Frisky and Bitchy: Unlikely British Olympic Heroes?
This article begins with a brief biographical overview of the career of bridge player and writer Rixi Markus (1910–1992). To a lesser extent, it gives an account of her sometime partner Fritzi Gordon (1916–1992). Questions of Britishness are specifically informed by Markus’s 1988 memoir, A Vulnerable Game. In her twelfth and final book, Rixi details her experiences as a Jewish emigrant who escaped to London after the Austrian Anschluss in 1938. Assimilation, acculturation and a measure of anglophilia as a British-Jew did little to affect Rixi’s increasingly Zionist sympathies, however. Following the naturalisation of both women in 1950, and together known as Frisky and Bitchy, they were to become widely acknowledged as the strongest women’s partnership in world-bridge in the years between 1951-1976. Their upper middle class backgrounds and the internationalism of the bridge circuit enabled both to mitigate a degree of discrimination due to their ethnicity and gender in post-war Britain. There are consequently four thematic research questions. Firstly, an effect of Eastern European Jewish diaspora was arguably to Austrianise a card game, until then played in Britain mostly by elderly enthusiasts behind closed doors and certainly not in front of the servants. So how ‘British’ was post-war British bridge? Secondly, there were so-called bridge Olympiads from 1960 onwards, so in what ways is it meaningful to consider Frisky and Bitchy as part of British Olympic tradition? Third, by the end of the 1970s international bridge, with Rixi Markus as its most famous female ‘face’, was both fashionable and part of the Establishment’s pastimes. Have we so far underestimated female competitors as entrepreneurs in forming their own eponymous brands and in popularising their sport? Finally, in what ways does contextualising mature or ‘late’ work as part of a career contribute to our understanding of the subgenre of the sports autobiography?
Citation : Williams, J. (2010) Frisky and Bitchy: Unlikely British Olympic Heroes? Women and Sport a special edition of Sport in History 30 (2) pp. 242-267
ISSN : 1746-0263
Research Group : International Centre for Sports History and Culture
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Humanities