Women in Sports: Tennis Star Reflects on Gender Bias

Between 1919 and 1928, Helen Wills won Wimbledon eight times. In 1932, she shared her thoughts on America's evolving view of women in sports.

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—“Tennis” by Helen Wills, from our May 14, 1932, issue

In the infancy of tennis someone suggested that in mixed doubles the man should send only easy balls to the lady player on the other side of the net. Someone said a rule ought to be drawn up so that “a lady could refuse as many serves as she likes.”

We feel rather offended, now, if the man on the other side in mixed doubles sends us an easy serve. We would rather be bowled over by a cannonball from Bill Tilden’s racket than receive a gentler service.

The feminine mind in sport reflects the general trend of feminine thinking of the day. Strange, indeed, that this was scarcely more than 50 years ago. Woman’s mind was supposed to be protected from too strong doses of anything intellectual, for fear it might become more interesting, and her body was protected from any strenuous exercise, for fear it might become more healthy. Muscles were a horror and sunburned complexions a tragedy in a young girl’s life.

Read the entire article from the May 14, 1932 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.


This article is featured in the May/June 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening PostSubscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured Image: Leopold Seyffert, ©SEPS

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