Leana Rice, born 21st June 1866 at “Marlhill,” New Inn Co Tipperary South, is the only Irish woman to have won the Singles Wimbledon Lady Champion to date.
Leana learned the game at home in “Marhill” where they held many tennis parties, she also played in Cahir Lawn Tennis Club.
When she swanned daintily onto Wimbledon’s Centre Court to compete in the ladies singles final of 1890, an audience of the 300 clapped politely, not knowing they were about to see something that would change Irish Tennis History for ever!
It was a sunny day and the crowd were hoping for an exciting match. Lena’s opponent was Britain’s Miss Jacks. Both ladies wore full-length dresses with long sleeves, corsets, bustles, long petticoats, long heavy leather high boots and to cap off the look they wore boater hats to protect their delicate skin from the harsh sunlight. This was the acceptable fashion for ladies’ tennis at the time.
Women were competing in Wimbledon were expected to move in a “ladylike fashion”, never exposing their ankles as they ran about the courts, in contrast to the men, who were allowed to leap and dive around the court. In any event, their heavy corsets and petticoats made it almost impossible for them to play in an athletic way, check out the girls below…comfy right?!
|an example of 1890 clothes|
The 24-year-old Rice won playing against Miss Jacks on Friday 5th July in 1890. The final score was 6-4, 6-1 winning her 20 guineas and the right to hold the 50 guinea Challenge Cup for a year.
She retired in at the age of 24, giving no reason, and it is generally thought if she had continued playing she would have been a serious contender to Lottie Dod.
I didn’t expect a class so young to care about my lesson, I had expected to spend that entire history class trying to get their attention “TGS”. “Tragic Greek Style”…you pretend you are in a “Tragic Greek Play” and dramatically throw out your right hand and say “oh nooooo, oh my goodness!” then sweep your arm across your face, until your face is nestled in the crock of your elbow and dramatically say; “Well if no one is going to listen I will have to just hid for the rest of class…maybe if I cover my eyes, count to ten, all the little people running around and shouting will magical sit down….and I DO believe in magic.” Covering your eyes with your hands you ask “TGS” “you believe in magic don’t you??” you count to ten, take your hands away from your face and hey presto…class is smiling at you like you are a “Teaching Glorious Star” and are behaving for a few minuets anyway!
I didn’t need to use “TGS” for that lesson, maybe it was my dramatic reading, the dramatic movements I was doing or just the fact that Leanas’ story is one of the most awesome in my local history to date….when I finished reading and looked up – I was met with the astonished wide eyed gaze of 30 new Leana Rice fans!
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* Teaching Practice