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Gladys Heldman launches "World Tennis Magazine"

May 13, 1953
World Tennis Magazine cover
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World Tennis Magazine cover with Gabriela Sabatini, 1990 U.S. Open Champion.

Tennis player, promoter, and women's advocate Gladys Heldman released the first issue of World Tennis Magazine on May 13, 1953. Heldman began playing tennis after the birth of her two daughters and went on to rank #1 in Texas and #2 in the Southwest in addition to playing at Wimbledon in 1954. Heldman is most celebrated, however, for her work promoting women's equal status in the tennis world. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Heldman used her magazine to push for equal coverage and opportunity for female tennis players. She was also a consistent advocate for athletes in general against the criticism of tournament organizers and the mainstream media. Heldman's writing and advocacy were honored with the J.P. Allen Memorial Award of the Lawn Tennis Writers' Association of America in 1958.

In 1970, fed up with the disparity in prize money for men and women, Heldman organized independent tournaments in competition with the U.S. Open. She went on to form the Virginia Slims Tour for professional women tennis players. Women were initially punished for competing in Heldman-sponsored events, but after three years of lawsuits and negotiations, the Virginia Slims Tour finally merged with the United States Lawn Tennis Association and, in 1973, men and women began playing in the same events for equal prizes. The struggle for equal pay continued, however. Only in 2007 did Wimbeldon agree to offer equal prize money to men and women.

Heldman retired in the mid 1970s, selling World Tennis Magazine to CBS. In 1979, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as well as the National Tennis Hall of Fame. Heldman died in 2003 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

To learn more about Gladys Heldman, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.

See also: Jewesses with Attitude, "Wimbledon Pays Up To Pay Equal."

Sources: http://www.jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=tennis&ID=21; http://www.tennisfame.com/famer.aspx?pgID=867&hof_id=143; http://www.wm.edu/tenniscenter/heldmanobit.html; New York Times, February 13, 1958; March 26, 1961; August 15, 1972; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 615-618.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Gladys Heldman launches "World Tennis Magazine"." (Viewed on April 17, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/may/13/1953/gladys-heldman>.