A Woman to Know: Gloria Walker

For $150 a night, Gloria Walker will destroy a man's ego. — The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1989

(Photo via Jack Gills for the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Gloria Walker had a gift. For several years in the 1970s and 1980s, she ruled as America's women's billiards champion. She aced national competitions against both women and men, and most legendarily, she vanquished the notorious Minnesota Fats at his own game, right after he bet a crowd that no lady could beat him.

Gloria learned the game from her father at age 10, and by age 11, she'd already declared her intention to one day be world champion. But the odds are stacked against any woman competing in a "man's sport" — even at the height of her prowess, Gloria was still supplementing her pool earnings with a waitressing gig and other side hustles. She never made it to the world championship, but she cleared a path for other women to enter the game.

"When a woman walks into a poolroom with her own cue, the men don't say, 'There is a woman who can shoot pool,'" she told a reporter in 1989. "They say, 'There is a woman who thinks she can shoot pool.'"

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** Thank you to Matt DeLong for recommending Gloria as a woman to know! When he sent along the photo above, a treasure from the Minnesota Star-Tribune archives, I just fell in love with her. **

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