Gladys Medalie Heldman (May 13, 1922 – June 22, 2003) was an American tennis player and magazine publisher. She was the founder of World Tennis magazine; she supported Billie Jean King and eight other female tennis players: Rosie Casals, Judy Dalton, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, and Valerie Ziegenfuss. They were called the Houston Nine and 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, was born in New York City on May 13, 1922, and first became interested in tennis after marrying Julius Heldman, the left-handed United States Junior Champion in 1946. Gladys started playing tennis after her two daughters were born, Carrie Heldman and Julie Heldman, had National Junior Rankings, and Julie was ranked as high as No. 5 in the World). While born in New York City, 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.
She was a graduate of Stanford University and a Phi Beta Kappa. Her two daughters went to Stanford as well. Gladys died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on June 22, 2003 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after she had been suffering from a heart condition.
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 received less prize money than their male counterparts, e.g. in 1968, the women's champion received £750, while the men's received £2000. Following the Pacific Southwest Championships's decision in September 1970 to pay male players eight times more money, 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 USLTA, the Virginia Slims Circuit became so popular that it eventually merged with the USLTA.
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, Texas Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988, ITA Women's Hall of Fame in 1998, and International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
Portrayal in film
- Cochrane, Kira (23 June 2013). "Billie Jean King: 'It's not about the money. It's about the equality message'". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- Lincoln, Adam. "Gladys Heldman's trailblazing contribution to women's tennis is remembered in the film 'Battle of the Sexes', in which Sarah Silverman portrays her". WTA Tennis. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
- Gladys Medalie Heldman - International Tennis Hall of Fame Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Gladys M. Heldman". ITA Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
- International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Home Page
- Hipes, Patrick (March 23, 2016). "Sarah Silverman A Match For 'Battle Of The Sexes'". Deadline. Retrieved March 25, 2016.