Ellen Hansell

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Ellen Hansell
Ellen Hansell.jpg
Full nameEllen Forde Hansell Allerdice
Country (sports)United States USA
Born(1869-09-18)18 September 1869
Philadelphia, PA, U.S.
Died11 May 1937(1937-05-11) (aged 67)
Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.
Int. Tennis HoF1965 (member page)
Grand Slam Singles results
US OpenW (1887)

Ellen Forde Hansell Allerdice (née Hansell; September 18, 1869, – May 11, 1937) was a female tennis player from the United States who is best known for being the first women's singles champion of the U.S. Championships in 1887. She was also a losing finalist to Bertha Townsend the next year.

Early life and tennis[edit]

Hansell was born on September 18, 1869 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Samuel Rob Hansell, an upholstery manufacturer, and Jane Martin. She battled anemia as a child and started playing tennis on advice of her doctor. She joined the Belmont Club in Philadelphia when she was 16 where she played, among others, with Margarette Ballard and Bertha Townsend.[1]

U.S. Women's National Singles Championship[edit]

In 1887 Hansell took part in the inaugural U.S. Women's National Singles Championship. The event was played on the outdoor grass courts of the Philadelphia Cricket Club and started on 27 September. She was one seven contestants who all came from the greater Delaware Valley area. Hansell, playing in a full over-draped skirt with long sleeves and her customary red hat, won her opening round against Jessie Harding for the loss of just one game. In the semifinal she lost the first set against Helen Day Harris but won the match in three sets. The final against Laura Knight was a one-sided affair which Hansell won in straight sets to become the first U.S. women's champion[a].[2][3][4] According to a report she "employed sidearm serves, sliced ground strokes and never, but never went to the net".[5]

The tournament used a challenge system whereby the defending champion automatically qualified for the next year's final in which she would play the winner of the all-comers tournament. This meant that Hansell did not have to play through the 1888 tournament and only had to play the challenge round. She played Bertha Townsend who had won the all-comer's event against Marion Wright in the final, and Townsend won the match in straight sets.[2]

Hansell did not win another tournament and retired from the game in 1890. She married Taylor Allerdice and the couple had six children.[1] Hansell was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1965.

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles (1 title, 1 runner-up)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner 1887 U.S. Championships Grass United States Laura Knight 6–1, 6–0
Runner-up 1888 U.S. Championships Grass United States Bertha Townsend 6–3, 6–5


  1. ^ The 1887 and 1888 tournaments were retroactively recognized as official U.S. championships in 1889 when the United States National Ladies Tennis Association (USNLTA) was formed.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Edelson, Paula (2002). A to Z of American Women in Sports. New York: Facts on File. pp. 106, 107. ISBN 978-0816045655.
  2. ^ a b Collins, Bud (2010). The Bud Collins History of Tennis (2nd ed.). [New York]: New Chapter Press. pp. 10, 465, 586. ISBN 978-0942257700.
  3. ^ Grasso, John (2011). Historical Dictionary of Tennis. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. xvi. ISBN 978-0810872370.
  4. ^ "Ellen Forde Hansell Allderdice". www.middlestates.usta.com. USTA.
  5. ^ Parsons, John (2006). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Tennis : The Definitive Illustrated Guide to World Tennis (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton. p. 54. ISBN 9781844421572.

External links[edit]