Mary Rudge (1842-1919), who had been called the women´s world champion before the title existed, died today 100 years ago. She played her first competitive games by correspondence. This was no unusual start at chess for a woman in the 19th century. Rudge became Bristol Chess Club´s first female member after the club decided in 1872 to accept women.
Mary Rudge was the youngest daughter of a medical doctor who taught his children to play chess. She did not marry and worked as a teacher for some years. When she was without income, friends remembered her chess prowess and organised exhibitions for her to raise money. Rudge was most likely the first woman to give simuls.
The exclusion of women from clubs and competitions was still widespread when the first Ladies Chess Club was founded in London in 1895 and the first Ladies Chess Congress took place in London in 1897. Rudge who was already 55 years old won the main competition of the congress. The British Chess Magazine went on to refer to her as women´s world champion.
Rudge died in 1919 nearly two years before Vera Menchik and her mother and sisters moved from Russia to England. Soon afterwards the world chess federation FIDE was founded and introduced official women competitions. Menchik won all championships until she was killed in a German air raid in 1944.