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Changing The Game, One Tennis Ball At a Time

9 women you probably don’t know but should thank for women’s rights.


When thinking of change surrounding women’s rights and equal opportunities, your mind probably wanders to The Suffragettes. However, we should also think about the ‘Original Nine’. 

Inequality in sport would be much worse if it wasn’t for Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman. 

photograph of Original 9 by Chris Smith/Volvo Car Open.

September 1970, women tennis players were pushed to their last straw. They were tired of being treated any less than a man, paid any less. Due to persuasion and perseverance by Billie Jean King, all nine players were signed a $1 contract with tennis magazine World Tennis. This sounds small but was in fact a huge victory. Until this moment, women weren’t paid for playing tennis, only winning. Virginia Slims also supported the 8-match women’s only tournament, creating a winning prize of $7,500. 

It’s been 50 years since this ground-breaking signing which highlighted the unfairness of unequal pay for the same hard work. If it wasn’t for these women going against the United States Lawn Tennis Association and risking their careers, sportswomen today might still be getting paid $600 for a win and $0 of playing. Which is a 12:1 ratio favoring men.  

If you love a good movie cast, then you should definitely watch Battle Of The Sexes, 2017. Emma Stone and Steve Carell go head-to-head in recreating the changes in tennis during 1970-1973.  Who knew tennis could make you feel so empowered? 


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