Helen Wills

By: Sierra Davis

Childhood

Helen Wills was born in Centerville, California on October 6th, 1905. Her dad started teaching her how to play tennis when she was thirteen years old and eventually she joined the Berkeley Tennis Club where she started to get serious about her tennis career. Many people say that this was the motivating factor that launched her into a successful tennis career. Helen learned not by taking tennis lessons, but by watching and learning from people such as tennis champion, Hazel Wightman, at the the tennis club. Helen and Hazel eventually became very successful doubles partners that won at Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Tennis Career

  • She was known as "Little Miss Poker Face" for how intensely focused she was during a match.
  • Had very powerful strokes and servers because she played mostly against guys during her early tennis career.
  • Made dramatic changes to the standard tennis uniform when she staring wearing a shorter tennis skirt because it was more practical to play in.
  • Won Junior and Regional Championships made times throughout her career.
  • Won U.S. Championships in 1923
  • Won two olympic gold medals in 1924 for singles and doubles matches
  • Won 19 Grand Slam Singles during her career
  • Won 7 Wimbledon Titles
  • Retired in 1938
  • Was put in Tennis Hall of Fame in 1959

Other Interests

Helen Wills always had a passion for writing and painting. She continued to write and paint throughout her tennis career. Helen wrote many articles, a tennis manual, an autobiography and a mystery book throughout her life. Some of her paintings are being showcased at various museums throughout the country.

Personal Life

When Helen wasn't playing tennis, writing or painting, she was mostly likely with her husband Frederick Moody. Helen and Frederick met at a tennis match in 1926. They got married in 1929 and were married for eight years before getting a divorce in 1937. Luckily, Helen found Aidan Roark, who she married in 1939. Their marriage ended in the early 1970's and Helen never remarried.

Death

Helen Wills died in Carmel, California on January 1st, 1998 at the age of 92. It had been rumored for years that Helen Wills had failing health for many years. The combination of old age and failing health is what caused her death.

Importance

Helen Wills not only proved that girls can be successful athletes, but changed the women's culture. She was very successful and could hold her own against men and women, which was surprising during a time when "the man" was thought of as superior and better than women. Helen also challenged the way women should be presented. Instead of wearing the traditional, long tennis skirt for women, Helen decided to wear a shorter and more practical skirt for tennis matches. This was a big step in what women are allowed and encouraged to wear today.
Mrs Helen Wills Moody (1933)

My Reaction

Helen Wills inspired and made me feel connected to her story because I can relate to some of her achievements in her tennis career. When I read about her life and tennis career I found it easier than some might to picture myself in those moments and times during her life. I think she probably the most important female athlete in history because of what she stood for and did differently than most people during this time period. I learned a lot about Helen Will's life and the influences that affected her career and what she is known for. I am so happy that women have the same chances as men to play a sport that they love and are passionate about. I couldn't imagine what my life would be like right now if I didn't play a sport. Sports can teach you a lot and create a passion for many people. Helen Wills is an amazing person to learn about and admire.

Work Cited

  • Bauder, Julia, "Helen Wills." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004, and "Wills, Helen Newington." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed.. 2015. "Wills, Helen." Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • "Helen Wills." - Artist, Fine Art Prices, Auction Records for. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • "Helen Wills | American Tennis Player." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • " Helen Wills." Habitually Chic Tennis Anyone Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • "Helen Wills Moody." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • "Mrs Helen Wills Moody (1933)." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.
  • "US Tennis Champion Helen Wills." Getty Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2016.