Gladys Medalie Heldman (May 13, 1922 – June 22, 2003) was the founder of World Tennis magazine; she supported Billie Jean King and other female tennis players who formed the Virginia Slims Tour in the early 1970s (the precursor of today's WTA Tour). She is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Heldman, the daughter of New York Court of Appeals judge George Z. Medalie, first became interested in tennis after marrying Julius Heldman, the left-handed United States junior champion in 1936. Gladys started playing tennis after her two daughters were born (her daughters, Carrie Heldman and Julie Heldman, had national junior rankings, and Julie was ranked as high as No. 5 in the world). Originally a New Yorker, Gladys rose to a No. 1 ranking in Texas, as well as No. 2 in the Southwest; she even appeared at Wimbledon in 1954 and also competed in the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills.
World Tennis Magazine
Gladys Heldman is best known for founding World Tennis magazine in 1953, and for promoting the women's game during the 1950s and 1960s. She worked with female tennis players to create a separate women's circuit in 1970. Female players felt they were being denied the financial rewards of the men's game. With Gladys' organization, top players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, and her daughter Julie, formed a separate women's tour. With backing from Joe Cullman of Philip Morris, the first participants in the circuit, known as the "Houston Nine," played the first Virginia Slims Circuit tournament in Houston in late 1970. The players accepted $1 contracts from Heldman. The tournament was a success, and although the American players were temporarily suspended by the USTA, the Virginia Slims Circuit became so popular that it eventually merged with the USTA.
Heldman sold her magazine to CBS Publications in 1972 and was out of tennis politics by the middle of the 1970s.
Heldman was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979.