[This post by Martin Smith]
This series is telling the story of Louisa Matilda Fagan (née Ballard) (1850-1931), born in Italy of an American father and an Italian mother who, nonetheless, was given in the censuses as a "British Subject", probably on account of her marriage in 1872 to a Captain in the Bombay Lancers: Joseph George Fagan (c.1843-1908). As for his place in this series - his time will come.
In the previous, introductory, episode
we cropped her (seated to the right) from this group photograph taken at the Craigside (Llandudno) Chess Congess in 1898 where she came first in the Second Class Tournament.
Clearly, she was not the only female player at the Congress nor, of course, on the wider chess scene. There was, for example, a thriving Ladies Chess Club (henceforth: LCC) in London formed in 1895, of which Mrs Fagan was a prominent member. It is the chess career of Louisa Matilda Fagan that we will follow in this and the next episode, to which we will add - as we go along - some salient parts of her personal biography (which will be fleshed out when we examine it more closely further down the line). So, we will be going into the chess-detail here: the really interesting stuff (some might say) comes later.
of 1897 commented that she had "early learnt the moves of the game"
(maybe along with her brother?) when the family was in Italy. She appears in the UK 1861 census (now age 11) in a boarding school in Malvern - her brother, William Roberts Ballard Junior, is shown at the family address in Marylebone, along with a full complement of servants. Perhaps it's more likely that she would have learnt the game sometime in the next ten years up to her marriage in 1872. By then her brother, older by almost three years and now in his mid-twenties - a "strong and brilliant player" (BCM
1897) - was already mixing with the chess elite, as we know from the last episode; she, however, was nowhere to be seen.
She married her Cavalryman on 8 July 1872 - she was now 22 and he seven years older. She would have gone pretty much straightaway with her new husband, a serving soldier, to his posting in India - indeed there is a record of a sailing to Bombay from Naples of a Captain and Mrs Fagan on 16 September 1872. The newlyweds must have gone via Italy to visit relations and receive their blessing. Now at last she appears in the chess record - though you may not have guessed it at the time.