"History of female billiards".

"Floor billiards, the ancestor of table billiards, appears - at least in written records - in the 14th century (although it is probably older).

Both men and women are already playing the game at the time:

According to the "Journal de Paris" (1426), a young woman called Margot surpasses the most skilful billiard players [1].

The tapestry below ("Le jeu de Tiquet", Bruges workshop, 16th century) is based on a 15th-century engraving that supports the idea that women enjoy this game as much as men.


The same theme is found almost identically on this other tapestry (early 17th century) by painter Laurent GUYOT (1575-1644), who based himself on the 16th-century cartoon of the previous tapestry:


All male and female players used a "cross". Then the billiard game moved from the ground to a "table". Women continued to use a cross, which enabled them to play in a standing or slightly lowered position as their ankles were supposed not to be seen according to the Decency Code of the time: "Le Noble Jeu de Billard" (1643) , painting by Abraham BOSSE (1602-1676).


Women abandoned the cross for a straight cue towards the end of the 18th century, beginning of the 19th , which men had already done 50 years earlier.
Here are some well-known women who played billiards in their leisure time:
- Marie Stuart (1542-1587) and Marie-Antoinette of Austria (1755-1793), queens of France, who played every day.
- Catherine the Great (1729-1796), Empress of Russia, and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1819-1901), also avid players.
- Novelist Madame de Staël (1766-1817) and Empress Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847), both brilliant billiard players, below, from left to right.

..and.... [iv]

Marie-Louise d'Autriche (1791-1847), who is shown playing a game of billiards with her husband Napoleon I and Marshal Ney in a Clinedinst illustration:

Here are a few documents showing men and women playing separately or together over time:

- "Le jeu du billard" (1680 ca) by Nicolas Arnoult, a French engraver (1650-1722). The players are Louis XIV and the Duchess of Burgundy.


- “Ladies and gentlemen playing billiards" (1756), drawn by Johann Esaias Nilson (1721-1788).


Note that women still use a cross, while men (who may play, even lying down) already use a cue.

- "The Johannes Remy Family" (1770 ca), by Januarius Zick (1730-1797), a German painter:

. [vii]

- "Jeu de billard" (1807), painted by Louis Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), in which a woman plays with a billiard cue that has no tip yet.

. [viii]

As billiards becomes more and more popular, cafés provided with billiard tables gradually open. Mostly frequented by men, their owners generally resent the presence of women. They even sometimes dare to forbid women to use cues already fitted with a tip, arguing that they might tear the billiard cloth!

 Female billiards remains popular with artists although the development of billiards slows down significantly:

- Two paintings (1869) by French Charles-Edouard Boutibonne (1816-1897), born in Hungary:

(a) "Le jeu de billard".


(A beautiful way of playing behind the back, position referred to as "à la hussarde").

 (b) "Ladies playing billiards".


(A game of billiards between women using billiard cues)

From 1880 to 1890, female billiards is also found in:

a) advertisements by the J. M. Brunswick and Balke Company in the USA.


b) the "Games and Sports" trading card series. "Billiards": below, card no. 165.


A man and a woman playing and a female referee.

c) "Jeu de Billard - Femme" A.S.O. 'ART NOUVEAU' postcard showing a female billiard player and accessories of the time.


d) the book "BILLIARDS" by William BROADFOOT (1896) : see two of its illustrations by Lucien DAVIS (1860 - 1941) below.


Starting shot.......................................................... Difficult shot.

According to documents in the Chicago Billiard Museum, the billiard player known as 'Professor Kaarlus' is Belgian Charles Van Doren. A pupil of French master Albert Garnier for some time, he joins the Maurice Daly Billiard Academy in New York in 1889. Highly appreciated, he becomes a billiard instructor and the creator of many fancy shots.

The talent of his daughter 'May Kaarlus', whose official first name is 'Mary',


is so great that Daly believes in 1915 that she would have surpassed most of the professionals if she had pursued her career.

Women begin to participate in billiard competitions:

The first Women's Open French Championship (1932) is won by Yasmine d'Ouezzan (1913-1997).
Born a Moroccon princess, she is the first French woman to record the run of 100 (1933) [2].

. Yasmine d'Ouezzan 1932

Women's billiards begins to flourish in the United States in the early 1900s with other modes of play such as '14.1 continuous' and '9-ball' pocket billiards.

The first great female star of American billiards is American Ruth McGinnis (1910-1974), below at the age of 14,


later called 'The Queen of Billiards' and recognised as the women's world champion from 1932 to 1940. For more details, see [3].

She is followed by another American, Jean Balukas (1959 - ), below at the age of 7 in an exhibition at New York's Grand Central Terminal. Considered one of the greatest pocket billiards players of all time, she is inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame in June 2002.



Japanese player Masako Katsura (1913-1995) achieves an incredible run of 10,000 caroms in an exhibition [3] in Japan, before moving to the USA to get married in 1951.

This female star, nicknamed "Katsy" and sometimes called the "First Lady of Billiards", puts in a fine performance in a world championship (1952) against renowned male players, see below,


..[xiii].. 1952 World's Three-Cushion sheet

She takes part in numerous exhibitions, invited by Willie Hoppe, Welcher Cochran and her teacher Kinrey Matsuyama.


