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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Eliza Campbell Foot

    Little is known of Mrs. Foot outside her chess related activities. She was born February 23, 1851 and killed by a hit and run driver in New York City on December 6, 1914. She is buried in Lakewood, New Jersey.
Excerpt from November, 1912 New York Tribune.
Click to enlarge
     In December, 1895 the Women’s Chess Club of New York was incorporated with Miss Foot as the president, a position she held until the time of her death. The club was to become the leading chess organization for women in the US. Members included Nellie Showalter (wife of American champion Jackson W. Showalter) and Harriet Worrall. They elected as honorary members the English women’s champion Mary Rudge (1845-1919) and Irish women’s champion Mrs. Thomas Rowland (Frideswide Beechey) (1843-1919). The Women’s Chess Club of New York lasted until 1949. In 1909 Mrs. Foot wrote a book on chess puzzles, becoming the first American woman chess author.
   Their meetings were held at the Town and County Club on East Twenty-second Street, on Tuesday afternoons. There were seven chess tables and the code of conduct of the Manhattan Chess Club was displayed on the wall so that in the case of a dispute, the members could refer to it. The rule was that members had to abide by the Manhattan code. Once a month Major Hanham, one of the masters from the Manhattan Chess Club, visited the Women's Club to play simultaneous games against anyone present. Apparently later they moved to the Carnegie Building.
     The first international chess tournament for women players that was held in London in the summer of 1897 had six cash prizes and a brilliancy prize offered by Baron Albert de Rothschild. The US was represented by Mrs. Harriet Worrall, of Brooklyn and Miss Foot was the reserve. Mrs. Nellie Showalter was selected but she declined to play.
     According to an article in the New York Tribune dated December 16, 1906 she also served as director of the MacDowell Club. The MacDowell Club of New York was one of many women's clubs by the same name around the country supporting the MacDowell Colony, the artists’ retreat in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The MacDowell Clubs around the country were part of a social movement to promote music and art in America. Organized in 1905, the MacDowell Club was initially located at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
    On December 6, 1914 near the Manhattan Chess Club during a stormy evening, Miss Foot was carrying an umbrella which apparently blocked her view of an oncoming vehicle as it came around the corner. She was struck and killed instantly; the driver never stopped.
     According to several sources Miss Foot was cousin to Steinitz and in 1893 she challenged him to a correspondence game which he accepted. She won the game and took great pride in her accomplishment although it was reported by a Dr. Pollock that Steinitz had played the game without looking at the board. His play in the complications would seem to confirm that.  Still, Mrs. Foot played a good game and her pride in her accomplishment is understandable.

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