Sylvia Greenbaum Novarr

Inducted into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, 1983

Born in Hartford, Sylvia Greenbaum graduated from Weaver High School in 1940. She was a WAVE in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving as Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class.

Greenbaum played tennis at Weaver High School but was not allowed to join the all-male tennis team in 1938, despite beating one of the male players and gaining support from other players. Her skill was remarkable, considering that she only played her first game in 1937, when her family moved close to the Keney Park courts. A newspaper article in 1938 noted that as a high school senior, she spent more time at Keney Park than at home. “If she’s not swinging a tennis racquet, she’s wielding a baseball bat, kicking a football or riding a bicycle.”

She won the city-wide women’s tennis title in 1939. For seven consecutive years, she was the Hartford Public Parks Women’s Tennis Champion and the New England Women’s Public Parks Tennis Champion for five consecutive years. In 1940, she was the New England Public Parks Champ.

She was the first woman athlete to be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Greater Hartford, where she was eventually joined by two brothers, Jack and Phil Greenbaum as well as her daughter, Harriet Novarr. In the community, she was an active member of the Yeshiva of Hartford’s PTA and a life member of Hadassah and the Jewish War Veterans.

Oral history interview