The first Jewish woman to win a title at Wimbledon is still fighting for membership in the All England Club.
By United With Israel Staff
In 1956, Jewish tennis champion Angela Buxton applied for membership at the All England Club following a stunning win at Wimbledon. She believes that anti-Semitism is the reason she has never been accepted.
“It’s an unfortunate example of how the British really treat Jews in this country,” Buxton told the UK ‘s Times newspaper. “This sort of thing exacerbates the feeling towards Jews. It’s perfectly ridiculous, it’s laughable. It speaks volumes.”
Buxton, who won many tennis championships in the 1950’s, is perhaps best known from breaking anti-Semitic and racist barriers. In 1956, she won the women’s doubles title at both the French Championships and Wimbledon with her partner Althea Gibson, the first African-American champion. Their win was considered a sign of progress for minorities.
The next day, a British newspaper’s headline read “Minorities win” in very small type to avoid attention.
Buxton continues to share stories about facing anti-Semitism, explaining, “The Southport club wouldn’t let me practice there even though I was number one in England, so a member took me there as his guest. I took great delight in winning their tournament. As I rose up the rankings, the girls on the circuit ignored me. Playing out in Mexico, they never once invited me to join them for a meal.”
As Buxton began regularly winning tennis matches, she took lessons at London’s renowned Cumberland Club. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that her coach informed her, however, that she could never join the club, regardless of her talent.
“You’re perfectly good, but you’re Jewish,” she recalled him saying in an interview in 2016. “We don’t take Jews here.”
Buxton and Gibson met during a goodwill tennis tour of Asian countries in 1955. The two, who had each faced discrimination, hit it off and became partners. “I was on my own and, for different reasons, she was on her own. And then we came together and beat everybody,” Buxton told the WSJ.
The UK’s Daily Mail reported Saturday that the powers that be at Wimbledon “are angered by former champion Angela Buxton’s suggestion that they have not handed her a membership because she is Jewish.
“While the decision-making process for membership of the All England Club is a private matter, we strongly refute any suggestion that race or religion plays a factor,” Wimbledon spokeswoman said in a statement.
In 1981, Buxton, who is now 84 years old, was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2014, she was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
“As the action unfolds at this year’s Wimbledon, it’s worth recalling the courage and determination of these two pioneering women,” posted WSJ. “They paved the way for an era when champions can be recognized just for their ability, whatever their racial or religious background.”
Whether the All England Club will stop living in the past remains to be seen.
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