English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : June, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : June, 1911

Billiards for Women

Somewhat Lightly Touched

The annual meeting of the” Society for the Promotion
of Women’s Interests in Sport “was held in Caxton Hall
and Miss Cicely Hamilton, the president, intimated that a
petition had been handed to her on her way to the hall.

It was signed by the three costumiers of Clement’s Inn,
and commenced “We, the women of Great Britain,” and
went on to protest against any woman taking any interest
in anything until the wants of the women of Great Britain
—presumably the three costumiers who petitioned—had
received attention. She (Miss Hamilton) presumed this
petition might be allowed to lie on the table. (” Agreed.”)

Dramatic Situations in Billiards

After the report and balance sheet had been adopted,
Miss Hamilton, in thanking the members for the support
they had given her during her year of office, said that before
retiring in favour of the new president she would like to
report that she had taken an active part at several meetings
held recently to promote billiards among women. (Cheers.)
She herself was much interested in billiards. It was a
game which appealed to her in more ways than one. As
a dramatist the infinite number of dramatic situations arising
in a single game of billiards had an immense attraction
for her, and the complications involved in a series of nursery
cannons aroused her keenest interest as a novelist.

The difficulty of keeping your modern hero and your up-to-date heroine in the straight and narrow paths of virtue,
and your desperate villain in the broad road assigned to
him by the conventional canons of literary art as his walk
in life, was as nothing compared with the task of taking
three silly balls safely round a foolish-looking hole in the
corner of a six feet by four feet table. (Question.)
Well, she might not be right about the size. (Hear,
hear.) She never was good at figures—except, perhaps,
figures of speech—but anyway they might take it from her
that it was a task worthy of a woman to get those three
balls round the hole without dropping one in, and she did
not marvel at the fondness of their political superiors—
(derisive cheers)—for this game. As a suffragist she also
confessed to being interested in the furtherance of billiards
among women. She had observed billiards was played
mostly at nights—late. This fact, she thought, was more
important than it appeared. When women learned to play
the game as men played it, and under the same conditions,
they could use those conditions as a reason for claiming the
vote under the latchkey franchise. (Laughter.)

Political Problems Solved by “Fifties Up.”

She would go further. She supported the view that this
was a sporting nation. Sport appealed to the man in the
street a thousand times more than did politics. Very well,
let the fate of the women’s claim to the suffrage be decided
by sport. In serious debate they had all the reason and
arguments on their side—and failed to win—principally
because men, to whom they must appeal, could not understand
reason and argument. But all men knew something
about sport, and appreciated the good sportsmen and
sportswomen. Let them therefore appeal to the modern
Caesar in a game of fifty up. (Cheers.) She felt quite
sure that if, say, her friend Mrs. Billington-Greig as representing
the Suffs., were put up against, say, Mrs.
Humphrey Ward as representing the Antis., with, say,
Lady Frances Balfour as referee, the question of Votes,
or No Votes, for Women would be decided in half an hour.

The Question of Starts

Mrs. Asquith warmly approved of Billiards for Women,
and said it would give her much pleasure indeed to arrange
a political handicap on the lines suggested by their chairman.

She would not confine it to women, however. She
would suggest that Mr. Wason, for instance, might be put
up against Miss Birdie Gawthorpe, or Mr. Belloc against
Mrs. Despard. Of course, the difficulty of handicapping
would arise, but she was confident the B.C.C. could be
trusted to give Miss Gawthorpe a substantial start.

Mrs. Billington-Greig protested. It was another insult
to women, she said, to suggest that they should take anything—
even a start —from men. If women could not meet
men level in sport or business or socially or otherwise, they
were poor creatures indeed. (Hear, hear.) She herself
would just like to meet the man who would dare to offer
her a start in billiards. Whoever he was, without a
moment’s hesitation she would at once pot him with the
cannon—(laughter)—or stuff him in the cushion. (Laughter,
and a voice: “Duck him in the Pool.”) Yes, if a
pool were provided she would even go so far as that. But
she would never agree to the Society approving of accepting
starts for the members.

Varied Handicapping Views

Madame Strebor said a start was a very useful thing,
and not to be rejected without due consideration. She
spoke from experience, and knew what she was saying.

Mrs. Annie Besant asked to be allowed as the oldest billiardist
present to support Madame Strebor. She also
spoke from experience. In her last incarnation but ten,
when she played Cleopatra to Mr. Hall Caine’s Antony,
she had always to put a handicap on herself. Otherwise
the games they played together would have been very
dreary and long drawn out. She heartily approved of
starts.

Mrs. Hubert Bland was glad to hear from Mrs. Besant
that she had played Billiards as Cleopatra, and wanted to
know if the Egyptians used Spinks’ chalk. An answer to
this important question, she said, would set at rest forever
the controversy as to who wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Miss Jay approved of the attitude of Mrs. Billington-
Greig. She herself had already drawn up a challenge to
Gray—(cheers)—and instead of accepting a start from that
wonderful player she had actually offered to give him what
amounted to a start of half the game. (Loud and prolonged
applause.) She had offered to play him with her
left hand, the other tied behind her back. She thought
that would perhaps bother him a bit, and paralyse the
spectators.

A Question of Toilettes

Miss Lillah McCarthy wished to point out that one objection
she had to billiards in its, present form was the use of
greasy chalk. (A voice: “Try Spinks.”) It messed one’s
clothes so. One dare not risk playing in a good dress. If
a rational dress for the billiard-room could be made—something
as suitable for billiards as the one she wore in “The
Master Builder” was for walking—she would certainly take
up the game, but not till then.

Lady Grove said she was engaged upon a complete and
thorough Guide to the billiard-room, in which she outlined
a suitable wrap which might meet with Miss McCarthy’s
approval. Her book was to be called The Human Billiardist,
and treated of the etiquette of the game in a
simple and understandable fashion. She argued for simplicity
as the true politeness in all things. When, for
instance, one missed an easy shot on the table, instead of
boring one’s friends with elaborate explanations as to how
it was missed, a brief simple word was really all that was
necessary. (Laughter.) She hoped her audience would
not misunderstand her—(laughter)—they might differ as to
the most suitable word—(Cries of “No, no!”)—but she
was sure they were with her in the matter of simplicity of
language under such circumstances. (Hear, hear.)
Laurence Kirk.


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