Margaret Abbott

Margaret Abbott
Personal information
Full name Margaret Ives Abbott
Nickname Marda
Born (1878-06-15)June 15, 1878
Calcutta, India
Died June 10, 1955(1955-06-10) (aged 76)
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.[1]
Nationality  United States
Spouse Finley Peter Dunne (m. 1902-1936, his death)
Children Philip Dunne, Leonard Dunne, Peggy Dunne, Finley Peter Dunne Jr.
Status Amateur
Medal record

Margaret Ives Abbott (June 15, 1878 – June 10, 1955)[2] was an American golfer. She was the first American woman to win an Olympic event: the women's golf tournament at the 1900 Paris Games.

Early life

Born in Calcutta India, Margaret Abbot was the daughter of Charles and Mary Abbott.[3] Charles died when Margaret was very young and after his death, Mary moved the family to Boston.[3]

When Abbott was a teenager, her mother became the literary editor of The Chicago Herald and the family then moved to Illinois.[3] After moving to Illinois, she and her mother were members of the Chicago Golf Club where she learned how to golf.[4] She began winning championships at local tournaments and was consistently featured in the Chicago Tribune newspaper.[3]

Paris Olympics

Mary and Margaret Abbott lived in Paris from 1899 to 1902.[5] While in Paris, Mary researched a travel guide and Margaret studied art with Rodin and Degas.[3]

At the 1900 Paris Olympics, 22 women competed out of a total of 997 athletes.[6] It was the first time women were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games and they could only compete in five sports: golf, tennis, sailing, equestrianism, and croquet.[7] The 1900 Olympics stretched over six months and was a sideshow of the Paris Exhibition which is also known as the World Fair.[6] Since the competition was so stretched out, it was sometimes hard to track who competed in the competition and who did not.[4] The Olympic events were referred to as the Championnats Internationaux, or International Championship, instead of the Olympic Games.[8] There was also a lack of media attention as unlike today, the Olympics did not have either an opening ceremony or closing ceremony.[9] The women's golf tournament was held on October 4, 1900 at a nine-hole course at Compiègne, north of Paris.[10] Durning this time, women were perceived to be harmed from playing sports because of how physical it is, so they were limited to a nine-hole course compared to the 18-standard hole course people play with today.[9] Golf Illustrated referred to the medal event as "The international golf competition recently held... in connection with the Paris Exhibition."[11] The games were organized like any other small golf tournaments and barely publicized so Abbotts did not realize that the events she entered was part of the Olympics.

Historical research did not establish that the game was on the Olympic program until after Abbott's death in 1955, so she never found out that she was the first American women to win the Olympics.[3] Additionally, Abbott's victory was not well known until a University of Florida professor and member of the Olympic Board of Directors, Paula Welch, researched the golfer and began to put together pieces of Abbott's life. She spent a decade examined newspaper articles that mentioned Abbott's successes in various golfing competitions in an attempt to gain more information. In the end, she also located Abbott's children and informed them of their mother's victory.[12]

Part of the reason Abbott was not widely known was due to the lack of media attention the Olympics got in the 1900s and the fact that it was not a widely recognized competition.[4] This was due to the fact she was residing in France and studying art while her mother was working there as a writer. Abbott competed because she played golf and happened to be in France.[3][6] In the 1890s, Abbott initially learned to play the sport as a member of the Chicago Golf Club where her mother, also a member, played the sport.[6]

She won the Olympics with a 9-hole score of 47.[10] Abbott was awarded a porcelain bowl for first place in golf.[13] Gold medals were only given out starting from 1904 in the Olympic game of St Louis; these gold medals made the Olympics more competitive and a sense of achievement for winners.

All the competitors played in long skirts and fashionable hats,[3] and according to Abbott, she "apparently misunderstood the nature of the game scheduled for the day and turned up to play in high heels and tight skirts."[5]

Mary Abbott also entered the competition. She shot a 9-hole score of 65 and finished tied for seventh.[7][14] This was the only time in Olympic history that a mother and daughter competed in the same sport in the same event at the same Olympics.[6] It is much harder for this ordeal to happen in today's Olympic games as the threshold to compete is much higher.

Women's golf would not be seen again at the Olympics until the 2016 Games in Rio.[3]

Later life and legacy

Margaret Abbott married the writer Finley Peter Dunne on December 10, 1902. They had four children together: Finley Peter Dunne Jr., Peggy Dunne, Leonard Dunne, and Phillip Dunne, who later became a noted screenwriter. Abbott continued to play golf as she helped raise her children.[3] Abbott died at age 76 on June 10, 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut.[3]

In 1996, Abbot was the featured athlete of the 1900 Olympic Games in the official Olympic program of the Atlanta games.[14]

In 2018, The New York Times published a belated obituary for her.[3]


  1. ^ Bierstedt, Rainald (2012). Abschlag Rio: Jugend Trainiert Golf Für Olympia (in German) (3rd ed.). BoD – Books on Demand. p. 69. ISBN 978-3848209705.
  2. ^ Welch, Paula. "Search for Margaret Abbott" (PDF). Olympic Review. 182: 752–54. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 12, 2016. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Fox, Margalit (March 8, 2018). "Margaret Abbott, an Unwitting Olympic Trailblazer". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Maragret Abbot: A Study Break".
  5. ^ a b Fuller, Linda K. (December 7, 2016). Female Olympians: A Mediated Socio-Cultural and Political-Economic Timeline. Springer. ISBN 9781137582812.
  6. ^ a b c d e Holmes, Tao Tao (August 10, 2016). "The First American Woman to Win an Olympic Championship Didn't Even Know It". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Margaret Abbott Aced Team USA's First Women's Olympic Gold Medal And Didn't Know It". Team USA. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "Margaret Abbott became U.S.' first female Olympic champion without knowing it".
  10. ^ a b "Margaret Abbott – Olympic Golf | United States of America". International Olympic Committee. February 16, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ Golf Illustrated. 1900.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Anderson, Kristine F. (July 11, 1996). "While Reaching for the Gold, Women Shattered Stereotypes". Christian Science Monitor. 88 (158): 10.
  14. ^ a b Lester, John (July 9, 1996). "Recognizing First U.S. Women's Champion is a Step in the Right Direction".

External links