Kitty Godfree nee McKane a remarkable All-England Champion and sportswoman.
L to R- Kathleen “Kitty” Godfree with her sister Margaret Stocks.
We take a look at one of the most remarkable All-England Champions and sportswoman of the past. Kitty McKane (later Godfree) not only won eight All-England titles in the 1920s but she also won an Olympic gold medal, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals for tennis, she was also a Wimbledon tennis champion.
She was born on 7 May 1896. Nine years later she cycled from London to Berlin, a short distance of 600 miles with Margaret, her sister and parents!
In Kitty Godfree’s autobiography by Geoffrey Green: Kitty records: “The only advice-not coaching-I got from uncles and cousins when I first picked up a racket at the age, I suppose of ten. ’Use your right-hand’ they use to urge. ’Tennis is played with the right-hand’.
So right it became. Yet basically I am left-handed. I used to play cricket left-handed, as batsmen, bowler, fielder and thrower; I was left-handed at lacrosse; I serve cards and write left-handed. I now wonder if I would have better on my natural, port side. Because of my tennis I played badminton with my right hand. This cannot now be answered, but sometimes I wonder.”
From 1920 to 1922 Kitty won three consecutive All-England badminton woman’s singles titles and the woman’s doubles title with her sister Margaret in 1921. At the 1924 Championships Kitty achieved a hat-trick of titles by winning the singles, doubles again with her sister and mixed doubles with Frank Devlin. To make it eight All-England titles in 1925 she won the mixed again with Frank Devlin.
In the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games she came away with a set of medals for tennis, winning the woman’s doubles gold, mixed doubles silver and the woman’s singles bronze. At the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris she won the women’s doubles silver and woman’s singles bronze.
Kitty won the Wimbledon singles titles twice. In the 1924 final, Kitty recovered from a set and 4-1 (40-15) down against Helen Wills Moody to win the title. In the 1926 final, Kitty recovered from a 3-1 and game-point-against deficit in the third set to defeat Lili de Alvarez.
Kitty and her husband Leslie Godfree are the only married couple ever to win the mixed doubles championships at Wimbledon. They won the title in 1926.
This remarkable sportswoman was also selected to play lacrosse for England.
Kitty Godfree at the age of 90 presenting the trophies and winners’ medals for the 1986 Yonex All-England Woman’s Doubles title to Chung Myung-Hee and Hwang Hye-Young from Korea.
Photo: – Loius Ross