderson is hon. treasurer to the L.C.C., and has  done much to bring it into its present position, which is second to no ladies' chess club in England.

a game by Miss Field:

a game by Mrs. Anderson: