Women of the Great Unknown


My friend, Deb, found this great article on Rosa Bradford Jefferson and Luella Mackenzie. Even after many months of searching, this is the first time I've seen Rosa Jefferson clearly.

American Chess Bulletin, January 1908

Woman's Sphere in the World of Chess.
            Rosa B. Jefferson
     It affords the Bulletin genuine pleasure to be able to reproduce this month the portraits of two more ladies who have made their mark in pursuit of the game in America. Miss Rosa B. Jefferson is well known as the chess editor of the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn., where she resides. It is likewise the home of her brother, B. B. Jefferson, one of the strongest players of the South, and who acted as referee for Dr. Lasker and Marshall while a portion of the championship match took place in Memphis. Both these masters can
testify to Miss Jefferson's skill as a pkyer because of her brilliant showing against them in simultaneous play. A truly representative Southern woman of culture, Miss Jefferson is wrapped up in her work as journalist and musician. Frequently in the summer time she has visited New York, but unfortunately at a time when women's tournaments or matches were not in progress. There is no doubt that this fair and talented Tennesseean would make a formidable opponent for Mrs. S. R. Burgess, of St. Louis, present holder of the United States women's championship.
    In Mrs. Luella Mackenzie, Iowa furnishes another example of a woman more than holding her own in competition with members of the sterner sex, Correspondence chess is her particular sphere and this style of play certainly holds forth special attractions to women devotees of the game, most of whom have neither the opportunity nor inclination for cross-board practice at leading clubs.
                                                                                        Luella Mackenzie
      Mrs. Mackenzie was born in Honey Well, Mo., and came to Moulton, Iowa, 35 years ago. In 1900 she became interested in chess and has been an untiring student ever since. She is a member of the Iowa State Chess Association, which she joined in 1905.
     Mrs. Mackenzie has taken part in all the correspondence matches during this time. In the 7th annual correspondence tourney she won the State championship without the loss of a single game. Several specimens of her play have been sent to the Bulletin by secretary C. H. Harmer of the Iowa Association.
     Judging by the following not uninteresting article on the subject of women chess players, the Saturday Review of London is by no means enthusiastic over the prospect of any daughter of Eve gaining undying fame in this particular line of mental activity.
     Ladies' chess clubs are being established in various parts of the country; special inducements are held out for their patronage by the promoters of national and international tournaments, and articles on the game appear regularly in journals which cater specially for them. Women have always played and taken part in the game, though probably never to the same extent as now. It is, therefore, remarkable that in the whole of its enormous literature there does not appear the name of any woman among the stars of the first, second or third magnitude. One may go through volume after volume containing thousands of games and not find a single one played by women which any editor has thought worthy of a permanent record.
     When the question has been raised before, it has been involved with that of the intellectual superiority of one sex over the other. To-day the answer to this would be totally inadequate and inconsequential. There are men in the front rank of players at the present moment who by no stretch of the imagination or the term can be said to occupy their position on account of exceptionable intellectual endowments. While the game always appeals to intellectual men and women, intellect is not the only factor which makes the great player.
     A careful examination of the games of players whom the world  recognizes as great, reveals the fact that the faculties and qualities of concentration, comprehensiveness, impartiality, and above all, a spark of originality, are to be found in combination and in varying degrees. The absence of these qualities in woman explains why no member of the feminine sex has occupied any high position as a chess player.
     There are many women who are earnest students of chess whose knowledge of the theory, principles and all the accoutrements of the game is
phenomenal. But mere knowledge can make nobody great. Taking results, good judgment is much superior to knowledge imperfectly applied.
     To all of which we respectfully submit that "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world," and that women as a class can well afford the loss of any additional prestige the game of chess might hold forth to them.
     The home has been and still is woman's chief stronghold, whence she can achieve conquests that keep mankind under permanent subjection. Surely, the average club room, with its smoke-laden atmosphere, is not the magnet to attract her and it is here where mere man obtains the foundation of his knowledge and experience which his "concentration, comprehensiveness, impartiality and originality," are destined, in isolated cases, to transform into the genius of mastership. That no woman has attained a high position in chess because of the absence of certain qualities, as alleged, clearly is not proven. The charge that no editor has seen fit to provide a permanent record for specimens of women's play cannot be laid at the door of the Bulletin, (see Vol. Ill and IV.) which proposes deliberately, and without apology, to add to
its store of such games from time to time.



