Helen Wills Moody, 1905-1998

  • Helen-Wills-Moody-WWP

Woman Category: SportsWoman Tags: Athlete and SF Bay Area Women

  • HerStory

    A professional tennis player. Won 31 Grand Slam tournament titles between 1923-1938.

    Helen Newington Wills was born and raised in California. Her interest in tennis sparked after watching tennis matches, and at the age of 8, Wills received her first tennis racket and began playing on the local dirt courts. In 1919, Wills was spotted by a member of the Berkeley Tennis Club and was invited to join in. There, at 14, she sharpened her techniques, and two years later, she won both singles and doubles titles at the California State Championships. In that same year, Wills won the US girls’ championship, repeating her achievement in the following year.
    At 17, Wills not only graduated high school top of her class but also won her first women’s national title – the youngest tennis player at that time to win the US National Championship. At the 1924 Paris Olympics games, 18 years old Wills won two gold medals – for singles and doubles. She dominated the field, not losing a set for six consecutive years – from 1926 to 1933, winning one title after another, including Grand Slam titles, keeping her ranking in the world top ten. In 1933, Wills suffered from a dislocated vertebra and had to take almost two years off to recover. In 1935, A month after she returned to court, she won her seventh Wimbledon title.
    At 33, soon after winning her eighth Wimbledon title, Wills’ index finger was injured after been beaten by a dog. The damaged finger had affected her game, and she decided to retire from the tennis world.
    She decided to follow her other passion, art. She opened a studio and exhibited her painting in various venues.
    She died at the age of 92 of natural causes.
    Throughout her 17 years of professional career, Wills has won 180 straight matches, reached the final of every Grand Slam singles event she played except one, and won more than 50 international titles.

    “When I play, I become entirely absorbed in the game. It may be a form of concentration.”

    “When I play, I become entirely absorbed in the game. It may be a form of concentration.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was homeschooled until the age of 8.
    • During the matches, her signature look was a white sailor suit with a pleated knee-length skirt, a white visor, and white shoes.
    • She never played at the Australian Championships.
    • For her concentration abilities, she was nicknamed “Little Miss Poker Face,” and later “the Imperial Helen,” and “Queen Helen.”
    • She appeared twice on the cover of Time magazine.
    • She was married twice, did not have children.
    • She modeled as the figure of “California” for Diego Rivera’s mural – Allegory of California.
    • She published a coaching manual, “Tennis,” an autobiography “Fifteen-Thirty: The Story of a Tennis Player,” a mystery book “Death Serves an Ace” as well as numerous magazine articles.
    • She drew the illustrations in her book “Tennis.”
    • She continued playing tennis into her 80s.
    • In her will, she bequeathed $10 million to fund a Neuroscience institute in the University of California, today named “the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.”
  • More About Her Legacy

    * 31 Grand Slam tournament titles – singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles
    * 7 singles titles at the US Championships
    * 8 singles titles at Wimbledon
    * 4 singles titles at the French Championships
    * Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1959)
    * Inducted into the Bay Area Athletic Hall of Fame (1981)
    * Inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (1996)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Booking.com

  • Woman Tags: Athlete, SF Bay Area Women

    Mrs Helen Wills Moody (1933)

    Full title reads: "Wimbledon. Mrs Helen Wills Moody - for 7 years Tennis Queen - retains her title despite gallant fight by Miss Dorothy Round. 6-4, 6-8, 6-3."

    All England Club, Wimbledon, London.

    Various shots of tennis match between Helen Wills Moody and Dorothy Round in final of Women's singles competition. Cut away to show King George V and Queen Mother with others watching the game on Centre Court.

    Shot of the Royal Box applauding. The two women come to the net at the end of the match. They shake hands.
    FILM ID:731.12


    FOR LICENSING ENQUIRIES VISIT http://www.britishpathe.com/

    British Pathé also represents the Reuters historical collection, which includes more than 136,000 items from the news agencies Gaumont Graphic (1910-1932), Empire News Bulletin (1926-1930), British Paramount (1931-1957), and Gaumont British (1934-1959), as well as Visnews content from 1957 to the end of 1984. All footage can be viewed on the British Pathé website. https://www.britishpathe.com/

  • A terra cotta sculpture of Moody by Edward McCartan on display in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Photo credit - WWP team

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Wikipedia page.
    The ITA Women’s Hall of Fame website.