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Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports

Overview

When Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in tennis's "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, she placed sports squarely at the center of a national debate about gender equity. In this winning combination of biography and history, Susan Ware argues that King's challenge to sexism, the supportive climate of second-wave feminism, and the legislative clout of Title IX sparked a women's sports revolution in the 1970s that fundamentally reshaped American society.

While King did not ...

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Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports

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Overview

When Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs in tennis's "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, she placed sports squarely at the center of a national debate about gender equity. In this winning combination of biography and history, Susan Ware argues that King's challenge to sexism, the supportive climate of second-wave feminism, and the legislative clout of Title IX sparked a women's sports revolution in the 1970s that fundamentally reshaped American society.

While King did not single-handedly cause the revolution in women's sports, she quickly became one of its most enduring symbols, as did Title IX, a federal law that was initially passed in 1972 to attack sex discrimination in educational institutions but had its greatest impact by opening opportunities for women in sports. King's place in tennis history is secure, and now, with Game, Set, Match, she can take her rightful place as a key player in the history of feminism as well. By linking the stories of King and Title IX, Ware explains why women's sports took off in the 1970s and demonstrates how giving women a sporting chance has permanently changed American life on and off the playing field.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ware is a master of the art of biography, and, with this book, she once again shows its importance to the discipline of history."--The Historian

"Game, Set, Match provides a window into the life of one of the most successful athletes of all time and her profound impact on women today."--American Association of University Women

"Ware mixes strong writing with poignant insights from an array of sources to give us an idea of how King's tenacity and spiritedness not only enabled her get to the top of the tennis world but also helped her put women's tennis on par with the men's game."--Journal of American History

"The value of this book is its readability and its innovative use of King as a central figure to bring the history of women's sports to life. Recommended. All readers." --Choice

"[A] winning combination of biography and social history."--Vogue

"Ware's view of history should be read by women of all ages--those who lived through it and survived it as well as (perhaps especially) the younger ones who benefited by it."--Story Circle Book Reviews

"Well-written and -researched. . . . The book matters precisely because it digs into the messy, even uneasy relationships between King and women's liberation leaders, and more broadly, between advocates for women's athletics and second-wave feminists, bringing together histories that have for too long been considered separately." --Women's Review of Books

"Ware astutely places King at the vortex of the change in women's rights, gay causes . . . and sports professionalism, leaving no doubt about King's place in 20th-century women's sports."--Library Journal

"A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Sports Book."

"In Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports, the role of a pioneer and much of the leveling legislation she inspired--namely the NCAA's title IX provisions--is gamely told by women's history scholar Susan Ware."--Publishers Weekly

"If you read one book, make it: Game, Set, Match. . . . As Susan Ware's biography of her shows, King's fight against sexism in sports might be her biggest accomplishment."--Shape

"A great read. . . . Ware sews together the histories of women's sports and feminism, using feminist icon Billie Jean King as the thread. Particularly compelling is her recounting of the tennis star's battle with her own homophobia and that of society."--Ms.

"A book that works on multiple levels. . . . Cogently argues that the passage of Title IX may actually have impeded the creation of a level playing field. It's a tribute to how much has changed that much of the book's content will be shocking to readers under 30; it's also a measure of how much remains to be done, given the 'separate but equal' approach that still dominates sports today."--Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
Tennis great Billie Jean King was always in the thick of things. Ambitiously, she wanted to transform tennis from its country-club domain into a viable profession. She started coed Team Tennis and womenSports magazine, but it was 1973's televised "Battle of the Sexes," when she defeated Bobby Riggs, that sealed her reputation as a superstar. Independent scholar Ware (Title IX: A Brief History with Documents) approaches her subject by alternating chapters on King's life and career with chapters on feminism's history, Title IX legislation, and a historical overview of American women's sports. Mostly, this results in a seamless account of a turbulent time in American women's history, except for some understandably slow-moving sections on political and legislative struggles. Ware astutely places King at the vortex of the change in women's rights, gay causes (precipitated by the 1981 "palimony" suit brought against her), and sports professionalism, leaving no doubt about King's place in 20th-century women's sports. VERDICT Extensive notes ensure this book's value to students of women's history and women's sports as well as Billie Jean King's fans. (Index not seen.)—Kathy Ruffle, Coll. of New Caledonia Lib., Prince George, B.C.
Kirkus Reviews

An exploration of the link between the feminist revolution and the role of women in sports, as embodied by one of the 20th century's most iconic sports figures.

Ware (Title IX: A Brief History with Documents, 2006) would have been hard-pressed to choose a better lens through which to examine the transformation of women's sports—from seldom participated-in activities to an ever-growing field of high-level athletic excellence—than tennis superstar and trailblazer Billie Jean King, whose victory over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes"was a major catalyst for that change. Though biography is not the primary focus, the author provides a full account of King's life, touching on her early marriage to a man who would be more business partner than lover, her sexual confusion and ultimate coming out as a lesbian, and her indomitable drive to not only succeed in tennis, but to help the game of tennis succeed. King's rise to prominence coincided with the passage of Title IX, a piece of legislation designed to prevent sexual discrimination in federally funded academic institutions that would have its most profound impact on sports. The narrative is by turns an account of the passage of the legislation and progression of women's athletics, a theoretical discourse on second-wave feminism and sexuality as they relate to sports and a biography of the influential and controversial King, making it a book that works on multiple levels—a quality that also makes it somewhat jumbled. Though the historical details necessarily inform the theoretical dissertation, the balance between each element is uneven, making the narrative hard to categorize, even as it cogently argues that the passage of Title IX may actually have impeded the creation of a level playing field.

It's a tribute to how much has changed that much of the book's content will be shocking to readers under 30; it's also a measure of how much remains to be done, given the "separate but equal" approach that still dominates sports today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807834541
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 784,397
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Ware is an independent scholar who specializes in twentieth-century U.S. history, women's history, and biography.

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Table of Contents

Prologue The Battle of the Sexes 1

1 The Making of a Sports Icon 15

2 In the Meantime The Early Days of Title IX 43

3 Billie Jean King, Inc. WomenSports, the Women's Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis 75

4 Before The Sports Bra A Short History of Women's Sports through the 1970s 117

5 The Feminist Moment That Wasn't 147

6 The Perils of Celebrity and Sexuality The Outing of Billie Jean King 179

Epilogue The Incomplete Revolution 207

Notes 215

Acknowledgments 269

Index 273

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