Margaret Ives Abbott was born in Calcutta, India. Her father died when she was very young, and afterward, she moved with her mother to Boston, MA. When she was a teenager, her mother, Mary Abbott, was appointed as the literary editor of The Chicago Herald, and the family moved to Chicago. There, Abbott and her mother joined the Chicago Golf Club and learned how to golf. Soon, she began to participate and win local tournaments, been featured regularly in the Chicago Tribune. In 1899, at the age of 21, Abbott moved to Paris with her mother to study art and music, continuing to play golf in her free time.
In 1900, the Olympics games (then called the International Championship) took place in Paris. The event was in conjunction with the World’s Fair and spread over six months. It was the first time women were allowed to compete in the games, and only in five sports – croquet, tennis, equestrianism, sailing, and golf. At the time, the perception was that women lack the physical ability to play sport, and they might be injured if they will, so the golf tournament for women was limited to a 9-hole course, while the men’s had the standard 18-hole.
Abbott saw a newspaper ad inviting women to compete in a golf tournament in nearby Compiegne. She and her mother decided to participate without knowing it was an Olympic event. On October 4, 1900, 22 years old Abbott finished the game in 1st place with a score of 47, and unconscious to her achievement, she became the first American woman to win the Olympics. It was only decades later that Abbott’s history-making was revealed when Professor Paula Welch from the University of Florida encounter Abbott’s name, and her research uncovered Abbott’s hidden story.
After the game, Abbott finished her studies in Paris and met the writer Finley Peter Dunne. In 1902, the couple married and returned to the US. Throughout her life, she continued to play golf for her own enjoyment. She died at the age of 76, never realizing she is an Olympic champion.
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- She had four children. One of them is the academy award winner screenwriter, producer, and film director, Phillip Dunne.
- In Paris, she studied art with Degas and Rodin.
- Misunderstanding the game scheduled for the day, she came to the tournament in a tight skirt and high heels.
- Until 1904, the winners of the Olympic games did not receive medals but various ornaments. For finishing first place, she got a porcelain bowl.
- Her mother also competed in the competition, finishing in 7th place. It was the only time in the history of the Olympic games that mother and daughter competed in the same tournament at the same Olympics.
- She was the featured athlete of the 1900 Olympic Games in the official Olympic program of the Atlanta games of 1996.
- The New York Times published her belated obituary in 2018.
- First place at the Olympic women's Golf tournament (1900)
- The French Women’s Championships (1902)
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