Advertisement for an exhibition in California (1953).

Masako Katsura is inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame in 1976, as is Ruth Mc Ginnis (posthumously).

BYRNE Robert's book [4] shows the author watching Masako Katsura running out a 100-point carom game, at Palace Billiards in San Francisco in 1976.

       The first French women's free-game billiard championship (1932) is organized almost 50 years earlier.
Since then, women have increasingly taken up billiards, and their performances have often caught up with those of many male champions:

- In 2022, Therese KLOMPENHOUWER, a Dutch woman, wins the Women's 3-Cushion World Championship for the 4th time, with an overall average of 1.39 and a best run of 8!


- Magali DECLUNDER (France) wins the European Championship Free Game Ladies for the 12th time, with an overall average of 76.5 and a best run of 150!


"A Bit of Humour"

       What is commonly referred to as "La Belle Epoque" (1880-1914) is marked by unbridled insouciance and optimism. The upper and petty bourgeoisie, as well as the working class, break free and slum it, each according to his or her social status. In this "relaxed" atmosphere, Billiards, for its ambience and decor, Women who are often regarded as frivolous, and the (rather bourgeois) society of the time, particularly liberated, induce numerous painters and cartoonists to win fame in humorous drawings and caricatures, often with double-meaning captions, yielding to the fashion of the beginning of the century, inaugurating a sometimes saucy style that is still in today. Here are a few examples:

- A drawing from "Fantaisies Parisiennes" (circa 1885) by A. GREVIN (1827-1892), painter and illustrator, creator of Paris' Musée Grévin (= Wax museum):

"Si vous le voulez bien, mon cousin, nous appellerons cela un manche..." (= If you agree, my cousin, we'll call this a handle...)

- A drawing by JEANNIOT, famous painter and illustrator (1848-1934), from the 1904 newspaper "Le Rire":

"Le coup Fin" (= the Fine shot)

   - A drawing from the 1927 newspaper "Le Rire", by Raoul VION, a very famous illustrator, humorist and caricaturist (1872-1939):

- " La Rouge touche " (= the Red touches)

- A suggestive drawing from the magazine "Le Rire", August 1899, entitled "JEU DE BILLARD", by Georges MEUNIER, painter, engraver, illustrator and poster artist (1869-1942):

"Three women sitting on the grass"

- Two drawings (among many others) taken from "La Vie Parisienne", October 1888, under the heading "Villégiatures - Au Billard" by Jacques ONFROY DE BREVILLE, known by the pen name JOB (1858-1931), another well-known artist, caricaturist and illustrator, who features the billiard lifestyle of the time:

1). Pontife et bel esprit (= Pontificating and witty pundit).

"Ne joue jamais, mais passe pour très fort et tourne autour du billard en conseillant les joueurs".

(= "Never play, but do as if you are very strong and walk around the pool table giving advice").

2). Le sexe fort.

- A page from the November 1906 issue of "Le Frou-Frou" magazine: a drawing by Jack ABEILLE (known as Abeillé) (1873-1939), who is also a painter, a designer, a poster artist and an illustrator and was very popular in the "Roaring Twenties" and is still so today.

- A very rare embroidered postcard from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

- "Le Billard Mondain", an extract from the newspaper "Le Sourire", founded in 1899 by Maurice MERY and Alphonse ALLAIS. Drawing by Paul IRIBE (1883 - 1935), a fashion illustrator, a decorator and a poster artist, considered to be one of the precursors of "Art Deco".

- A drawing from the magazine "Le Rire", April 1904, featuring Louis XIV: "Le jeu de Billard": "Nom d'un chien comme elle sait rassembler ses billes" (= By golly, she knows how to put her "things" together)...: drawing by Henri AVELOT (1873 - 1935), who is also a painter and a caricaturist.

( For Bililards: humour & caricatures )



[1]TROFFAES Georges, Le billard et l'histoire. Chronique des temps passés. Ed. Laguide, Paris, France, 1974.

[2] HEURTEBISE André, 3 billes aux reflets tricolores. Ed. Féd. Française, Thionville, France, 1984.

[3] SHAMOS Michaël, Le billard et le billard américain. Ed. Minerva, Paris, France, 1992.

[4] BYRNE Robert, Byrne's Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards. Ed. Skyhorse Publishing. Inc., New York, United States, 2012.




[i] Copyright : Musée d'art et d'histoire de Saint-Lô, Pierre-Yves Le Meur.

[ii] Cas Juffermans.

[iii] Copyright : Musée des Beaux-arts de Rennes - Jean-manuel Salingue.

[iv] Wikimedia Commons.

[v] Nicolas Arnoult, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[vi] National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

[vii] Januarius Zick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[viii] WahooArt.com.

[ix] Postcard.

[x] Charles Edouard Boutibonne (1816 -1897), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

[xi] J.M. Brunswick and Balke Company, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

[xii] Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

ii] J.h. Gallegos.

[xiv] Credit: Carambol, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This page was written in co-operation with Jean-Luc Chiche.