Early Singaporean sports clubs were a male-orientated affair. Besides the usual racial and class divisions, gender segregation was commonplace during this period with women given limited participation in their activities.
Case in point, the ladies of the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) were only allowed into the club’s pavilion and restricted to the club’s upstairs verandah if they wished to view the games or events taking place at the Padang.
It is fortunate however that when the ladies of the SCC decided to set up their own club the gallant gentlemen of the SCC were the first to assist them. It was in 1884 and under the instigation of Mr A N L Donaldson that the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club (LLTC) was established with seven courts in the Dhoby Ghaut area. The club was virtually the SCC’s other half since many of the women of the Club were the wives of SCC members thus they were able to perpetuate an image of being the women’s equivalent of the SCC.
The SCC was, therefore, to all intents and purposes, a keen supporter of the LLTC and often helped to lay out the courts for tennis games. How these ladies managed to run around in their full-length dresses and petticoats becomes even more of a mystery when one considers that in those days white canvas shoes for ladies’ sports were considered “common” (meaning low class). Black, brown or bronze high heels with matching cotton lace stockings were the fashion items at the time and in keeping with the de facto image, were worn by the SCC women for playing tennis.
Sadly, however, the very existence of the LLTC was to be cut short by a series of events in the 1930s. In 1932, the YMCA was given the option of taking over the LLTC’s property at Bras Basah Road with the staff as a going concern. This sudden demise was further exacerbated by the club’s debt which amounted to $5,000, a considerable figure at the time. The LLTC hence ceased its operations due to its inability to sustain its daily expenses.