She Was The First American Woman To Ever Win An Olympic Event, And She Didn’t Even Know She Had Done It

Darren - - illustrative purposes only

This story was updated on April 28, 2023, to reflect Margaret Abbott’s position and presence within the Chicago Golf Club. She held a membership at the club in her own right and did not require a male escort.

I had no idea this was possible, but the first American woman to ever win an Olympic event didn’t even know she had done it.

Her name was Margaret Abbott, and she competed during a time when there weren’t many other female competitors. Her epic win was cast aside, but today, we realize just how monumental it was.

Margaret was born in India in 1878, as her father was a wealthy merchant there. When he died, her family moved back to the United States. When she was a teenager, they moved to Chicago, where she first started playing golf.

In those days, one of the few sports deemed acceptable for women was golf. Yet, women could not even join most golf clubs without a male escort.

Well, that was except for Margaret, who was actually a member of the Chicago Golf Club in her own right. Her membership began in 1897 and was what thrust she and her brother, Sprague, into the Chicago Golf Club community– helping them learn the beloved sport.

In fact, Margaret was coached by Charles MacDonald himself and HJ Wigham. And after a lot of practicing, she won some local tournaments.

Then, in 1899, when she was 21, Margaret moved with her mother to Paris so she could study art and music. She took art classes and continued to play golf.

The following year, in 1900, the second modern Olympic Games were held in France. It was a special year because the Olympics coincided with the Paris Exposition, a massive world’s fair. The scheduling of competitions for the events made distinguishing one from the other difficult.

So when Margaret and her mother showed up for the women’s golf tournament at the Compiègne Golf Club, they had no idea they had actually started competing in the Olympics.

The competition consisted of nine holes, and Margaret won first place! Without even knowing it, she had become the first American woman to win in the Olympics. Her mother came in seventh place, making them the first and only mother-daughter duo to compete in the same event at the Olympics.

Darren – – illustrative purposes only

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