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Gladys Medalie Heldman

HELDMAN, GLADYS MEDALIE (1922–2003), leader in women's tennis and sports media and founder of the professional women's tennis tour. Heldman was born in New York City, daughter of well-known New York attorney and judge George Z. Medalie. She married Julius Heldman, a 1936 U.S. junior tennis champion, in 1942 and later her whole family became involved in tennis. Heldman, who earned a B.A. from Stanford University in 1942 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, and an M.A. in medieval history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943, started playing tennis after her two daughters were born. She achieved No.1 amateur ranking in Texas and No. 2 in the Southwest in 1954; she competed at Wimbledon in 1954 and participated in the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills. In 1951, Heldman received the Service Bowl awarded to "the player who yearly makes the most notable contribution to the sportsmanship, fellowship and service of tennis." She founded World Tennis magazine in 1953, serving as the publisher and editor-in-chief, and as a writer. She sold the magazine in the 1970s.

Heldman championed the founding of the women's professional tennis tour to provide more equity in prize money for women in a male-dominated sport. In 1970, nine top players, including Heldman's daughter JULIE (1945– ), played in the first Virginia Slims Circuit tournament in Houston in 1970. The Virginia Slims Circuit later merged with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). Legendary tennis champion Billie Jean King wrote that, "With the invaluable help, support and guidance of Gladys Heldman" women tennis players were able to revolutionize their sport by establishing their own tennis tour.

Heldman and her family maintained an active role in tennis. In recognition of her tremendous contributions to the world of tennis, Gladys Heldman was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Julie Heldman won medals in singles and doubles tennis exhibition events at the 1968 Olympics and also won three gold medals in the 1969 Maccabiah Games. She was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.


L.J. Borish, "American Jewish Women in Sports," in: S.H. Norwood and E.G. Pollack, Encyclopedia of American Jewish History (2005); B.J. King, "Challenges in Keeping Women's Tennis Growing," in: New York Times (Feb. 26, 1984); B. Postal, J. Silver, and R. Silver, "Heldman Family," in: Encyclopedia of Jews in Sports (1965), 447–48.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.