Women In Sport : Pre-Confederation Newfoundland
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On Saturday afternoon at the Hotel court Miss Madeline Soper defeated Miss Anna LeDrew to win the Dick Harris Cup, emblematic of the Ladies Singles Open Championship. - (Evening Telegram, 25 August 1939

Lawn tennis was introduced to North America by a Newfoundland resident, Mary Ewing Outerbridge. Miss Outerbridge had travelled to Bermuda in 1874, where she learned the game from British officers. The following year, she left Bermuda to reside with her brothers, who were living on Staten Island, New York. One brother, A. Emilius Outerbridge, was a director of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club, and he arranged for Mary to set up a tennis court on the club grounds. In 1880, the first National Lawn Tennis Tournament was held on Staten Island.

In St. John’s, the first tennis courts were built on the grounds of private residences, including that of William

The Newfoundland Archery and Lawn Tennis Club (later renamed the Newfoundland Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club) was established on Forest Road in 1876, which served both as a social and athletic club.

Other clubs were established in St. John’s, including the Terra Nova Tennis and Country Club, the Bally Haly Club, the Bowring Park Municipal Court, the Mount Pearl Courts and Riverdale. These were private clubs that held their own inter-club tournaments.

Tennis clubs were soon established in Trinity, Clarke’s Beach, Buchans, Grand Falls and Corner Brook. The Corner Brook club had many British members who were employees of the Bowater’s Mill. A team from the Bally Haly Country Club traveled to the Aero Tennis Club in Harbour Grace in 1923, to participate in the first inter-community tournament.

In 1935, the Newfoundland Lawn Tennis Association was founded and organized the first all-Newfoundland Tennis Tournament. Teams from Harbour Grace, Buchans, Grand Falls and the four city clubs participated. The Lever Brothers Ltd. provided the trophy prize for club competition. The Dick Harris Trophy was the prize for Ladies Singles. The Association held official tournaments until 1939, when it elected to suspend the competitions for the duration of the war with so many members having enlisted. Tournaments resumed in 1947. In 1948, Mary (Brien) Kelsey became the first woman to win the “Grand Slam,” winning the ladies’ singles, ladies’ doubles and mixed matches.


SANL 1.47.008
St. John's Tennis Club [ca.1900]

SANL 1.47.014

Riverdale Tennis Court - Robinson's Hill top tennis player 1937

First Row, left to right:
Anne Emerson, Lenora Paterson, June Hunt, Carla Emerson

Second Row, left to right:
Normie Winter, Munore Baird, Peggy Owen, Mrs. Emerson, Clifford Gardiner, Ruth Chalker, Ella Steele, David Howitt, Owen Carter

Third Row, left to right:

Doug Pinsent, Aaron Feder, Jimmy Watson, Bill Collingwood, Carl Johnston, Herb Feder, Edgar House

PANL C1-142
Riverview - Sir William Whiteway's estate

Trinity Tennis Club 1900

Front Row:
Emmie Collins, Blanche Earle, Edith Lillian Mallam, Effie Morris Tulk, Winnie Hollands Morris, Stephen Morris, Beatrice (Lilly) Noel, Faith Hollands Rusted, Bess Green

Back Row:
Sophie Pittman Gent, Rachael White, Ettie White, Fanny Collis, Sam Grant, Lill Fowlow Morris, Nellie Christian Pickering, Pet Hollands, Frances Pittman Erikson, John Lockyer, Minnis Ash ?, Floss Pittman Mews, Bess Ash Foster, Orlando Morris, Rev. C.W. Hollands, [Mrs. ?] Pittman, Fredricia White Stickings ?, Dr. Arthur White, Charles Green

Courtesy of The Trinity Historical Society Archives

NLTA 1939 tennis trophies
NLTA 1939 tennis trophies
SANL - Jack V. Rabbitts fonds

Newfoundland Tennis Championships Ladies Singles 1947
Newfoundland Tennis Championships Ladies Singles 1947
Courtesy of SANL - Jack V. Rabbitts fonds


Edith Dean
Audio "I'm a real sports girl!"

Frances Godden
Audio "Tennis in Mount Pearl"
Audio "Proper Dress"
Audio "Going to Harbour Grace"
Audio "An Extensive Tennis Career"

Mary Kelsey
Audio "Men Were Written Up More Than Women"
Audio "The Tennis Courts"

Vera Taylor
Audio "In The English Tradition"
Audio "Playing With Sir Vincent Jones"
Audio "Competing in Tennis Tournaments"

Olive Wilcox
Audio "Playing Tennis"
Audio "Summer Tournaments"