Sunday, March 6, 2016

Anna McCune Harper (1900-1999): Dominant female tennis player

Anna McCune Harper and gravestone (photo on right by Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 36, Lot 269

Anna McCune Harper was dominant American female tennis player in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1924 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley. She later served as the national president of Sigma Kappa from 1939-1942.

She learned the sport along with her sister, Lucy, when they were youngsters in Pacific Grove, California. She restricted most of her play to the West coast until her marriage to UC Berkeley history professor Lawrence Averell Harper. He received a fellowship to study in England in 1925 and 1926 and Anna entered Wimbledon in those years.

Harper was ranked in the U.S. top ten five consecutive years from 1928 through 1932 and was top ranked in 1930.  She won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon in 1931 partnering George Lott. She was the runner-up in singles at the 1930 U.S. Championships, losing to Betty Nuthall (who won the match in 36 minutes!). She also was the runner-up in women's doubles at the 1928, 1930 and 1932 U.S. Championships and in mixed doubles at the 1931 edition of those championships.
Lawrence Averall Harper, who died exactly 10 years before his wife
In 1932, Harper was called home because of an illness in her family. She then decided to give up tournament tennis for other tasks, including the rearing of three children. But she continued to follow the game and played for many years. She even had arthroscopic knee surgery at age 81 so she could continue to play. An adverse reaction to a general anesthetic sidelined her for good and precipitated a long, slow decline in her health.
Harper was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981. There is an "Anna McCune Harper Scholarship Fund at UC," which goes annually to a woman student who is an outstanding athlete and scholar.

She died on June 14, 1999, which was the 10 year anniversary of her husband's death. 

SOURCES: Wikipedia,, Baltimore Sun, Tennis Forum, Sigma Kappa

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