Partner Marie Gendron

Queer Places:
122 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02116
Sears Family Crypt, Brookline, Massachusetts, Stati Uniti

Eleonora Randolph Sears (September 28, 1881 – March 16, 1968) 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.[1] She was an intimate friend of Isabel Pell.

Sears was the daughter of Boston businessman Frederick Richard Sears, a cousin of Henry Cabot Lodge, and a great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson.[2] Sears' father was also known for playing the first tennis game in the United States, his opponent being his cousin James Dwight who brought the game from Europe.[3]

Sears was raised in wealth and privilege. She was acquainted with Corinne Douglass Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt, all related to President Theodore Roosevelt. She played tennis at a competition organized by Ava Lowle Willing, the wife of John Jacob Astor IV, and she attended the wedding of tennis champion Robert Wrenn. For a while she dated Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, the sporty scion of the Vanderbilt fortune.[4]

In 1892, Sears' grandfather was appointed minister to France and her mother took her children to Paris for a year to assist him with his social duties. Sears' grandfather was also a cousin by marriage to Isabella Stewart Gardner's husband. When the Gardners visited Paris to collect art, he entertained them while Sears' mother's best friend was Gretchen Osgood Warren, the wife of Fiske Warren. At one point Warren enlisted Sears' mother help to plan a surprise party for Gardner. Sears' grandfather owned John Singer Sargent's famed painting, El Jaleel, which Gardner desperately wanted to buy and a distant relative, Willard T. Sears, was the architect of Fenway Court.

Isabel Pell - Wikiwand
Sears and Pell

Sears won the women's doubles at the US Women's National Championship four times, including three consecutively (1915–1917). In singles, she was a finalist in 1912, where she was beaten in straight sets by Mary Kendall Browne. She teamed with Willis E. Davis to take the national mixed doubles championship in 1916.[5]

She gained media attention for her long distance walks and hikes. As well, she was one of the first American women to drive an automobile and fly a plane. [1] Her habit of wearing trousers, both when competing in sports and in public, was criticized in media and social circles. [7]

Sears spent more than a decade in a public relationship with the handsome and very rich Mike Vanderbilt and there was costant speculation that the two were on the verge of announcing their engagement. They never did, and he married someone else in 1933.

Her affair with choreographer George Balanchine’s young second wife, Vera Zorina, scandalized many. The prominent actress first caught Sears’ attension when she appeared in a play on the Boston stage in 1938. By 1940, the two women were driving twin automobiles and seen together as much as Sears dared. When Zorina was abruptly replaced on the set of For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ingrid Bergman, she rushed to find solace from Sears rather than her husband. Still, both denied the affair: she never even touched my hand, protested Zorina. Many acquaintances began to pull away despite the protests.

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968, joining her cousin Richard (inducted 1955).

Eleonora Sears rode horses competitively and was elected to the US Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992. She also owned and raced Thoroughbred horses.[6] She was the first woman to play polo on a men’s team.[1]

Sears was the first female national squash champion, a founder of the Women’s Squash Racquets Association, and coach of the U.S. Women’s International Squash Team. [1]

Later in life she lived in Florida with Marie V. Gendron (July 22, 1903 – January 26, 2004), nickname madame, who, at Sears' death, inherited her whole estate. She retained half of it, including Sears' house in Florida, jewelry and works of arts, and gave the rest to six Massachusetts hospitals.[8]

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