Women athletes from the generations before us often had extremely inspiring stories, as most of them played during a time when sports were considered something only men should be partaking in and faced a lot of discrimination for their gender, race, or both.
Ora Washington was one of those women, and she was considered one of the greatest Black female athletes of her generation.
Unfortunately, she was severely overlooked during the height of her career and even during the years following, which is why it’s very important to share her story today.
Ora was born in Virginia in 1899 and eventually made her way to the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ora’s family went through some very hard times, from illness and poverty. However, she found solace at the local YWCA, where she began playing tennis in the 1920s while she was in her 20s.
Within just a few years, Ora went on to win several local championships and even won the singles title of the all-Black American Tennis Association almost every year from 1929 to 1937. She also won 12 doubles titles from 1925 to 1936.
She had an unconventional tennis-playing technique at the time, which some believe was due to her build, as she stood at 5’7″ and weighed around 130 pounds. Regardless, she dominated the court and was known for her competitiveness and strength.
Not only was Ora a skilled tennis player, but she also was a tremendous basketball player. Starting in 1930, she played with the Germantown Hornets, a team sponsored by the same YWCA where she learned to play tennis. Ora led the Hornets to thirty-three consecutive victories against various opponents before playing 12 seasons for the Philadelphia Tribunes.
Crowds loved watching Ora play with the Philadelphia Tribunes, as they were an extremely exciting team at the time. In advertisements, she was dubbed one of the greatest ‘girl players’ in the world.
Because Ora played sports that were segregated in America at the time, she was often overlooked and didn’t receive all the credit she should’ve gotten. She retired from sports in 1948, just before American professional sports started becoming integrated, and stepped away from the public eye.