"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Eleanora Sears

This 1921 charcoal portrait of Eleanora Randolph Sears by John Singer Sargent belongs to a private collector in Columbus, Georgia. It was on display in the National Portrait Gallery in the John Singer Sargent, Portraits in Charcoal exhibit.
Eleonora Randolph Sears refused to comply with the limitations placed on women's behavior. She was arrested for smoking in public and condemned as “immodest” for wearing trousers. She made her most decisive mark as a groundbreaking athlete, participating in nineteen sports ranging from figure skating to boxing to football. Having garnered as many as 240 athletic trophies, she was especially adept at racket sports. Sears won the U.S. doubles tennis championship four times between 1911 and 1917 and became the first female national squash champion in 1928. In April of that year, she made one of her numerous long-distance walks between Newport, Rhode Island, and her home in Boston, covering seventy-four miles in sixteen hours despite pouring rain.

Upon her death, the Boston Globe proclaimed Sears as “probably the most versatile performer that sports has ever produced --not just the most versatile female performer, but the most versatile, period.”
John S. Sargent

Eleanora Randolph Sears
John Singer Sargent

The Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger had  this photo of “Eleanora Sears Smashing” on June 10, 1915.

Eleanora Sears Smashing
Miss Sears came to St. Martin's to play in the woman's lawn tennis
championship matches. She is playing today in the fourth round.

The Ogden Standard showed her playing ball in their March 20, 1916, 4 P.M. City Edition.

Boston Society Leader Plays Ball

Miss Eleanora Sears

Miss Eleanora Sears, Boston Society leader who is noted for her enthusiasm over out-door sports, is seen here playing ball at Coronado Beach California. She has just come from a canter across country.
And The Richmond Times Dispatch of July 13, 1913, shows her dressed for Polo.

Here Miss Sears in shown with a polo pony which the Chicago Daybook says she won playing dice.

This photo from The Indianapolis Times shows Eleo Sears completing a 47-mile marathon walk from Providence to Boston. 

The New York Times described her hiking kit this way:

Her walking outfit included a black woolen skirt and jacket,  thin woolen stockings with short woolen socks over them and heavy shoes that were cut low. The outfit was topped by a sports hat of white felt.

On March 26, 1954, when she was 74, she was observed playing squash in the Picture Section of the Ottawa County News.

 Still Going — A sportswoman all her life at 74 Eleanora Sears  is still competing. In New York she played in a squash tournament. She lost her match but gained admiration.
Miss Sears died on March 16, 1968 and is buried in the family vault at Christ's Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. (See Find-a-Grave). Her NYT obit begins this way:
In the early days of the century, when sports for proper young ladies seemed limited to such gentle pursuits as croquet, Eleonora Sears excelled in horseback riding, tennis, squash, marathon walking and numerous other athletic activities.

She drove motor cars in the first days of the automobile, was one of the first women to fly in an airplane, became a crack shot with rifle and pistol, sailed yachts with championship skill and indulged in baseball, football and even boxing.

Miss Sears, who was usually called Eleo, was acclaimed as one of the country's greatest women athletes and as one of the most. striking sports personalities of her time.
 It turns out that Rock Edge, Miss Sears' mansion in Beverly Mass, is for sale. You can pick it up for only $22,000,000. Even if you can't afford to buy it you can take a tour on YouTube.

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