Eleonora Randolph Sears was an American tennis champion of the 1910s. In addition, she was a champion squash player, and prominent in other sports; she is considered one of the leading all-round women athletes of the first half of the 20th century.
Sears, nicknamed “Eleo,” was born in Boston in 1881 the daughter of Boston businessman Frederick Richard Sears, a cousin of Henry Cabot Lodge and a great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson. Sears enjoyed all the benefits of an aristocratic upbringing. In her youth she was part of the social elite that vacationed each summer in Newport, RI, where she learned to play tennis and golf, rode horses, swam, and sailed. In 1911, Sears began to play tennis competitively, when she and her friend Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman won the United States women’s doubles championship. Over the next five years, Sears won four more doubles championships, scandalizing crowds each time with her rolled up shirt-sleeves. In 1912, Sears nearly lost her membership to the Burlingame Country Club in Birmingham, CA, when she rode front-saddle into the all-men’s polo arena wearing pants. Despite receiving criticism for her unfeminine style of dress and her avid participation in athletics, Sears was unfailingly popular among the upper class circles of Boston and New York. She was a frequent guest at the all-men’s Harvard Club, where she learned to play squash. She eventually became the first woman squash champion in history. She frequently topped New York’s “10-best dressed” list, and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward III) said Sears was his favorite dance, squash, and tennis partner. Sears played and coached women’s squash into her 70s, was famous for her frequent marathon walks between Boston and Newport, and consistently raised blue-ribbon horses for the National Horse Show. Eleonora Sears’ died in 1968, and her obituary read that her controversial determination to participate in athletics, “paved the way for women’s entrance in sports.”
Sears also was a lesbian, according to author Peggy Miller Franck. Sears had multiple lesbian relationships, though none was officially announced or confirmed, including one with Isabel Pell in the 1930s. "I think it was inescapable that everyone knew [ they were together, ] " Franck said.
Sears was a four-time U.S. Women's National Tennis champion, including three consecutive years ( 1915-17 ) , and is a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame.
She also was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame for her skills riding horses. She is also in the Horseman's Hall of Fame, the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, the United States Squash Hall of Fame, and the National Horse Show Foundation Hall of Fame.
This Eleonora Randolph Sears autograph check reproduction would great in a display.