Today in 1881, one of the great athletes of the 20th century was born: Eleonora Sears, a pioneer in more sports than I can list here.

Sears grew up in a wealthy family in Boston, and she moved in the highest social circles all her life.

She would host parties in a gigantic house where people like Judy Garland and the Prince of Wales dropped by and sometimes Cole Porter would play piano.

But Sears was first and foremost an athlete.

She once said, “I began exercising the first time I fell out of my crib.”

And she excelled in dozens of sports: she won numerous tennis titles and the first US women’s squash championship.

She rode show horses and in polo matches.

She raced yachts, played football, she even boxed.

Once she finished a long-distance walk from Boston to Newport, Rhode Island; her chauffeur followed behind in the car, carrying sandwiches in case she got hungry.

Sears was a competitor when many people thought only men’s sports were supposed to be competitive.

And she defied plenty of other conventions of her time: she competed wearing slacks instead of skirts or dresses, and she openly had relationships with other women at a time that was frowned upon, to say the least.

Oh, and also, as an auto racer, Sears once got a speeding ticket – and then became the first woman to contest a speeding ticket.


If you love to play board games but you have your own twists on the rules, like getting $500 for landing on Monopoly’s Free Parking square, you may enjoy the website House Rules.

It’s a collection of all of our homegrown variations on classic games.

My favorite is the version of table tennis where nothing is out.

They just keep playing until the ball stops moving or the ball is lost.

A Woman to Know: Eleanora Randolph Sears (A Woman To Know)

Eleonora Sears, Blueblood Bad Girl on the Tennis Courts (New England Historical Society)

House Rules

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Photo: Bain News Service, publisher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons