With Trina Gulliver’s autobiography published in 2008 by John Blake, darts fans could be forgiven for thinking that this is the first darts-related book published by a woman.
Trina’s work, Golden Girl – The Autobiography of the Greatest Ever Ladies’ Darts Player is certainly the first autobiography of a lady darts player but thirty years ago, Madeline Dolowich, ‘a dart enthusiast for many years’, was hard at work preparing her work The Dart Book for publication. I know very little about the author but assume from the ‘Acknowledgements’ section of her book and her publisher’s address that she was a darts player based in New York.
Included in her acknowledgements is Bob McLeod, the then President of the United States Darting Federation (USDF) and it is clear that Madeline’s work was very much influenced by and borrowed from Bob’s book Darts Unlimited (co-authored by Jay D. Cohen (USDA Vice President and Tournament Director). In my view Darts Unlimited (1977)was the best darts books published in the USA during the late 1970s and The Dart Book has also earned its place in the literature of the sport as the first darts book written by a woman.
The Dart Book was published in New York by the Condor Publishing Company, Inc., in 1978. How this work was greeted by the darting world is unknown as I have been unable to trace any reviews. It was certainly not published in the UK and seems to have been quickly consigned to history – although I am happy to be proved wrong.
Madeline devoted chapters to the usual stuff – equipment, accessories, how to play, alternative games etc – but, I think for the first time anywhere up until that time she included a chapter on ‘Women’s Darts’. Being fundamentally a men’s sport, this chapter – and the whole concept of the book – was groundbreaking.
Madeline clearly undertook some research into women’s darts in the USA in the early-to-mid 1970s, revealing, for example, that darts was a sport ‘which primarily women in their 30s participate in’ and stating categorically that ‘The skills which make for fine dart players are something which…have absolutely nothing to do with sex.’ Madeline encourages ladies to play darts but accepts that they ‘may be put off the game by the association of the game with bars’ and that some women ‘might be leery of competing with men, either because they think men are bound to be better than they are, or because it is somehow “not done” to compete against the men.’
Madeline suggests ways around this, by playing at home or in church groups or PTAs, a few sets of darts making more ladies think that they ‘must “go to the Tuesday night meeting” because there is a dartboard there.’ She also provides brief historical data about the ladies’ game in the USA at the time and mentions the top lady darter of the day, Julie Nicholl and her mother Ellie.
Another original chapter in Madeline’s book is ‘Children and Darts’. As far as I know, no dart book either before or since the publication of The Dart Book has included a chapter on darts for the kids. As Madeline wrote at the time, ‘The advent of large numbers of women into the game will have a great impact upon the game, not least in bringing children into dart playing with them.’ Madeline then predicted that ‘Once darts is established as a truly family game, its place will be assured in American life.’
I am not certain that this has happened but what I am certain of is that, by writing The Dart Book, Madeline’s place in the history of darts literature is assured.
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin
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