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Billie Jean King

Related Biography: Tennis Promoter Gladys Heldman

Tennis promoter Gladys Medalie Heldman grew up as an non-athletic, intellectual young woman. A 1942 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Heldman received her M.A. in medieval studies the following year from the University of California, Berkeley.

Born May 13, 1922 in New York, Heldman took up tennis late, after her marriage in 1947 to Julius Heldman, the 1936 left-handed U.S. Junior champion. She quickly adapted, playing in the U.S. Championships from 1949 to 1953, and at Wimbledon in 1954. Both her daughters, Trixie and Julie, held national junior rankings. Julie won the Italian Open in 1969 and ranked fifth in the world that year and again in 1974. Heldman achieved USTA rankings in the top ten in women's 35 doubles, women's 45 doubles, and mother-daughter events.

In 1953, she founded World Tennis magazine, which she edited until 1972. Heldman aligned herself and her magazine with the female players, most notably Billie Jean King and Rosemary Casals, King's doubles partner, who rebelled against the male tennis establishment. Heldman and the "Houston Nine" (King, Casals, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kerry Melville, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Nancy Richey, Kristy Pigeon and Judy Tegart Dalton) departed from the traditional, mixed-sex tournaments and in 1970 set up a women's-only tour, which, with backing from friend Joe Cullman, chairman of Philip Morris, became the hugely successful Virginia Slims Championships.

Shortly thereafter, Heldman brought the first women's pro tour to Europe in 1971 and Japan in 1972. She has received numerous awards, including the U.S. Tennis Writers award in 1965, World Championship Tennis award in 1980, and the Women's Sports Foundation award in 1982. In 1979 she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She wrote three books on tennis and one novel, The Harmonetics Investigation (Crown, 1979). She lives with her husband in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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