Originally Published: February 12, 2018 7 p.m.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part column series by Courier columnist Chris Howard on women in the world of tennis. Find part two in the sports section of The Daily Courier on Feb. 20, or online at dCourier.com.
Since the beginning of time, it seems like men have been “King of the Hill” while women in general were forced to take a back seat.
Most were taught that women were made from man’s rib, rules and laws made it slow to get voting rights, it was taught that women were supposed to be subservient to husbands thoughts and wishes, less than equal pay took place in most instances, they were not given the same credit with similar accomplishments, men received special social status in non-balanced ways - but as of recently women have decided it’s high time to ban together and say “enough is enough.”
The game of tennis has had its ups and downs in equal rights with women but over the past 92 years has finally made pretty good gains - now garnering equal pay at all Grand Slam events.
The U.S. Open created equal pay in 1973, French Open in 2001, and finally in 2007 both Wimbledon and the Australian Open agreed to do the same.
Early on men were the ones who played the tournaments and women thought to be the weaker sex and supposedly worried they might exhaust themselves if they were to play were finally given the chance to compete at Wimbledon in 1884 eight years after the tournament began.
The U.S. Championships which began in 1881 for men finally had women join them in 1887.
Playing tennis in the early years was more for the wealthy. Tournaments were played, but everyone had an amateur status - so just how many people could travel the world and play in all the tournaments known as majors or Grand Slams without money to be made?
During that time, men wore long trousers and long sleeved shirts with hats, and women full length corseted white dresses and hats.
And then a French-woman by the name of Suzanne Lenglen took the tennis world by storm, winning practically every event she played from 1919 to 1926 when she finally turned pro. As the first female tennis celebrity and earning $50,000 to tour the U.S. professionally she not only wooed the crowds with her play, but changed the way women were supposed to dress, now showing bare forearms and dresses above the calf while sipping brandy between sets.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.