Women Can Play Chess!
This is about women and it's about chess - a century ago, before Women's sufferage, before the Women's Liberation Movement, before the ERA.
This is back when women were Ladies and men were Gentlemen.
Almost 50 years had gone by since Staunton put on the First International Chess Tournament in London. The Ladies' Chess Club of London in conjunction with the Women's Chess Club of New York, with the help of some prominent players such as Harry Nelson Pillsbury and Joseph Blackburne as well as that of some influential individuals, organized the First International Ladies' Chess Congress. This was in 1897.
Mrs. Worrall provided the "key."
In front of Miss Hooke are four ladies in a row: Madame Bonnefin 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. At the top of the picture, close to the screen, is one lady wearing a hat : Miss Hooke.
-American Chess Magazine
The Ladies' Chess Tournament.
LADIES' CHESS TOURNAMENT.
The first Ladies' International Chess Congress, played under the management of the Ladies' Chess Club, of London, was finished July 3. The schedule of two rounds a day was strictly adhered to, one evening being devoted to the adjourned games. It was one of the most successful tournaments in the history of the game, no friction occurred, everything went on with the regularity of machinery and the Congress was a credit to the executive ability of the able match captain of the club, Mrs. Rhoda Bowles.
Games were commenced at the Hotel Cecil, in the Masonic Hall, on June 23, hours of play being from 1 to 5 and 7 to 11 P. M. The hall had only been engaged for six days and the concluding rounds were played at the home of the club in the Ideal Café, Tottenham Court Road.
Miss Rudge, London, first prize, $300; won 18½, lost ½.
The longest game of the tournament was ninety moves, and the shortest ended in a mate in nine moves. The proportion of adjourned games, considering the short hours of play, was not large, averaging about one game to each round ; the total number of adjourned games was eighteen, and they were all finished up in one evening. Lady Thomas had the largest number of games adjourned—five; Mrs. Worrall, adjourned, four. The prizes were distributed by Lady Newnes, president of the British Ladies' Chess Club. The Ladies' Chess Congress will be of great benefit to chess and from it may be expected many similar contests. It is really the entry of women into chess club life. It is reasonable to expect that women will work reforms in chess clubs that they have in all other lines where they have gained the right to equal competition. Miss Mary Rudge (pictured, above left), winner of the first prize, is a well-known London player, ranking in chess strength with the first class of the leading men's clubs. She is past middle age and has had a large experience in chess. Her record is very fine and stamps her as a steady player. She won first prize in a minor tournament at Clifton last year, and while considered one of the best players in this Congress she was not expected to make such a fine score. Mrs. Fagan, the Italian representative, winner of the second prize, is a sister of the well-known English amateur, Dr. Ballard. Miss Thorold is also of a chess family, her brother being the originator of the Thorold-Allgaier variations of the King's Gambit. Mrs. Worrall is well known to American players and her victory will be a gratification to her friends. Lady Thomas (pictured right) is a middle-aged lady of matronly appearance; she won first prize in the ladies' section of the Hastings tournament in 1895. Miss Field is one of the younger players of the Congress, steady and with good judgment.
Miss Field, Miss Gooding, Miss Watson and Mrs. Sidney each received a
Madame de la Vigne
Tim Harding did an excellent 2 part article on the First International Ladies' Chess Congress:
In researching this article, I came across two unexpected mistakes of mis-information. One was The Batsford Book Of Chess Records by Yakov Damsky- Page 292 which states "The English Ladies' Champion Mary Reid, who won the first women's international tournament in chess history at London in 1897." I never heard of "Mary Reid" and no search revealed anything about a chess player named Mary Reid.
The other was Lasker's Chess Magazine by Em. Lasker - Page 215 which states "Miss Finn won the first prize in the London International Ladies Chess Congress of 1897"
Kate Belinda Finn did not win the 1897 tournament, but she was the first British Chess Federation Ladies' Champion, winning the title in 1904 through 1905
~~ A few games from the tournament ~~