Game, Set, Match
Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports
University of North Carolina Press 2011
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network January 17, 2014 Kelly McFall
If you’re younger than 45 or so, you probably don’t remember the “Battle of the Sexes.” This tennis match, between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, is one of the iconic moments in American history of the 1970s. It represented a breakthrough moment for women in sports, a symbol of the progress women were making to finally receive something like equality of opportunity and resources in athletics.
For Billie Jean King, however, the match was only a small part of a life lived in the pursuit of the opportunity for access and success for herself and for women in general. As Susan Ware outlines in her outstanding new book Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), King saw herself not simply as an athlete, but as an advocate for women in athletics. Throughout her career, King lent her voice and her reputation to those pushing institutions and leaders to let women play. The result was, as Ware puts it, revolutionary.
Ware’s book is biography at its best. It examines King’s life on its own terms. But it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it uses King’s life as a lens through which to view the broader social and cultural conflicts that swept through American society in the 1970s and after. Anyone reading the book will have a much greater sense of why the world we live in today is so dramatically different than the one in which our parents or grandparents grew up.