You have to care about history, to report on it. Sadly that’s just not true; evidenced by the fact that every other “this day in history” site marks January 9th as the anniversary of the first-ever women’s golf tournament. IT WAS A NEW YEAR’S DAY CONTEST for Pete’s sake.
Admittedly it took us a little while to figure-out that in Scotland the Old New Year was celebrated on the 12th of January, almost causing us to falsely report it as being held on the first. But where someone came up with the ninth, is a mystery I may never solve. In any case…
On January 12th 1811 the Fishwives of Musselburgh competed in the first ever Women’s Golf Tournament. The holiday tournament took place at the Musselburgh Golf Club in Scotland. The winner of the 18-hole contest was awarded a Creel & Skull (fishing basket), and the second- and third-place finishers received silk handkerchiefs from Barcelona.
Golf had been banned on several occasions in previous centuries and was, at this time, still seen as a very masculine sport (for reasons passing understating). That being said, the fishwives of Musselburgh were quite masculine themselves as a result of laboring in the local fishing industry.
“As they do the work of men and their strength and activities is equal to their work, their amusements are also of the masculine kind. On holidays they frequently play at golf”
They were also known to play casual games of football, married women v. single ladies, to which it’s said the former always won.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that it was likely below freezing the day of the tournament. But on the Musselburgh Golf Links in Scotland seems the ideal place to have hosted the first ever organized women’s golf tournament; considering it was on this very patch of land in the 1500’s that the first ever female golfer was known to play. She was Mary, Queen of Scots and her love of the game, surpassed the criticisms that she was “playing sports clearly not suitable to women”. Her playing golf was also seen as neglecting her royal duties. Sound familiar? 500 years later, and the headlines remain the same.
Mary, Queen of Scots is also said to be responsible for the term “caddie”, when she referred to her assistants as cadets – but this is entirely speculative.
So why is it this golf date so widely misreported?
For starters I have to say that mistakes like this are entirely too common. We usually run into 3 or 4 a week. But ultimately the problem comes down to sourcing. Understand that this is how this event is recorded in published history books, as well as ESPN articles, Wikipedia, and several golf sites. This bit of misinformation is so prevalent and presented so confidently, it’s easy to take it at face value. Once one does, they get added to the list of sources, and then another, and so on – till it becomes what we at Historic Times call “New History”.
Here is one such source. This book was published in 2010 by a legitimate publishing house. It has an excellent Google ranking. The writer is a well-respected Author of 15 books, a noteworthy journalist and actually lives in the UK.
What do we do different?
We want beefier articles, not just one –liners. This way if someone is really interested in whatever historical event we happen to be reporting on, they don’t have to search elsewhere. Well through our research we ran across it listed as a New Year’s Day Contest, and then another. It fit better, considering these were all hard-working women, and they were known to schedule leisure activities on holidays, rather than some random Wednesday.
How can we be sure that we’re right?
Well, for starters, the course is still in operation. All anyone had to do was care enough to call them. The Course Director, ____________________, confirmed that the contest was indeed held on ‘Old’ New Year’s Day, which was a tradition from then on after.
The original advert published on December 14th 1810 read –
The Club resolve to present by subscription a new Creel & Skull to the best female golfer who plays on the annual occasion on 1st Jan. next, old style (12th Jan. new), to be intimated to the Fish Ladies by the Officer of the Club. Two of the best Barcelona silk handkerchiefs, to be added to the above premium of the Creel.
Now I can’t guarantee that we’re always going to get it right, but I can guarantee that we will always strive to. In addition to Historic Times, we also run a current news site (OmahaPolitcs.com) and we have always put the need for accuracy above all else.
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