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Fielder, Dorothy Vivienne (1890–1972)

by Rachel Grahame

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Dorothy Vivienne Fielder (1890-1972), teacher of bridge, was born on 5 June 1890 at Leichhardt, Sydney, daughter of New Zealand-born parents William Phillips Webb, draftsman, and his wife Mary Elizabeth, née Simpson. At Lawson House, Zetland, on 11 July 1914 Dorothy married with Congregational forms James Blaine Fiedler, a motorcar salesman from the United States of America. By 1916 they had changed their surname to Fielder.

In the 1920s Mrs Fielder learned to play contract bridge by correspondence with the American expert Ely Culbertson. From January 1930 she taught both auction and contract bridge in the 'Bridge Studio' at David Jones Ltd's Elizabeth Street department store, five days a week from 10.00 a.m. to 5.45 p.m.; lessons cost 3s. 6d. (or 30s. for ten) and included morning or afternoon tea. Within a fortnight she added 'post prandial' rubbers of bridge from 7.00 to 9.00 on Friday nights. Her practice sessions on Wednesday and Friday afternoons were invariably crowded. For several years she ran a regular competition—with substantial prize-money—on the last Monday of the month. David Jones's catalogues promoted her as 'a prominent expert providing Bridge Tuition at very moderate rates'.

Through her connexion with Culbertson, in April-May 1932 Fielder officiated as games captain for the first international bridge competition played in Sydney: at David Jones she directed the local section of the competition which was organized by the National Bridge Club of America and conducted in forty countries. By 1934, in Sydney alone, 128 players competed in what was known as Olympic Bridge; Mrs Fielder continued to supervise the Sydney section until 1939. In 1933 she had been referee-in-chief for the first interstate contract bridge competition, between teams from Victoria and New South Wales. Over three days, 120 hands of bridge were played at David Jones, in two daily sessions open to the public. Following this match, bridge associations were formed in all States and in the Australian Capital Territory.

Believing that women had the capacity to play bridge as well as or better than men, Fielder encouraged them to enter competitions. In an article in David Jones's Spring/Summer catalogue of 1932-33 she revealed her passion for contract bridge by describing the last trick of the hand: 'a good discard at this stage of the game could nicely accompany a rich man into the Kingdom of Heaven'. Although her husband seldom played, she prescribed bridge as a recipe for matrimonial happiness: 'I have seen more than one marriage, failing for lack of common interest, being saved when the couple take up bridge together'.

Mrs Fielder taught and directed play at David Jones until the early 1950s, then gave private lessons at her Point Piper home until the day before she died. It was claimed that she had taught more than ten thousand people. She also played and demonstrated canasta, but declared that, while enjoyable, it would never supplant bridge. Survived by one of her two sons, she died on 15 August 1972 at Point Piper; she left her body to the University of Sydney for medical research.

Select Bibliography

  • David Jones Ltd (Sydney), The Heart of a Great City (Syd, 1934)
  • Bridge Magazine of Australia, 6 July 1933
  • Australian Women's Weekly, 27 May 1950
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Nov 1929, 8, 24, 30 Jan 1930, 24 Jan 1934, 19 May 1939, 22 Aug 1972
  • mail order catalogues, Spring and Summer, 1930-34, and newsclipping books, 1929-39, and D. Fielder staff card (David Jones Ltd, Sydney, Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rachel Grahame, 'Fielder, Dorothy Vivienne (1890–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fielder-dorothy-vivienne-10177/text17981, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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