Born: April 15, 1873
Died: January 12, 1944
Juliette Paxton Atkinson was born April 15, 1873 in Rahway and grew up in Brooklyn. She and her sister, Kathleen, were the daughters of an affluent New York physician. They were active and athletic, showing particular skill in the game of lawn tennis, which they played in Ft. Greene Park as girls. Juliette was also an accomplished swimmer and figure skater. The girls began to get more serious about tennis after joining the Kings County Tennis Club in their teen years.
Despite standing a mere five feet tall, Juliette was a tremendous singles and doubles player. She was celebrated for her great stamina, anticipation and strategic style, and generated surprising power for so slight a frame. Her early mentor and lifelong friend was Jahial Parmly Paret.
At the age of 22, Juliette entered the U.S. women’s championships in Philadelphia. Juliette teamed with Eddie Fischer—one of the more active players of the day—and won the finals. They repeated as champions in 1895 and 1896. Juliette also won the doubles tournament in 1895 and 1896, teaming with Helen Hellwig, a friend and fellow member at Kings County.
Juliette competed in the top tournaments in the U.S. and Canada for another decade. Between 1895 and 1898, she was the country’s best player. In 1895, she won the U.S. singles title, defeating Hellwig, the defending champion. Juliette injured her ankle competing in a horse show in 1896 and was unable to defend her singles title that summer, defaulting to Bessie Moore of Ridgewood. However, she regained it in 1897 and defended it successfully against Marion Jones in 1898. Their five-set final lasted 51 games, which still stands as the longest women’s match in a Grand Slam tournament.
Juliette did not compete in the U.S. Championships in 1899, although she won several tournaments that summer. In 1901 and 1902, Juliette teamed with her sister to win a pair of U.S. doubles championships. Juliette and Kathleen faced each other in singles twice at the U.S. Championships; the next time that happened was when Venus and Serena Williams fought it out in the 2001 U.S. Open final.
Juliette married late in life, taking her vows in 1918 and becoming Mrs. George Buxton. In 1942, she attended the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills and donated the cup she had won as a three-time singles champion to the West Side Tennis Club. She passed away in 1944 at the age of 70.