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Atkinson, Juliette Paxton (15 April 1873–12 January 1944), tennis player, was born at Rahway, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Jerome Gill Atkinson, a physician, and Kate McDonald. She and her younger sister, Kathleen, taught themselves to play lawn tennis at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. They carried their own net, poles, stakes, rackets, and balls, erecting and dismantling their court each trip. For social reasons, they joined the Kings County Tennis Club about 1891. Club tournaments soon roused their competitive instincts. “Julie” first entered open tournaments during 1893, winning two of three handicap events in the New York City area and losing in the first round of the Middle States Championship at Mountain Station, New Jersey. Atkinson and Helen Hellwig, the club’s best women players, entered the 1894 National Championship at Wissahickon, Pennsylvania, and won the women’s doubles, while Atkinson and Eddie Fischer captured the mixed doubles title. In the singles, Atkinson lost a close struggle in the semifinals to Bertha Townsend Toulmin, the champion of 1888 and 1889. Hellwig, however, defeated Toulmin in the all-comers final and then vanquished Aline Terry, the defending titleholder, in a five-set challenge round to become U.S. champion. (Customarily women’s matches were the best of three sets, but from 1891 through 1901 their finals and challenge rounds were the best of five sets.) Later, Atkinson bested Hellwig in five sets to win the 1894 Middle States crown....

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Browne, Mary Kendall (03 June 1891–19 August 1971), tennis player and golfer, was born in Ventura County, California, the daughter of Albert William Browne, a rancher and Spanish-American War captain, and Neotia Rice. She attended Los Angeles (Calif.) Polytechnic High School. Her older brother Nathaniel Borrodail Browne, an excellent tennis competitor, taught Mary a sound all-court style and sharpened her volleying and smashing skills in practice by stationing her at the net to parry his hardest drives....

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Bundy, May Godfray Sutton (25 September 1887–04 October 1975), tennis player, was born in Plymouth, England, the daughter of Adolphus Ade G. Sutton, an English navy captain, and Adelina E. Godfray. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was six. On the clay court built by one of her two older brothers and a sister on the family ranch near Pasadena, California, Bundy at age ten followed in the footsteps of three of her four older sisters by becoming a tennis enthusiast. Beginning tournament play in 1898, Bundy won the prestigious Southern California Women’s Singles Championship in 1899 at age twelve. Because she was the strongest, quickest, and most determined of the sisters, by 1901 she emerged as the best of the quartet, leading to the often-heard quip in California that it took a Sutton to beat a Sutton....

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Connolly, Maureen Catherine (17 September 1934–21 June 1969), tennis player, was born in San Diego, California, the daughter of Martin J. Connolly, a chief petty officer in the navy, and Jassamine Wood, a church organist. Connolly graduated from Cathedral High School in 1951. Although initially passionate about horses, she switched her energies to tennis while on the University Heights playground in San Diego, California. There a local tennis pro, Wilbur Folsom, observed her natural ability. While Folsom changed her into a right-handed player, Eleanor Tennant developed Connolly’s talents. Tennant, who had helped develop the tennis talents of champions Alice Marble and ...

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Althea Gibson. Watercolor and pencil on board, 1957, by Boris Chaliapin. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine.

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Gibson, Althea (25 August 1927–28 September 2003), tennis player and professional golfer, was born in Silver, South Carolina, to Daniel Gibson and Annie Bell Gibson, sharecroppers. In 1930 the family moved from the rural South to the urban North, relocating in Harlem, where her three sisters and brother were born. Althea frequently skipped school and repeatedly ran away from home, and this resulted in regular whippings from her father. Feisty and determined, Althea preferred to spend her time in bowling alleys and pool halls. Althea was an outstanding all-around athlete—she played any kind of ball sport, excelling at paddle tennis and basketball. A self-described tomboy, Althea also played football, and her father taught her how to box, a skill she used to navigate recurrent assaults from boys and girls....

