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Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #1: Ora Mae Washington

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #1: Ora Mae Washington

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

01

Ora Mae Washington

Athlete

Ora Mae Washington

Athlete

1899-1971

Ora Mae Washington started playing tennis at the Germantown YMCA and went on to become the first African-American athlete to dominate not one, but two sports—both of which were segregated at the time.

Washington won her first national tennis championship just a year after picking up a racket. Then she found a calling on another kind of court: basketball.

She earned a spot on the Philadelphia Tribunes, one of the most dominant women’s basketball teams in history, in 1932. She helped them win 10 straight Women’s Colored Basketball World Championships.

Through all of the glass ceilings she shattered as a female African-American athlete, she still had to work as a domestic worker cleaning homes to support herself after her athletics career ended.

She was inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1976, into Temple University’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 2009 she was elected to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Won her first national title in tennis in 1925
  • Held the American Tennis Association title from 1929-1936
  • Won additional 12 doubles titles during her career
  • Won female national title in 1930 with Germantown Hornets
  • Inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1976
  • Inducted into Temple University Sports Hall of Fame in 1986
  • Inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009


FINAL WORDS:
Washington was hailed as the “best Colored player in the world.”

Reporting by Courtney DuChene, with additional reporting by Isabel Mehta.

Photo by John W. Mosely / Temple University Libraries / Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, CC0

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