Today in 1900 Margaret Abbott became the first American woman to win an Olympic title – even though she didn’t know she was in the Olympics!
Check out the Olympic Games today and you’ll find two very intense, very busy weeks of very high-profile competition.
The organizers know well ahead of time who’s competing in which events and when.
But the early days of the modern Olympics were much more casual.
The host city for the 1900 Games was Paris, which was also hosting the Paris Exposition, essentially that year’s World’s Fair.
The Olympics were held on and off between May and October, and they were treated essentially as a part of the Exposition, not as a major standalone event.
Some of the competitors entered events thinking that they were either part of the Exposition or just singular sporting events.
One of them was Margaret Abbott.
She was born to American parents in what is now Kolkata, India.
She took up golf as a teenager, after her family had moved back to the US.
Abbott’s mother was a writer, and in 1899 she headed to France to do some research for a project.
She brought Margaret with her, and in 1900, both of them entered a nine hole golf tournament promoted as an “Exposition Competition.”
Mary shot a 65, which put her in seventh place.
Her daughter shot a 47, and got a gilded cup for finishing first.
Margaret Abbott left Paris with her mother the following year, putting the golf tournament in the rear view mirror.
She married, had four kids and lived until 1955, not knowing that she had become the first American woman to win an Olympic event, not to mention the only daughter to compete in the same event in the same Olympic Games with her mother.
Researchers figured all this out in the 1980s and got in touch with her surviving relatives.
They were stunned and hopefully proud.
None of them knew what had happened to the gilded cup.
Today in 2021, Ruth Hamilton of Golden, British Columbia woke up when she heard a crashing noise in her house.
No one had broken in: instead, she found a hole in the ceiling and a big rock on her pillow.
A meteorite had broken through her roof and landed on her bed.
Margaret Abbott (New York Times)
Photo via Wikicommons