She was a pioneer for women in sports, one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. For more than 20 years, she dominated the tennis world. Through the years, she’s used her visibility and voice to speak out for gender equality, equal pay in sports, and social justice.
Now Billie Jean King has written a memoir, All In, An Autobiography, telling the story of her remarkable life and career.
Growing up in Long Beach, California, Billie Jean Moffit switched from softball to tennis at age eleven because her parents suggested she find a more “ladylike” sport. As she testified in the US Congress in 1973, young women in those days were discouraged from competing:
“I was told when you go on a tennis court and you play against a fellow, make sure that you let him win,” she told the Senators. “I am telling you I used to do this. As I started seeing things happen, I realized how stupid and how ridiculous it really is . . . “
“I was told when you go on a tennis court and you play against a fellow, make sure that you let him win. I am telling you I used to do this.”
She attended Los Angeles State College but left in 1964 to focus on tennis. But the playing field was anything but level. By 1967 King was the world’s number one women’s tennis player, but she could barely support herself.
Watch her triumphant remarks at this 1971 press conference, after winning the Virginia
Slims Thunderbird tournament in Phoenix, when she became the first female athlete to earn more than $100,000 in a year.
Her astonishing career included six years as the top-ranked woman player, 20 Wimbledon championships, 39 grand-slam titles, and her celebrated defeat of Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.”
In 1973, 90 million people watched her defeat the arrogant, belittling Bobby Riggs, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player and an avowed male chauvinist.
King accepted the challenge with poise and self-possession. As she told the press: “I’m taking this match very seriously. I love to win. I welcome the responsibility and the pressure. Bobby had better be ready.”
Her 6–4, 6–3, 6–3 victory was a major triumph and milestone for women in sports — proving that athletic skills know no gender.
In her memoir, King describes the many challenges she faced through the years: deep-rooted sexism, an eating disorder, and her struggle to publicly acknowledge her sexual identity, which she did at the age of fifty-one.
Her story, her advocacy, and her insistent voice through the years have opened doors and created so many opportunities for female players — and all women who aspire to be the best.
Thank you, Billie Jean King.
© Copyright 2021
Want to talk? Reach me at email@example.com