This year, I’m planning to give Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player a major re-boot by publishing it with Troubadour books. I’ve been fortunate to meet a Derby based illustrator, Paul Warren, who has provided a fantastic set of images for the book which you can see on the campaign page here.
I’ve also been very lucky to involve Janice Owen who has generously donated his time and skills to support the campaign.
Janice Owen is a mother, writer and an ageing tennis player. For Janice International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on gender parity and women’s rights, on how far women have come, advocacy for what is still needed, and action to continue breaking down barriers. Since her schooldays in Kendal Janice has celebrated International Women’s Day, recognising the achievements of women, from different backgrounds and cultures, in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.
Russia unknowingly set the trend on March 8th 1913, declaring the day, a public holiday and officially creating International Women’s Day. However in 1917 with men at war and with women at home dealing with hardships, food shortages and a government with selective hearing, tens of thousands of Russian women took to the streets demanding change. The unified cry for help paved the way for Russian women to be granted voting rights.
Represented by shades of purple and green, so apt for the English lawn tennis game, not to mention the cause of suffragettes of the past, the present and the future, including those WASPI women fighting for pensions. In a fast paced world of change, the game of tennis, for women, is no stranger to the fight for rights.
The Battle of the Sexes in 1973 saw a Billie Jean King victory over Bobby Rigg and was the catalyst for change in women’s tennis landscape, with Billie Jean King establishing the Women’s Tennis Association in that year. The tennis skirt is said to be the principal driver for revenue generation, with the women’s game outselling before that of the men’s. Politicians are no strangers to the court, with Donald Trump calling for another Battle of the Sexes to Make Tennis Great Again offering a $1m prize for a match between either of the William’s sisters and John McEnroe.
With Venus Williams at the height of her game, she declined the dual due to her overwhelming diary commitments. On the home turf of Wimbledon, Serena Williams argued for equal pay, persuading Tony Blair to support the cause. Janice reflects on her schooldays in the 1970’s, as a golden era for women’s rights crusaders within the sport of tennis. Young women in her school were forming their dreams, of life ahead with a world of possibilities beckoning. Building dreams, identifying first steps towards their goals and assessing the challenges in their respective journeys. In the words of Serena Williams, “Imagine you’re a little girl. You’re growing up. You practice as hard as you can, with girls, with boys. You have a dream. You fight, you work, you sacrifice to get to this stage. You work as hard as anyone you know. And then you get to this stage, and you’re told you’re not the same as a boy.”
Navigating it all is challenging with pressure both on and off the court to accomplish their dreams, and those of their children in all arenas of life. Imagine as a mother, as an athlete and as a coach your shared dreams with your children and you could be wearing the trainers of Judy Murray, motherhood with unexpected challenges, and unequalled pride. Janice sees International Women’s Day as a strengthened call to accelerate global efforts to reach true gender parity in a fast paced world of change where expectations for women continue to rise alongside lip service.