There’s Power and $$$ in Numbers

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Original-9-WTA

Forty-five years ago 9 women were paid $1 to sign on to the renegade Virginia Slims Tennis Tour. (Seven Americans — Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Peaches Barkowitz, Kristy Pigeon and Billie Jean KIng. They were joined by two Australians — Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton.)

The U.S. tennis association threatened to expel them from the sport, possibly ending their careers.  (The two Australians that signed on were told their careers were over.)
What inspired them to put their dream careers on the line?  EQUALITY.

At the time male tennis players could make a living playing professional tennis, but women couldn’t because they were paid significantly less prize money than the men, and not being offered endorsement deals. Part of the reason for this inequality was the prevailing belief that playing sports was unladylike, and therefore girls weren’t supposed to pursue sports as a career.

The Original 9 rejected this idea saying that they wanted any girl born any place in the world, if she was good enough, to have an opportunity to compete, be recognized for her accomplishments and make a living playing professional tennis.”

Because they had the courage of their convictions, our girls not only play sports and get paid for it, but are encouraged to do so.

But one Original 9 didn’t stop at tennis. Billie Jean King founded Women’s Sports Magazine and Women’s Sports Foundation to champion all female athletes in their quest to be recognized and paid for their achievements.

Billie Jean’s extra efforts, combined with her historic win against Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, made her the poster girl for the gender equality movement.  So much so, that Life magazine named her one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.  She was the only female athlete on the list, and one of only four athletes total. (Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali were the others).

Her notoriety netted her endorsements, which paid her lots of money for the time, but the other 8 of the Original 9 didn’t receive the same attention or financial reward. 

Billie Jean wants to correct that.  In a recent piece she wrote for the NY Times she points out that successful tennis players like Serena Williams stand not only on her shoulders, but on the 8 other pairs of shoulders as well.

She points out that until others raised their voices with her, change didn’t happen.  That we girls can move mountains, but only when we come together–risk together, help each other.

Too often we girls turn on each other, be it bullying about our appearances, working moms vs stay-at-home moms, or female bosses being threatened by up and coming underlings.  We forget that we’re stronger as a group, not at each others’ throats.  After all, succeeding together is in our DNA.  A lion could take out one or two of us when we were home in the cave defending our children, but it lost when we all banded together to defeat it.

Never give up, Never surrender, and always have each others’ backs.  That’s how we can Empower Girls Of All Ages!

Are you part of a group that’s changed the world around you in some way? Tell me about it either in reply to this letter, or post it on my author FB page.

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Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: Billie Jean King Tennis Center

Destination of the Fortnight: Billie Jean King Tennis Center

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