Margaret Abbott

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Margaret Ives Abbott
Personal information
Born(1878-06-15)June 15, 1878
Calcutta, India
DiedJune 10, 1955(1955-06-10) (aged 76)
Greenwich, Connecticut, United States[1]
OccupationGolfer, housewife
Years active1897–1955
Spouse(s)Finley Peter Dunne (m. 1902-1936)
CountryUnited States
SportWomen's Golf
ClubChicago Golf Club
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals1900 Summer Olympics

Margaret Ives Abbott (June 15, 1878 – June 10, 1955)[2] was the first American woman to win an Olympic event. She won the women's golf tournament, consisting of nine holes, with a score of 47, at the 1900 Paris Games.

Early life[edit]

Born in Calcutta, Abbot was the daughter of Charles and Mary Abbott.[3] Charles died when Margaret was very young and after his death, the family moved to Boston.[3]

When Abbott was a teenager, her mother took a job as the literary editor of The Chicago Herald and the family moved to Illinois.[3] In Illinois, Abbott began playing golf and soon began winning local championships.[3] After moving to Illinois, she joined the Chicago Golf Club and took up the game, winning local tournaments and was reported to have a two handicap.[3]

Paris Olympics[edit]

Mary and Margaret Abbott lived in Paris from 1899 to 1902.[4] While in Paris, Mary researched a travel guide and Margaret studied art with Rodin and Degas.[3]

At the 1900 Paris Olympics, 22 women competed out of a total 997 athletes.[5] It was the first time women were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.[6] The 1900 Olympics stretched over six months and were something of a sideshow of the Paris Exhibition.[5] The events were referred to as the Championnats Internationaux, or International Championship, instead of the Olympic Games.[7] The women's golf tournament was held on October 4, 1900 at a nine-hole course at Compiègne, north of Paris.[8] Golf Illustrated referred to the medal event as "The international golf competition recently held ... in connection with the Paris Exhibition."[9] The games were so poorly organized and publicized that many competitors, including Abbott, did not realize that the events they entered were part of the Olympics.

Historical research did not establish that the game was on the Olympic program until after Abbott's death, so she herself never knew it.[3] Additionally, Abbott's victory was not well known until University of Florida professor and member of the Olympic Board of Directors Paula Welch researched the golfer and began to put together pieces of Abbott's life. She examined newspaper articles that mentioned Abbott's successes in various golfing competitions in an attempt to gain more information. She also located Abbott's children and informed them of their mother's victory.[10]

Part of the reason she was not widely known was due to the fact that she had not originally been an official member of the U.S. Olympic team. This is due to the fact she had been residing in France to study art. Abbott competed because she played golf and happened to be in France.[3][5] In the 1890s, Abbott played as a member of the Chicago Golf Club, where she initially learned to play the sport.[5]

She won the Olympics with a 9-hole score of 47.[8] Abbott was awarded a porcelain bowl for first place in golf.[11] The 1900 Games were the only Olympics at which winners received valuable artifacts instead of medals.[12]

All the competitors played in long skirts and fashionable hats,[3] but according to Abbott, some "apparently misunderstood the nature of the game scheduled for the day and turned up to play in high heels and tight skirts."[4]

Mary Abbott also entered the competition. She shot a 9-hole score of 65 and finished seventh.[6][13] This was the only time in Olympic history that a mother and daughter competed in the same sport in the same event at the same Olympics.[5]

Women's golf would not be seen again at the Olympics until the 2016 Games in Rio.[3]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Margaret Abbott married the writer Finley Peter Dunne on December 10, 1902. They had four children together: Finley Peter Dunne Jr., Peggy Dunne, Leonard Dunne, and Phillip Dunne, who later became a noted screenwriter. Abbott continued to play golf as she helped raise her children.[3] Abbott died at age 76 on June 10, 1955 in Greenwich, Connecticut.[3]

In 1996, Abbot was the featured athlete of the 1900 Olympic Games in the official Olympic program of the Atlanta games.[13]

In 2018, The New York Times published a belated obituary for her.[3]


  1. ^ Bierstedt, Rainald (2012). Abschlag Rio: Jugend Trainiert Golf Für Olympia (in German) (3rd ed.). BoD – Books on Demand. p. 69. ISBN 3848209705.
  2. ^ Welch, Paula. "Search for Margaret Abbott" (PDF). Olympic Review. 182: 752–54.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Fox, Margalit (March 8, 2018). "Margaret Abbott, an Unwitting Olympic Trailblazer". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Fuller, Linda K. (December 7, 2016). Female Olympians: A Mediated Socio-Cultural and Political-Economic Timeline. Springer. ISBN 9781137582812.
  5. ^ a b c d e Holmes, Tao Tao (August 10, 2016). "The First American Woman to Win an Olympic Championship Didn't Even Know It". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Margaret Abbott Aced Team USA's First Women's Olympic Gold Medal And Didn't Know It". Team USA. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Margaret Abbott – Olympic Golf | United States of America". International Olympic Committee. February 16, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  9. ^ Golf Illustrated. 1900.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Anderson, Kristine F. (July 11, 1996). "While Reaching for the Gold, Women Shattered Stereotypes". Christian Science Monitor. 88 (158): 10.
  12. ^ Roessing, Walt (July–August 1988). "Looking Back: The Oddball Olympics: Curious Individual and Team Events Have Been a Part of the Summer Games)". Saturday Evening Post. No. 5. p. 48.
  13. ^ a b Lester, John (July 9, 1996). "Recognizing First U.S. Women's Champion is a Step in the Right Direction".

External links[edit]