Women in the European Championships

Frank Gillett, The Graphic, March 7, 1908, 325. Image copyright the British Library Board, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive.

Dorothy Greenhough-Smith’s Wikipedia page notes that “[s]he never competed at the European Figure Skating Championship because the ladies event was not added to the program until 1930.” That’s true as far as it goes—Hines’s list of competitors in Figure Skating in the Formative Years does indeed show the ladies’ event starting in 1930—but is its absence really an excuse?

In 1904, Madge Syers entered the European Championship. The Field reported that

On the whole Mrs Syers executed most of the school figures admirably, her turns being clean, her edges good, and the tracing excellent, most noticeable being her execution of the three change three, but she found considerable difficulty with the bracket change bracket and loop change loop.

The Field, January 23, 1904, 131

But when it came time for the freestyle, Syers withdrew from the competition.

The weather on the second day of the competition did not prove very favorable, snow was falling slightly, and there was a fairly stiff breeze, both of which interfered materially with the skating of the free figures. Mrs Syers wisely decided not to skate her programme, the wind, of course, being a much greater handicap to her than to the other competitors.

The Field, January 23, 1904, 131

Despite her withdrawal, Syers’ participation showed experimentally that women were allowed to compete in the European Championship.

In the days leading up the the 1908 Olympics, the Westminster Gazette published a somewhat startling opinion regarding co-ed competition:

Messrs. Greig, March, and Yglesias, who will skate on behalf of the United Kingdom, have enjoyed none of the experience of their more favoured rivals, and their chances of success are not considered very bright. Indeed, there is one British lady, Mrs. Syers, who is their superior, and, in fact, the superior of any British figure-skater. Had the practice adopted in the World’s European and British Championships, of opening the lists to both sexes, been followed in the Olympic competition, Mrs. Syers would undoubtedly have been selected for the first event. As it is, she ought to have no great difficulty in winning the ladies’ gold medal.

Westminster Gazette, October 17, 1908, 16; emphasis added

It sounds to me as if women weren’t barred from the European Championships before 1930. Dorothy Greenhough-Smith can’t use the lack of a ladies’ event as an excuse.