Em. Lasker, in the September 1905 issue of his magazine, wrote an article called EXTREME CHESS VIEWS.

"In its issue of August 23,1905, the New York Herald publishes the following interesting letter without comment: To The Editor Of The Herald:—
   The game of chess is a great game, but, as a matter of fact, the truly wonderful chess players of the world have very seldom been remarkable
for anything else.
   Certainly, while there are plenty of instances of great politicians and great statesmen delighting in deep gambling, we cannot recall one who
was known as a first rate chess player.
   There is absolutely no excuse for the vague popular notion that great powers of chess playing imply the sort of craft necessary for statesmanship.
People are deceived by words. They hear of a "brilliant combination" in chess and of a "brilliant combination" in politics, and they think there is some analogy between the two. But look at what you really mean and you will find that a brilliant combination in chess is nothing in the world but a power of so anticipating moves, and the effects of moves, so as to bring a good many pieces to act on the same square—i. e., either on the same piece or else on the pieces which support it.
   The Japanese seem to understand the game of chess.
   But in politics a brilliant combinationmeanssomethingentirely different, it means a brilliant insight into character, a clear perception of the sort
of moral influence which will carry this point and the sort which will carry that, and a power of marshalling all the influences needed so as to bring them to bear simultaneously on the different persons whose consent is wanted to any policy.
   And in the past have not the Russians proved themselves masters of the great game of diplomacy?
                Walter Beverly Crane. August 21, 1905.

   Mr. Crane is entitled to his opinion regarding the value of chess playing powers but a few great men have :held different views.  The German soldier, Von Moltke, was a strong player, and once when defeated by a young officer in a game, he remarked that the young opponent had great talent for strategy.  Napoleon was a strong player, but we do not know whether he would be ranked by Mr. Crane as a first class player.
   Buckle, the English historian, was a master player. Anderssen, the world's champion before the advent of Steinitz, was a professor of Mathematics.
   Benjamin Franklin was a strong player.
   But why go into detail. Mr. Crane asks too much. Does the genius in one line of mental excellence always show great qualities in other lines ?
   Let him run over the lists of musicians, artists, poets, authors and other specialists. The probabilities are that he will find about the same average of breadth as he will among the great chess players.
   As a pleasant contrast to the narrow horizon of Mr. Crane we publish the interesting interview with Miss Jefferson, of Memphis, Tenn., who was
quoted at length by the New York World of August 27. It is possible that Miss Jefferson's ideas were somewhat enlarged upon by the clever writer for the World, but theSouthern expert is also entitled to her opinions, though they are rather more advanced than those of most chess players. It is also improbable that Miss Jefferson gave the World writer authority to state that she is the world's champion woman chess player.

