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Elinor Churchill, Robinson Female Seminary’s Greatest Athlete

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column appeared in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, May 12, 2017.


The Robinson Female Seminary’s class of 1924 prophecy had this prediction about Elinor Churchill: “I see a boxing ring surrounded by thousands of spectators. It is the end of the last round, and Elinor Churchill has thrown her opponent through the ropes. She is now being hailed as the world’s middleweight champion. I am not surprised at Elinor’s future, are you?” Elinor had challenged so many athletic stereotypes by that time that most of her fellow graduates wouldn’t have been surprised at all if she’d taken to boxing.

Elinor was born in 1903, the tenth child of Fred and Millie Churchill of 15 Union Street in Exeter. She entered the Robinson Female Seminary – Exeter’s public school for girls – in 1913, at the age of 10 in the 6th grade. She was a middling student until the Seminary introduced a required course in physical education in 1917. It was then that El…

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