A Minneapolis Skate Maven: The Margaret Bennett Story

Photo courtesy Hennepin County Library

Margaret Helen Bennett was born September 17, 1910 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She grew up in a cozy Garfield Avenue home with her parents Helen (Richardson) and Ashley Clayton 'A.C.' Bennett and older sister Irene. Her father was a prolific inventor who applied for patents for a carburetor, air-cleaner, smoke cleaner, suction cleaner and an apparatus for supplying fuel oil to furnaces. He also dabbled in aviation, patenting an airplane and (with Ralph D. Wickox) making several attempts to fly it on Lake Minnetonka.

A.C. Bennett's airplane patent

A.C. Bennett was also one of Minneapolis' top figure skating instructors and a patron and mentor to a who's who of Minnesota skaters, including Roy and Eddie Shipstad, Oscar Johnson and Robin Lee. Margaret's grandfather, Henry Hamilton Bennett, passed away two years before she was born. He was a photography pioneer in Wisconsin who served as a soldier in the Civil War.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Margaret was a regular on the ponds of the Twin Cities during the roaring twenties - considered something of a young prodigy, in fact - but it wasn't until she started taking lessons from Julius B. Nelson that she entered the world of competitive figure skating.

Top: Joan Dix, Fritzi Burger and Margaret Bennett having tea at the 1932 Winter Olympic Games. Bottom: Louise Weigel, Grace Madden, Margaret Bennett and Estelle Weigel. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.Louise Weigel, Grace Madden, Margaret Bennett and Estelle Weigel. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In early 1931, she claimed the U.S. junior women's title in Boston and finished fourth in the North American Championships. That December, she finished second to Maribel Vinson at the U.S. Championships, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. At the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, she finished eleventh. At the subsequent World Championships, she dropped to twelfth. However, the American, Finnish and Norwegian judges had her as high as seventh in free skating... ahead of future Olympic Silver Medallist Cecilia Colledge.

Margaret Bennett and her two year old daughter Caroline. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Following those World Championships in Montreal, Margaret married bookkeeper Walter F. Anthony. After giving birth to daughter Caroline, she returned to the ice to participate in a 'barnstorming tour' of ice shows in Midwestern cities and towns organized by Edward Eylar and her father. She even teamed up with Roy Shipstad of future Ice Follies fame to give exhibitions in pairs skating. Margaret and her husband later divorced, and she moved to Chester, Connecticut, where she became a hospital administrator. She passed away there on June 7, 1984 at the age of seventy three, her brief reign as Minneapolis' skating queen largely forgotten.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.