Who is she?
Billie Jean King was a top-ranked professional tennis player in 1960s and 1970s. Her athletic skill and fearless attitude made her a social icon and strong role model for female athletes around the world.
What did she do?
After winning her first singles championship in Wimbledon in 1966, US Open singles in 1967, and Australian Open singles in 1968, King went on to claim 3 Grand Slam titles in 1972: US Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. King used the momentum of her success to form the Women’s Tennis Association, and she threatened to boycott the US Open if they didn’t address the major discrepancy in pay between male and female tennis players. The US Open caved to her demands, and tennis became the first sport to pay male and female athletes the same amount for winning.
In 1973, former Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs challenged King to a match in an effort to discredit her and women in tennis. King accepted the challenge, and she beat Riggs 3 sets to none in a televised match with over 90 million viewers around the world. This victory not only advanced King’s case for equal pay but also celebrated female athletes everywhere.
Why does she matter?
Billie Jean King has long been an advocate for gender equality in all athletics and social justice overall. She used her athletic successes to further her goals of equal pay and recognition for female athletes, setting an important precedent that women deserve equal compensation for equal accomplishments. To this day, tennis is still the only professional sport which pays women the same as men.