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Ora Washington: Great Female Athlete

February 23, 2012

Ora Washington (right) holding trophy for her win at the Pennsylvania Open, 1939 (courtesy of ExplorePAHistory.com)

Ora Washington may have been one of the world’s greatest tennis players. We’ll never know because racial prejudice prevented her from ever proving her talents in national competition.

Washington was born in Virginia and moved to Germantown in her early teens, as her family sought greater opportunity in the North. She didn’t begin playing organized sports until she was nearly 25 when she took up tennis at the Germantown YWCA.

Washington’s tennis career included twelve doubles, three mixed doubles, and eight singles crowns. Helen Wills Moody, a white tennis champion, held many women’s tennis records at the time but she refused to play Washington. It’s a match that the tennis world will never stop wondering about.

Washington’s athletic skills were not limited to tennis. She was also a distinguished basketball player, beginning with the Germantown Hornets and later the Philadelphia Tribunes. Washington’s agility and talents were highly commended and widely recognized.

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