Billie Jean King is a tennis legend who has also made significant contributions to the fight for gender equality. She was born in Long Beach, California, on November 22, 1943, and her first sport was actually basketball. She began playing tennis at the age of 11, after her friend Susan Williams took her to play for the first time at a country club. When she swung the racket, she knew this was what she wanted to do with her life. In 1968, she turned professional and went on to win 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in singles, 16 in women's doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles.
Billie Jean King played a pivotal role in the fight for equal pay for women in tennis and other sports. In 1970, she founded the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), which was the first professional tennis organization for women. It was also in this year when Billie Jean King and 9 other women left their original tournament circuit and signed $1 contracts to play in a woman's tour. This became the start of women's professional tennis. Through WTA, she lobbied for equal prize money for men and women at the U.S Open and found a sponsor to ensure it happened. This made the U.S Open the first major tournament to offer equal prize money. The WTA continues to help to provide more opportunities for women to play professional tennis and earn a living from the sport.
In addition to her impressive tennis career, Billie Jean King was a fierce advocate for women's rights and gender equality. She famously defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" match in 1973, which helped to draw attention to the issue of gender inequality in sports. It was the most watched tennis game in the world and still is to this day, with 90 million viewers watching. Billie Jean also served on the board of the Women's Sports Foundation and advocated for Title IX in the United States, which prohibits sex discrimination in education and sports.In 1971 and 1981 respectively, Billie Jean King became a mother to two children, Liza and Brett, and continued to play tennis professionally. She maintained her high ranking status and won three of her Grand Slam singles titles during this time. Her ability to balance motherhood and a successful career as a professional athlete helped to challenge stereotypes and inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams.
In addition to her athletic achievements, Billie Jean King was also known for her unique sense of style, which included bold, colorful outfits and her signature round-framed glasses.
Billie Jean King's contributions to tennis and the fight for gender equality have had a lasting impact on people around the world. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, in recognition of her contributions to society, specifically women’s rights and the LGBTQ community.
Billie Jean King is a tennis legend and a champion for women's rights. Her legacy continues to inspire and influence people today, and she will always be remembered as one of the most influential figures in the history of women's sports.
*Bohten does not own the rights to any of the photos used in this post. All photos were sourced from Billie Jean King's website, www.billiejeanking.com, and all credits and rights are reserved to the respective owners accordingly*