Lady Wrestlers

Jet – February 21, 1952

Billy Wolfe, a former wrestler turned manager-booker, broke color line in lady wrestling.

Billy Wolfe, a former wrestler turned manager-booker, broke color line in lady wrestling.

While most women spend hours on end perfecting glamour in an effort to land a husband or a good-paying white collar job, there is today a new corps of women who, forsaking glamour, devote their entire time to building muscles and brawn in order to compete in the age-old sport of wrestling.  Theirs is admittedly a rugged calling – one which sometimes results in bruises and broken bones – yet, they love it for: 1) thrills; and 2) the income.  For although Negro lady wrestlers are relatively new to sportsdom, they earn an average of $300 per week.

Babs Wingo withstood injuries to become star, says "they can't hurt me anymore."

Babs Wingo withstood injuries to become star, says “they can’t hurt me anymore.”

Responsible for the integration of Negroes into lady wrestling is Billy Wolfe, a 55-year-old Columbus, Ohio, manager-booker who keeps an interracial string of 46 girls busy working from coast to coast.  Currently, six of this number are Negroes.  Others, aspiring to the sport, are learning the various holds in his gym.  Wolfe who books 95 per cent of all lady wrestlers in the business, says: “My Negro girls are the hottest thing in the sport.”  As examples of their drawing power and ability, he points to the facts that they were welcomed in Texas and at Louisville, Ky., they performed before a turn-away crowd.

Billed as “the biggest attraction to hit girl wrestling since girl wrestling began” is Ethel Johnson, an 18-year-old, 130-pound native of Atlanta.  She decided to become a wrestler because she “wanted to do something where I could move around a lot.”  A lithe, agile, all-around athlete, Miss Johnson trained two years before she became the first American Negro lady wrestler.  She prefers to wrestle a clean style, Wolfe says.

Lady wrestlers Louise Greene, Ethel Johnson, Mary Horton maintain headquarters in Wolfe's Columbus gym.  They wrestle six nights weekly in packed arenas of South and Midwest.

Lady wrestlers Louise Greene, Ethel Johnson, Mary Horton maintain headquarters in Wolfe’s Columbus gym. They wrestle six nights weekly in packed arenas of South and Midwest.

Others in Wolfe’s troupe include: Mary Horton, a 22-year-old, 150-pound former college student whose spare-time interests include poetry and politics; Babs Wingo, a 19-year-old, 150-pounder from New Orleans whose main fortes on the mat are shrewd timing and unusual strength; and Louise Greene, a sturdily-built grappler of great promise.  All of them hope to emulate the success of Wolfe’s long-time champion, Mildred Burke, who earns $50,000 a year.

Although the girls often display a tiger’s ferocity in the ring, they are at heart feminine with their singular exception that they are doubtful about their chances at matrimony.  Back in their dressing rooms after a match, they quickly apply powder, lipstick, and other female accoutrements.  According to Babs, wrestling “is good for the figure.  Before I started, I was plump and round like a ball.”  Now, like her mates, she packs her avoirdupois in a bank account.  Her teaching ambition is forgotten.

Mary Horton and stable mate work out at gym to keep in shape, have no difficulties because of difference of race.

Mary Horton and stable mate work out at gym to keep in shape, have no difficulties because of differences of race.

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3 responses to “Lady Wrestlers

  1. Billy Wolfe was a real son of a bitch. I’m sure you read the Burke bio where Mae Young tells of how he almost beat her to death in Mexico.

    • Classic Wrestling Articles

      Oh yeah. I was definitely thinking about how “funny” it was that this article was making Billy Wolfe seem like a hero for giving black lady wrestlers a platform to ply their trade when he is now known as one of the biggest A-Holes in wrestling.

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