(From the New York World, August 27, 1905)
   Fads and frills in the school course are outdone! Miss Rosa Bradford Jefferson, the latest advocate of an addition to the curriculum, would have every child taught to play chess as part of the education given it by the State.
   But Miss Jefferson is no faddist. The gospel she preaches is one impressed by years of practice and result, for she is herself a "chess child," and it is from the height of her position as the champion woman chess player of the world that she is urging upon educators a list of reasons why chess should be essential of a practical public school training.
   Miss Jefferson will tell you all this in the most delightful of Southern voices, with the soft drawl that lends the last touch of piquancy to a girl from Dixie-land. A member of one of the foremost families of the old South, she is a lineal descendant of Thomas Jefferson; and in the maternal line counts the distinguished Gen. A. P. Bradford  [perhaps Major A. P. Bradford of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry?]  among her forbears. As a musician she is widely know. Music is, in fact, her vocation and chess her recreation. But she declares with absolute conviction that it is to her skill in chess she owes a large share of her accomplishment in her art. She believes chess is the backbone of all other knowledge whatsoever and is prepared to demonstrate it to any doubting Thomas who strays her way.
   It was at the home of Miss Clay, No. 560 West End avenue, where she has been a guest for some days, that Miss Jefferson told the story of her chess life, in which the word "checkmate" has been so gloriously missing. With the defeat of such players as Pillsbury, Marshall and Lasker, Miss Jefferson has set the seal upon her genius in handling the chessman.
   Frank Marshall is the tournament champion of the world, having defeated all competitors at the St. Louis Exhibition's International tournament last year. Pillsbury's and Lasker's records are too well known to comment. But all three have laid down their arms in surrender before this cool, self-possessed little White Queen, who admits that she follows no system, but first feels the temper of her opponent and therefore studies to beat his game.
   "Men," said Miss Jefferson, slowly "are usually credited with being gallant where a woman is concerned, and allowing her to win. But that is not the case when it comes to chess. Somehow that is different." And a sudden smile discovered the dimples. "All my family were chess players, and, I suppose a bent in that direction came to me naturally. When I was six I already understood the game, and by the time I was eight I had defeated some of the leading experts of Mississippi.
Though I was born in Memphis, my early childhood was spent in Mississippi, and my first victories took place there. All my opponents were grown men. Were they amused to contest a game, avowedly scientific, with a child? Perhaps, but I assure you they took me quite seriously before we ended.
   "At the age of sixteen I laid low the then champion of Memphis, a player who was well enough known throughout the South. And from then on, I met and played many men with chess records.
"Except for the first few moves I rely on no set method. Everything depends on my antagonist. There is no such thing as chance in chess. It is all a matter of calculation. It is to the mind what physical culture is to the body, what manual training is to the hands. It inculcated accuracy and sharpens observation to a point that makes it photographic. Memory becomes a
series of pictures. The Germans are introducing it [into] their schools. Why [shouldn't] we do likewise ?
   "My knowledge of chess has made everything easier for me. It helped me in music to understand the principles of harmony. It is a help in arithmetic. It is a help in spelling. Just consider the intricacies of chess," continued the enthusiast.
   "The first move on either side can be made twenty different ways and the possible combinations after that are practically beyond computation. Success depends not upon luck, but upon brain. The attack, the defense and the capture are made before the eye of the enemy."
   The game with Dr. Lasker Miss Jefferson found the most interesting. It did not reach its conclusion, Lasker being obliged to leave after three hours play; but Miss Jefferson had the advantage and the judges awarded the game to her.
   This woman champion does not practice between games and has made no attempt to attain a professional standing, though she has won against the most noted professionals. She insists that in chess she is a dilettante - nothing more. Often she does not play for months together. All her meets with the experts have been at the Memphis Chess Club, of which she is an honorary member. Each of the celebrities has visited the city at the instance of the club, and, after others have been conquered, Miss Jefferson had invariably been called upon to defend the honor of the city.
   A year ago Miss Jefferson was entertained by President Roosevelt. She was introduced by her musical associate, Mrs. Theodore Carroll Reynolds, of Memphis, who gave a recital at the White House. But it was not as Miss Jefferson, the musician, but Miss Jefferson, the champion chess player that she was received. Mr. Roosevelt refused to consider her on any other basis than that of a scientist, for chess, he said, was a science, not a game.
    A brown-haired, gray-eyed young woman, with delicately modeled features and slight, graceful figure, Miss Jefferson is typically Southern in appearance. There is nothing in the softness of manner, which matches the voice, or in the little smile that plays so continuously about her lips, to suggest the solver of knotty problems. And all her chess battles have not succeeded in tracing a solitary line across her forehead.
   She is, however, tremendously in earnest in advocating chess as a study for public school children and hopes to see the experiment tried.
   "Once tried," she said, "it will prove it is all that is claimed for it - the best possible organizer of the mental forces."
   Miss Jefferson will leave soon for her home in the South. She has no chess contests in view at present, but will disregard no opportunity to prove her prowess.