Fish, Mrs. Stuyvesant

(1884 – 1971) – generous patron of fencing, advocate of women’s fencing, member of first championship women’s foil team.

Saturday January 30, 1937
New York World-Telegram

“Jabs and Thrusts in Vogue
as Society Turns to Fencing.”

42 Women Among 200 Ardent Members
of Club Formed in 1883- Many Notables
Seek Relaxation at Foils

by Constance Joyce

“En garde!” cried Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish to Mrs. Charles H. Voorhees as they faced each other yesterday at the Fencers’ Club, 320 East 53rd Street, of which they are both members.

Left arms curved upward behind their heads, right knees bent, left legs stretched backward, foils crossed, clattered, and clashed, and the battle was on, fast, fierce- but friendly.

“Touche!” came at last from Mrs. Voorhees when Mrs. Fish’s foil touched a vulnerable spot (anywhere above the waist or below the neck, excluding the arms).  Both ladies stopped, winded and worn out, to rest.

“Doesn’t it hurt to be jabbed?” I asked.

“Goodness, no,” replied Mrs. Voorhees, “this little button on the end protects us.”

Demonstrates Ability

“Here, stand still,” Mrs. Fish jumped up, facing me, “and I’ll poke you.”   She did right in my unguarded ribs, and it didn’t hurt, but I said, “Ouch!”  when Mrs. Rene Pinchart, wife of the instructor, demonstrated an epee upon me.  Three wcked little barbs grow out of the tip.

“Once, though,” went on Mrs. Voorhees, “my opponent’s foil pierced my padded jacket near the shoulder, the pliable steel blade bent and zipped across my chest, and when she withdrew it, I had two nice long red scratches.  I couldn’t wear a low-necked dress for weeks!”

“People tease us,” Mrs. Fish laughed merrily, “about the bruises that show on our arms and necks.  They ask, “What did your husband do to you now?”

Mrs. Fish and Mrs. Voorhees are two of the forty-two women composing the roster of 200 who are ardent members of the Fencers’ Club.  Charles De Kay, who died last year, founded the organization in 1883.  Scott O’Connor, who was an honorary at that time, still belongs.  He’s in Palm Beach now.

R. Coudert Leader

Frederic R. Coudert is President and the other officers are Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish and Colonel Henry Breckinridge, vice-presidents; Charles Tatham, treasurer, and Leon Schoonmaker, secretary.

Besides the officers, on the Board of Governors are Harold Van Buskirk, Albert D. Smith, William Russell, Robert Driscoll, Adelaide Baylis, who was the first national champion in this country, and Hugh Alessandroni, now national champion in foil and cousin to Carol Alessandroni, the club’s present holder of the Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish Cup.

Miss Alessandroni arrived while I was there, red-cheeked and briskly healthy.  She had just come from a singing lesson by Baccolini Castagna, and while Dr. Alice Gregory was having a session with the instructor, Rene Pinchart, Miss Alessandroni dashed upstairs to change into fencing clothes.  She reappeared, jacket, trousers and gloves all a spotless white, and when her lesson started there was as pretty a lunge and attack as ever I’ve seen.  She’s one of the few left-handed fencers, which in a way is an advantage, they tell me, for most right-handed opponents are accustomed to right-handed adversaries.

Fond of Fencing

Mrs. Arthur Duncan and Mrs. K. P. Tsolainos also parried thrusts with Mr. Pinchart, but when it came Mrs. Fish’s turn she took things a little slower than usual.  Only the day before, Mrs. Fish had received a typhoid injection in one arm preparatory to taking a trip to Mexico with her husband on February 11.  They haven’t opened their town house this winter at 17 East 93rd Street, but are living meanwhile in Mt. Kisco.

An aching arm not withstanding, Mrs. Fish couldn’t resist the feel of a foil yesterday, “I love to fence,” she said, “it’s not only fun, but teaches co-ordination and balance.  And it’s a game of quick mental and physical reactions.”

Mrs. Fish’s trousers were of black corduroy, while silvery-haired Mrs. Voorhees wore black satin knee breeches.  (Skirts went out two years ago;  they got in the way when lunging.)  While resting, the ladies slipped on short coats of bright red with with yellow collars.

“The club’s colors,” explained Mrs. Fish, “are really blood and buff, derived from a trickling wound and the color of the skin.”

Mrs. Voorhees and Mrs. Fish have fenced together for years and hold two of the club’s longest memberships- the former 25 years, the latter, about 35.

Others who take their fencing seriously are Mrs. James R. Herbert Boone, Mrs. Horace Havemeyer, Mrs. W. T. Kissel, Joan Higgins, Maude Van Cortlandt Oakes, Mrs. Marshall Prentiss, Mrs. Seth Thomas and Clifford Beal.