Gladys Heldman, 81, a Leader
in Promoting Women's Tennis
By LENA WILLIAMS
Gladys Heidman, an instrumental
figure in the formation of women's professional tennis, died
Sunday at her home in Sante Fe, N.M. She was 81.
Ms. Heldman, the founder, publisher
and editor of World Tennis magazine, began playing tennis at
age 25. As an amateur, she was ranked No. 1 in Texas. She competed
in the United States National Championships four times and at
Wimbledon in 1954.
Off the court, Ms. Heidman
was an indomitable force. She started World Tennis magazine in
1953 as a forum for the sport's views and problems. During its
early years, the magazine was a one-woman operation, with Ms.
Heldman as editor in chief, layout editor, art director and advertising
director. She sold the magazine to CBS Publications in 1972.
The magazine helped transform
Ms. Heidman into an advocate for women's tennis and one of the
most influential people in the game.
In 1970, she used her status
to help nine of the top women's players, led by Billie Jean King
and Rosie Casals, form their own pro tour.
She arranged for the Houston
Racquet Club to sponsor a tournament and had nearly all the players
in the group sign $1.00 contracts with World Tennis to play in
the tournament. Heldman persuaded her friend Joseph Culiman,
chairman of Philip Morris, to donate prize money and sponsor
Despite suspensions and economic
sanctions, the women's pro tour evolved into the Virginia Slims
"Without Gladys, there
wouldn't be women's professional tennis," King said in a
statement Monday. "When I accepted that $1 contract from
Gladysmore than 30 years ago, I knew we were all part of something
special and that women's tennis had been changed forever because
of her vision."
Gladys Medalie Heidman was
born May 13, 1922, in New York City. Her father, George Z. Medalie,
was a New York lawyer and judge. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of
Stanford University, she married Julius Heldman, a former United
States junior tennis champion, in 1942.
The Heldmans' daughters, Carrie
and Julie, were accomplished players; Julie was ranked as high
as No. 5 in the world in 1969 and 1974.
Ms. Heidman was inducted into
the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979. She is survived
by her husband, her daughters and three grandchildren.