Girls vs Boys is a theme that pervades the playgrounds, and manages to maintain relevance in our adult life. As objective as we would like to be, we’re firm believers that women kick butt. So, this has to be said: “Billie Jean King kicked Bobby Wiggs a*s in the Battle of the Sexes of 1973!”
Now that that’s out of the way, Billie Jean King is a retired tennis player, born in 1943 in Long Beach, California. At the age of 11, she purchased her first racket and began taking free tennis lessons. Four years later, she debuted at the Grand Slam U.S Championships at the ripe age of 15. Unfortunately, she lost that match; but as the saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. King stepped up her game and employed the services of Alice Marble, winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, to coach her on the weekends. Since her humble beginnings, she has won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon.
In 1972, after receiving a lesser prize money than her male counterpart in the U.S open, Billie Jean King began advocating for equal monetary compensation between the genders. A year later, her attempts proved fruitful as the U.S open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.
More on this lady-pioneer, after the jump!
Her influence transcends her tennis career, as she contributed to the burgeoning feminist movement of the 1970s. Her aforementioned victory over Wiggs, a then 55 year old tennis player who claimed that “women players were so inferior to men that the best woman couldn’t beat an over-the-hill hustler”, was instrumental in opening other doors to women other than rearing children. She says, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match […] It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self esteem.” Luckily, or should I say, due to her aggressive game and skill, all qualms were tempered.
King moved on to establish the first women’s professional tennis tour and founded tennis clinics for underprivileged children, also investing in Discovery Zone, a chain of childrens’ play lands that focuses on the equal athletic abilities of boys and girls. Not to mention, she joined the Virginia Slims legend tour in 1995 to raise money for Aids. All her efforts culminated in the garnering of much recognition such as Tennis Player of the Year in 1972, an induction into the Tennis Hall of Fame and a much coveted spot on the 100 most Influential Americans of the 20th century list by Life Magazine in 1987. She was inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 2002, received the Radcliffe Award, given to individuals who have improved society. Need I say more?
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