So I'm minding my own business, browsing my Twitter feed, when I see a tweet about a woman I had never heard of who was known as 'The Universal Female Athlete'. For an amateur historian interested in women's studies, this is the ultimate click bait! I must know more! And click I did. This led me to the original tweet by the great folks at the National Womens History Museum. And on I went until my ultimate destination, an opportunity to purchase a biography of my quarry, Eleonora Sears.
Several links on Ms. Sears regurgitated the same handful of interesting facts. But the deeper I dug, the more great info I found.
The original tweet I saw featured a photo of Ms. Sears at the polo fields. Her attire (wearing pants) resulted in strong criticism and pearl-clutching from the stuffed shirts and corsets in Newport. Sears was an expert horsewoman and polo player. She also won several tennis championships. But her athletic prowess didn't end there. Eleonora Spears was also expert at just about every physical endeavor she attempted, to wit:
Walking - endurance walking was a thing in the 1920s. In fact a guy named Weston the Pedestrian was the Michael Jordan of his day. We're not talking walking two blocks to the local liquor store that seems like two miles when you run out of wine. We're talking dozens, hundreds, even thousands of miles. Sears once won a $1000 bet from a friend who bet her she couldn't walk the 47 miles between his house in Providence, RI and hers in Boston in under 15 hours. She did it in under 10.
- driving - considered an extreme sport in her day. Come to think of it, still is in some sectors (yes, Dallas TX I am looking at YOU)
Once when asked if she played squash, she replied, "No, but I could." She took up the game, and became the first female national squash champion in 1946. It's no wonder she earned the moniker, 'Universal Female Athlete'.
Sears was a real stuff-starter. There was nothing she liked better than being told 'no'. Women can't smoke at the club? Exactly why I didn't bring my ciggies - can I bum one from you? Women can't wear pants? Okay, see you at the polo field. Look for a woman wearing pants. Women can't drive? Tell that to the car dealer I just drove home from.
It didn't hurt that she was wealthy. Loaded. Old school, high society, related-to-the-Vanderbilts wealthy. She had the resources to do as she pleased. She chose to remain single, leaving plenty of time for pursuing whatever tickled her fancy. And what tickled Eleonora Sears was learning new things and becoming the best at them that she could. Sounds good to me.
This post originally appeared as part of the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge.