Dod, Charlotte (1871–1960)
Dod, Charlotte (1871–1960)
British tennis champion who was also the first superstar of women's sports as an outstanding skater, tobogganer, and field hockey player. Name variations: Lottie Dod. Born Charlotte Dod on September 24, 1871; died in a nursing home on June 26 or 27, 1960, in Bournemouth, England; fourth and youngest child of a cotton broker; grew up in Edgeworth House, in Bebington, Cheshire.
Won Wimbledon singles championship five times (1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1893); won Wimbledon doubles championship (1886, 1887, 1888); won Wimbledon mixed-doubles championship (1889 and 1892); at 15½, was youngest player ever to play at Wimbledon; was also the first woman to complete the Cresta bobsled run at St. Moritz; took the British women's golf championship (1904); won the silver medal for archery in the London Olympics (1908).
Long before there was a Babe Didrikson Zaharias , Charlotte "Lottie" Dod became the first superstar of women's sports. Though the Victorian era was known for its restrictions on women, many defied convention from the outset. One such individual was Charlotte Dod (who disliked the girlish name Lottie). She entered Wimbledon in 1887 and would dominate the tournament for the next seven years. Dubbed the "Little Wonder," at age 13 Dod took on Britain's first tennis queen, Maud Watson , and almost defeated her. Although some form of tennis had been played for years, Major Walter Wingfield introduced the modern game in 1874. Shortly thereafter, Dod's competitive play helped make it a popular sport for women.
Despite her youth (at 15½, she was the youngest player to ever enter Wimbledon), Dod had studied the men's game carefully and was much more aggressive than most other female players. When she won at Wimbledon in 1887, her competitors were wearing the customary tennis attire: lawn party dresses. Long skirts, long sleeves, and corsets (which were especially cumbersome) hardly enhanced women's athletic abilities, and it would not be until the 1920s that most women would stop wearing these restricting outfits on the court. During Dod's first Wimbledon win, she wore her school uniform, which was calf length, and eliminated the corset. Her aggressive style combined with the freedom of her clothing made her an unbeatable opponent. She won the doubles championship at Wimbledon from 1886 to 1888 and the mixed doubles in 1889 and 1892. Between 1886 and 1900, the top position in women's tennis swung back and forth between Dod and Blanche Bingley Hill-yard ; between them, they could claim 11 Wimbledon singles titles. Charlotte Dod lost only five singles matches during her entire career, which is probably why she decided to cast about for tougher competition in other sports.
When she was 21, Charlotte Dod retired from the courts but not from competition. She also played golf, archery, and field hockey, loved the bobsled, and was an excellent figure skater. In 1894, she was the first woman to make the Cresta bobsled run at St. Moritz. In 1904, she won the British national golf championship at Troon, Scotland. In 1908, she took the silver medal for archery in the 1908 London Olympics. Twice, she played on England's field hockey team against Ireland, and later she became a judge in international figure-skating competitions. She was inducted into the International Women's Hall of Fame in 1986. When Charlotte Dod died in a nursing home on the southern coast of England at 88, it was said she was listening to the Wimbledon championships on the radio.
Condon, Robert J. Great Women Athletes of the 20th Century. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1991.
King, Billie Jean with Cynthia Starr. We Have Come a Long Way: The Story of Women's Tennis. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
"Lottie Dod Dies at 88," in The New York Times. June 28, 1960, p. 31.
"Miss Lottie Dod," in The Times [London]. June 28, 1960, p. 15.
Young, Mark, ed. The Guinness Book of Sports Records. NY: Facts on File, 1992.
Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia