It was not so long ago that women in the United States were treated as second-class citizens. They did not have the same basic rights as their male counterparts had. At one time, women were not allowed to vote, own property, or get an education. Since those dark times, the women of America have made great strides in their struggle for equality. One of their heroes was the great Billie Jean King.
King was a professional tennis player, who gained great success during her career on the women’s tennis court. She won 39 Grand Slam Titles, 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles. She found success in just about every venue she participated in, including the Federation Cup Championships. King’s greatest accomplishment, however, was an exhibition match that took place in Houston, Texas on September 20, 1973.
The 29-year-old King, who was at the top of her professional career at the time, faced a former Wimbledon Champion, Bobby Riggs. Riggs was one of the best men’s players during his prime in the late 1930s and 40s. The 55-year-old Riggs challenged King to an exhibition match claiming that the women’s game was far inferior to the men’s game. He said that even a 55-year-old, “washed-up” former player could beat the top woman in the world. The stage was set for the match. However, it was not much of a match at all.
King soundly defeated Riggs without much trouble. The match was later exposed for what many people claimed it would be: a showcase for King to demonstrate that women could compete against men. The victory was part of the equal rights movement that was sweeping the nation during that time. King became an outspoken advocate of equal rights for women.