Eleonora Sears

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Eleonora Randolph Sears (September 28, 1881 – March 16, 1968) was an American tennis champion of the 1910s. In addition, she was a champion squash player, and prominent in other sports; she is considered one of the leading all-round women athletes of the first half of the 20th century.[1]

Eleonora Sears
Full nameEleonora Randolph Sears
Country (sports) United States
Born(1881-09-28)September 28, 1881
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 16, 1968(1968-03-16) (aged 86)
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Int. Tennis HoF1968 (member page)
Highest rankingNo.6 (US ranking)
Grand Slam singles results
Wimbledon2R (1923)
US OpenF (1912)
Grand Slam doubles results
Wimbledon2R (1924)
US OpenW (1911, 1915, 1916, 1917)
Grand Slam mixed doubles results
Wimbledon2R (1923)
US OpenW (1916)

Early life

Portrait of Sears (unknown date)

Sears was the daughter of Boston businessman Frederick Richard Sears and a granddaughter of T. Jefferson Coolidge (who was a great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson) and Hetty Appleton, and a cousin of Henry Cabot Lodge.[2] Sears' father was also known for playing the first tennis game in the United States, his opponent being his cousin James Dwight who brought the game from Europe.[3]

Sears was raised in wealth and privilege. She was acquainted with Corinne Douglass Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt, all related to President Theodore Roosevelt. She played tennis at a competition organized by Ava Lowle Willing, the wife of John Jacob Astor IV, and she attended the wedding of tennis champion Robert Wrenn. For a while she dated Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the sporty scion of the Vanderbilt fortune.[4]



Sears won the women's doubles at the U. S. Women's National Championships four times, including three consecutively (19151917). In singles, she was a finalist in 1912, where she was beaten in straight sets by Mary Browne. She teamed with Willis E. Davis to take the national mixed doubles championship in 1916.[5]

In August 1938 at the age of 56, she lost to Dorothy Bundy in the second round of the Essex County Club Invitational in Manchester, Massachusetts 6–0, 6–1.

She purchased the Burrland Farm for horses in 1955, then "deliberately gutted and burned [its mansion] down" in 1961 to reduce property taxes. She sold the farm in 1966.[6]

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968, joining her cousin Richard (inducted 1955).

Portrait of Sears by John Singer Sargent (1921)

Eleonora Sears rode horses competitively and was elected to the U. S. Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992. She also owned and raced Thoroughbred horses.[7] She was the first woman to play polo on a men's team.[1]

Sears was the first female national squash champion, a founder of the Women's Squash Racquets Association, and coach of the U. S. Women's International Squash Team.[1]

She gained media attention for her long-distance walks and hikes. As well, she was one of the first American women to drive an automobile and fly a plane.[1] Her habit of wearing trousers, both when competing in sports and in public, was criticized in media and social circles.[8]

Grand Slam finals


Singles: 1 (1 runner-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Loss 1912 U. S. National Championships Grass   Mary Browne 4–6, 2–6

Women's doubles: 5 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Win 1911 U. S. National Championships Grass   Hazel Hotchkiss   Dorothy Green
  Florence Sutton
6–4, 4–6, 6–2
Win 1915 U.S. National Championships Grass   Hazel Hotchkiss   Helen McLean
  Mrs. G. L. Chapman
10–8, 6–2
Win 1916 U. S. National Championships Grass   Molla Bjurstedt   Louise Raymond
  Edna Wildey
4–6, 6–2, 10–8
Win 1917 U. S. National Championships Grass   Molla Bjurstedt   Phyllis Walsh
  Grace Robert LeRoy
6–2, 6–4
Loss 1919 U. S. National Championships Grass   Hazel Hotchkiss   Marion Zinderstein
  Eleanor Goss
8–10, 7–9

Mixed doubles: 2 (1 title, 1 runner-up)

Result Year Championship Surface Partner Opponents Score
Loss 1912 U. S. National Championships Grass   William Clothier   Mary Browne
  R. Norris Williams
4–6, 6–2, 9–11
Win 1916 U. S. National Championships Grass   Willis E. Davis   Florence Ballin
  Bill Tilden
6–4, 7–5

Later life and death


Later in life she lived in Florida with Marie V. Gendron (July 22, 1903 – January 26, 2004), nickname madame, who, at Sears' death, inherited her whole estate. She retained half of it, including Sears' house in Florida, jewelry and works of arts, and gave the rest to six Massachusetts hospitals.[9]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Peggy Miller Franck (June 22, 2012). "The Mother of Title IX: Trailblazing Athlete Eleonora Sears". The Daily Beast.
  2. ^ "Six Hospitals Contest Will of Eleanora Sears". Palm Beach Daily News. February 22, 1969. Retrieved June 22, 2012 – via Google News Archive.[dead link]
  3. ^ Ohnsorg, Roger W. (2011). Robert Lindley Murray: The Reluctant U.S. Tennis Champion. Trafford Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9781426945137.
  4. ^ Ohnsborg 2011, p. 309.
  5. ^ Ohnsborg 2011, p. 292.
  6. ^ Janet G. Murphy (January 1997). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Burrland Farm Historic District" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 February 2018.
  7. ^ Show Jumping Hall of Fame
  8. ^ "Will Eleanora Sears Stop Wearing Em Now?: Fashionable Miss Sears Requested by the "Mothers" of Burlingame to Cover". Atlanta Constitution. May 26, 1912. pp. C12D.
  9. ^ "Friend and 6 Hospitals Share The Estate of Eleanora Sears". The New York Times. 1970. Retrieved 22 September 2017.