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Helen Hull Jacobs. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Jacobs, Helen Hull (06 August 1908–02 June 1997), tennis player and author, was born in Globe, Arizona, the daughter of Roland H. Jacobs, a businessman, and Eula Hull Jacobs. Her mother, a Missourian with roots in the South, was a direct descendant of ...

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Molla Bjurstedt Mallory Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115952).

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Mallory, Molla Bjurstedt (06 March 1884–22 November 1959), tennis player, was born Anna Margrethe Bjurstedt in Oslo, Norway, the daughter of a Norwegian army officer (parents’ names are unknown), and grew up in Christiana, Norway. She began playing tournament tennis at age ten, and in a country where few people participated in the sport, she won the Norwegian national women’s singles championship eight times between 1904 and 1914. In 1904 she entered the world mixed doubles championship in Stockholm with Swedish crown prince Gustav Adolph as her partner, but they lost in the first round of the tournament. Mallory attended a private school in Wiesbaden, Germany, to learn German and later went to school in Paris to learn French. She also studied massage therapy at the Orthopedic Institute in Christiana and went to London in 1908 to work as a masseuse. There, she played in several London tournaments without success, finding the competition much keener than in Norway. In the summer of 1911, Mallory and her sister, Valborg, played in several tournaments in Germany, gaining experience that helped Mallory win a bronze medal in outdoor tennis at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. She played well but lost to Marguerite Broquedis of France, the gold medalist, in the semifinals, 6–3, 2–6, 6–4. When she left Norway for the United States in 1914, she held the women’s singles championship and, with her sister, the Norwegian women’s doubles championship....

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Alice Marble. Color carbro print, 1939, by Robert F. Cranston. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Marble, Alice (28 September 1913–13 December 1990), amateur and professional tennis player, was born in Beckwith, California, the fourth of five children born to Harry and Jessie Marble. Harry worked as a high-climbing lumberjack in the Sierra Nevada until 1919, when the family moved to San Francisco. Soon after he contracted pneumonia and died. Since there was no insurance, Alice’s mother and older brother Dan had to go to work....

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Helen Wills Moody. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-119396).

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Moody, Helen Wills (06 October 1905–01 January 1998), tennis champion, was born Helen Newington Wills in Centerville, California, to Clarence Alfred Wills, a physician, and Catherine Anderson Wills. She grew up in nearby Berkeley and was educated in area private schools; she also attended a boarding school in Vermont. Wills began playing tennis as a child, instructed by her father, and quickly demonstrated an aptitude for the game. When she turned fourteen in 1919, she was given a membership by her parents in the Berkeley Tennis Club, and a coach there began setting up daily matches for her. Soon she came under the tutelage of tennis champion ...

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Sears, Eleonora Randolph (28 September 1881–26 March 1968), athlete and sports patron, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Frederick Richard Sears, the heir to a shipping and real estate fortune and family trustee, and Eleonora Randolph Coolidge, a great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson...

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Wightman, Hazel Hotchkiss (20 December 1886–05 December 1974), tennis player, teacher, and patron, was born Hazel Virginia Hotchkiss in Healdsburg, California, the daughter of William Joseph Hotchkiss, a ranch owner and cannery founder, and Emma Lucretia Grove. In poor health as a child, Hazel became robust and athletic playing baseball, cricket, and field sports with her older brothers Miller, Homer, and Marius, and her friends. In 1900 her father moved his office to San Francisco, California, and the family’s residence to Berkeley, California, where his children played lawn tennis. Two years later her brothers took Hazel to watch the Pacific States (later Pacific Coast) championships in San Rafael, California. She thought a Sutton sisters baseline duel monotonous but, on a subsequent trip, thrilled to the spectacular volleying, smashing, and net attack of the brothers Samuel and Sumner Hardy, former Pacific champions. The youngsters played on the asphalt court at the University of California at Berkeley during early mornings; they later played on their home makeshift court, where erratic bounces on gravel forced them to volley constantly to sustain rallies. Hotchkiss also practiced solo against a barn wall. Self-taught, she quickly mastered grips, strokes, footwork, and proper balance, and her forte as a net and overhead attacker was established early....