Brackets and Birdies: The Frances Fletcher Story

Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives

"She is a skater of championship calibre, and her skating technique is almost faultless. Constant practice has enabled her to accomplish the most difficult and intricate skating feats. However, a lack of 'showmanship' and her disinclination to 'strike a pretty pose' have weighed against her in some championship events, and on occasions less skillful skaters have won the award." - "The Winnipeg Tribune", December 5, 1931

The daughter of Isabella (Johnston) and Robert Fletcher, Frances Josephine Fletcher was born May 6, 1914 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her parents were Scottish immigrants to Canada and her father was a physician. Frances, her parents and two older sisters lived in an apartment in the south end of the city with two live-in servants. The family were devout Anglicans.

Frances took up figure skating as a youngster at the Winnipeg Winter Club's rink on Roslyn Road. An article in the December 5, 1931 issue of "The Winnipeg Tribune" explained, "A serious illness, suffered when she was a little girl, which forced her to leave school, was the main reason for her taking up sports. Following her illness, the family doctor advised that she was made to play outdoors as much as possible to regain her health and strength. Taken away from school studies, she had ample time for games and soon took an active interest in all forms of athletics."

Under the tutelage of Manitoba's earliest professional instructors, Olaf Anderson, Paul Wilson and Ferdinand G. Chatté, Frances' skating quickly blossomed. In 1928, she finished second in the senior women's event at the Winnipeg Winter Club's annual club competition and first in the Tenstep and second in intermediate pairs with partner Elswood Bole. The following three years, she reigned as the club's senior women's champion. She made her first trip to the Canadian Championships in 1929, placing fifth in the junior women's event. In 1930, she appeared in The Skating Club Of New York's famous "Land Of The Midnight Sun" carnival at Madison Square Garden, which starred Sonja Henie. The same year, she got to watch Maribel Vinson win the bronze medal at the World Championships. Maribel came to perform in the Winnipeg carnival in 1932 and made a great impression on her.

In 1931, Frances made history as the first woman from Western Canada to win a medal at the Canadian Championships, finishing third in the junior women's event. This was quite a big deal at the time, because skaters from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal had completely dominated the sport throughout the roaring twenties. Frances' breakthrough would have served as an inspiration for one of her training mates, a little girl named Mary Rose Thacker, who went on to win three Canadian titles and two North American titles.

At the same time Frances was making headlines for her fabulous 'fancy' skating, she was earning great praise for her talent on the golf course. She took lessons from Eric Bannister at the Winnipeg Winter Club's golf school three days a week. In 1930 and 1931, she was the Manitoba junior ladies golf champion.

In the thirties, Frances abandoned figure skating entirely to pursue her education. After earning a Bachelor of Science at the University Of Minnesota and a short stint working at the Mayo Clinic, she relocated to San Jose, California. She married a man from North Carolina named George Caddinrus Moore and worked for the Veterans Administration as a medical laboratory technician during World War II. She later moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where she was active in the Cavalry Episcopal Church.

Frances passed away on November 24, 1998 at the age of eighty-four. Her obituary made no mention of her pioneering achievements in sport. 

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