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A Real Catch: The Newport Harbor Lady Anglers

Picture of Olivia Grace Kassien,

Olivia Grace Kassien,

Olivia is a senior in the History and European Studies Departments at UC Irvine. She recently completed an internship with Sherman Library.

In 1949, eleven women established the Newport Harbor Lady Anglers to create opportunities for women to practice their fishing skills and to meet other women with similar interests, at a time when fishing clubs were male-only organizations.  Founding member Clara Keeler said they created the club because female fishing enthusiasts were growing discontent that their husbands went on fishing trips that women were not permitted to partake in. The Newport Harbor Lady Anglers soon became competition for the all-male fishing clubs, with record-setting catches. Within a few years of its founding, the Lady Anglers had over 100 members, and it may have been the largest women’s fishing club in the world.

The Newport Harbor Lady Anglers’ fishing expanded women’s opportunities in sport fishing by creating a safe place for women to fish and establish friendships.  Many members remained active in the club for years. Lady Angler, Rolene Roda, continued to fish all her life and even caught a 62-pound yellowfin tuna at the age of 82.

One member, identified only as Mrs. Burns, told to the Los Angeles Times in a 1971 interview, “Women as a whole out fish men…that kind of gal tries harder than most men. She never interrupts her fishing to nap in a bunk aboard a boat. Most women never stop to drink a beer. They come out to fish. Period!”


(L to R) Dorothy Stieve, Doris Powers and Olive McKenzie, 1951.
Anglers showing off their catches following a tournament between the Oceanside Lady Anglers and the Newport Harbor Lady Anglers, 1955.
(Top, L to R) Stella Gaines, B. J. Burke, Curly Sanford and Mary Jo Lansdowne; (Bottom, L to R) Mary Jo Lansdowne, B. J. Burke and Curley Sanford. 1951.

In addition to fishing, the Lady Angles devoted time to environmental protection and philanthropy. Every year, the club threw a “Spring Benefit Luncheon” and a yearly picnic that supported the “Handicapped Children of Orange County” charity and sponsored anti-pollution-themed fishing trips that aimed to clean the water and protect marine life. 

The Sherman Library is fortunate to hold the records of the Newport Harbor Lady Anglers.

La Verne Sprague modeling a fishing outfit during a benefit hosted by the Newport Harbor Lady Anglers, 1953.