Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sportsby Susan Ware
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
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.
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.
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
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 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
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 inspirednamely the NCAA's title IX provisionsis gamely told by women's history scholar Susan Ware.Publishers Weekly
A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Sports Book."
[An] important book on Islamic education in West Africa.Choice
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
- The University of North Carolina Press
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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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