Jet – February 21, 1952
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.
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.
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.