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Edith Cummings (March 26, 1899 – November 1984) was an American socialite and one of the premier amateur golfers of her generation. She was one of the Big Four debutantes in Chicago, at the end of the First World War. She became nationally famous following her 1923 victory in the U.S. Women's Amateur. On August 25, 1924, she became the first golfer and first female athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
Life and career
Edith Cummings was born on March 26, 1899 to David Cummings and Ruth Dexter. Her father was a wealthy Chicago socialite, who sent her to boarding school at the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut. Cummings was in the class of 1917. Though the school had been founded only in 1909, it attracted many young socialites. Cummings' classmates included fellow Chicago socialite Ginevra King, future philanthropist Katharine Ordway, Isabel Rockefeller (of the Rockefeller family, a granddaughter of William Rockefeller), and Prescott Bush's sisters Mary and Margaret (aunts to U.S. President George H.W. Bush and great aunts to George W. Bush).
Following her graduation in 1917, Cummings pursued tournament golf where she would earn the nickname "the Fairway Flapper". In 1921, she competed in the British Ladies Amateur along with other famous female golfers such as Alexa Stirling and Marion Hollins. The next year Cummings entered the U.S. Women's Amateur, where she was in match play against Glenna Collett, then an 18-year-old out of Rhode Island, who would become known as one of the greatest female golfers of the 1920s. Cummings lost on the final hole. She returned to the tournament the next year. This time, she won, earning her the cover photo on Time magazine, in addition to profiles in Vogue, Ladies' Home Journal, and many newspapers. She also won the Women's Western Amateur in 1924
Her literary fame, however, would endure because in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, the character of Jordan Baker was modeled directly after Cummings, just as the character Daisy Buchanan was modeled after Cummings' friend King. Buchanan and Baker were socialites and friends. Baker "wore all her dresses like sports clothes -- there was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings," Fitzgerald wrote. In The Great Gatsby, Baker is the love interest of the novel's narrator Nick Carraway. In Gatsby, Baker cheats at golf, although there is no evidence that Fitzgerald drew this detail from Cummings.
Cummings never won another tournament, but remained a well-known figure. In 1934, she married a wealthy businessman named Curtis B. Munson and had three daughters, Frances, Marion, and Anne. Munson was later selected by Franklin Roosevelt to investigate the sympathies of Japanese-Americans living in the United States just before the U.S. entered World War II. He found very little hostility among the Japanese-American community, but despite the warnings of his Munson Report, Roosevelt pursued a policy of Japanese American internment.
Cummings and Munson largely faded from the spotlight later in life, except for forays into philanthropy. Cummings remained a committed golfer into her 80's. She was enthusiastic about all outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing. She and her husband traveled extensively throughout their marriage until her husband’s death in 1979. In his honor, she made a significant contribution to the Decatur House renovation in Washington, DC.
Today, the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation funds a number of conservation programs. She has an award named after her, the Edith Cummings Munson Golf Award, given annually to one of the top female collegiate golfers who excels in academics. The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation donates $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the winner's school.
- Stevens, Peter F. (July 1999). "The Fairway Flapper". Golf Magazine.[dead link]
- 1910 United States Federal Census
- Bruccoli, Matthew (2000). F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. P.9–10. ISBN 0-7867-0996-0.
- New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
|Awards and achievements|
|Cover of Time Magazine
25 August 1924