HISTORY OF THE NSWTA
Former tennis tournament greats Nancy Reed, Betty Pratt and Charlene Grafton created the SWTA in 1974 in response to a growing constituency of women over 35 who who wanted to play competitive tennis in National Championships (renamed NSWTA in 1977). They believed the group needed its own organization to advocate for women. In 1974, Nancy Reed became the first Chairman of SWTA, Betty Pratt was Vice-Chair, and Nancy Penson was Secretary/Treasurer. She created and published the first SWTA magazine and Charlene Grafton was the Publicity Chair.
Gladys Heldman followed Nancy Reed as President and was well known as the founder of World Tennis Magazine in 1953. In 1970, she supported the “Original 9” women players by giving them a $1 bill to play and hosted the first professional women’s tournament, part of the women’s Virginia Slims tour. The nine included Billie Jean King, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, promoter Gladys Heldman, Rosie Casals, Kerry Melville and Judy Dalton. During Gladys’s administration, the word “National” was added to the name of the Senior Women’s Tennis Association.
In the early days there was little money in the coffers, but thanks to the generosity of Dr. Hugh McCain of Winter Park, Florida, (where Nancy and Mary Ann Plante resided) the NSWTA was registered with the State of Florida as a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit corporation. Mary Ann served as Executive Secretary and Fran Wakefield was Secretary. The first annual membership meeting took place at the Houston Racquet Club, the site of the annual Clay Court Championships, the largest women’s senior tennis tournament in the country.
During the early years, Nancy, Mary Ann and Kay Merrell organized and ran the first SWTA tournament (40,50,60,70) at the Maitland Field Club in Maitland, Florida with $1000 in prize money. Shortly after, they formed the Les Grande Dames.
The NSWTA original logo designed with a lady in a long tennis dress was inspired by a photo of May Sutton Bundy from the early 1900s. The current logo was created and adopted during the presidency of Mary McLean Wilson in 2003.