Gisela K. Gresser

Gisela K. Gresser

(1906-2000)
United States – Inducted 1992

The first U.S. woman to earn a master’s rating and among the first seventeen to hold the title of woman international master, Gresser finished or shared first place in the U.S. Women’s Championship nine times between the mid-1940s and the late 1960s. Given these accomplishments, it is even more remarkable that she didn’t learn chess until the late 1930s, after becoming hooked during a transatlantic cruise. After attending the first U.S. Women’s Championship in 1938, she would compete in 1940 and win—with a perfect score—in 1944. She played in five Women’s Candidates tournaments and three Women’s Olympiads, and was the challenger in the 1949-1950 Women’s World Championship.

In addition to being a top-ranked chess player, Gresser was a distinguished classical scholar. After receiving her degree at Radcliffe College, she studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens on a Charles Elliot Norton fellowship. She was also an accomplished painter, musician, and world traveler, demonstrating a well-rounded intelligence. She became the first woman inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1992. At a time when some questioned whether women could endure the rigors of serious chess, Gresser was an important pioneer, demonstrating that women could—and can—compete in top-level events.