Being the top female tennis King broke multiple barriers and fought injustice towards women. During her tournaments King achieved win after win yet when it came to prize money she would get almost 6x less of her male counterparts, the argument being that people came to see male tennis players and not the women tennis players. King has been an activist for women's rights since a young age and later on becoming a notable athlete and household name she used her platform to tell the world what she thought, and she believed it was unfair how underpaid female athletes were compared to their male counterparts. Being the first female athlete to gain over $100,000 in prize money she still faced these discrimination being a woman, even if she was the best. King decided enough was enough when she won the US Open in 1972 but received a great unequal pay, a whopping $15,000 less than the men's champion. In an effort to raise awareness for the issue and make a stance King stated that she would boycott the 1973 US Open if the pay was not equal. Sure enough the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money to both sexes thanks to Ban deodorant who donated $55,000 thus making the women's prize equal to the men's. Even Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the sport's history, was the last to give equal pay until recently in 2007. Today King still advocates for equal pay between male and female athletes and paved the way for female athletes.
1963 Equal Pay Act
As more and more women entered the workforce, employers began to pay women less despite doing the same work as men. This discrepancy angered women and soon calls for a law to enforce equal pay would arise. Early efforts to pass the law were met with stern rejections, even from prominent political figures such as Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach. Esther Peterson, an activist who was a part of the Commission on the Status of Women, drafted an Equal Pay Act which was successfully campaigned to congress. Signed into the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1963 by President Kennedy, the Equal Pay Act was designed to reduce and eliminate the growing gender wage-gap. Immediately, the effects of the Equal Pay Act were felt as women's employment rates and average income began to rise at rates higher than those of men. Whether they worked in factories or corporate offices, women began to earn more money and were catching up to men. Although this was a landmark bill for its time, its effectiveness has been questioned. At the time the Equal Pay Act was created, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men made. Today the gap has been reduced to 77 cents for every dollar; closer to equality but still far from it. Despite lowering the wage-gap, the act hasn't achieved its goal of true wage equality. However, the Equal Pay Act would just be one of many laws targeted towards wage discrimination, as the ongoing battle for equal pay rages on.
1970 Original 9 and Pay Equity
In 1970, nine professional women tennis players put their entire careers on the line to demand equal pay to their male counterparts. In 1970 the prestigious pacific southwest event proposed a pay ratio of 8:1. Nine women; Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Judy Dalton, Kerry Melville Reid, Julie Heldman, Peaches, Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon and Valerie Ziegenfuss decided that it was finally time for action. The original plan was to boycott the Pacific Southwest tournament but they realized that it was too passive. The 9 with a lot of help from other women such as Gladys Heldman, organized the Virginia Slims Circuit where they signed a one-dollar contract. The United States Lawn Tennis Association would try to stop this by suspending the players who took part in the competition but Heldman would help promote the circuit and used her ability to spread the word and ensure people knew what was occurring. Philips Morris was the sponsor who helped provide the prize money and as well as the cost needed for the tournament itself. The tournament ended with Casals winning the final with a $7,500 tournament. One year later in time, the circuit went from having 9 participants to 40 and the tournament now being able to have $309,100 prize money. This circuit was what took a leap that would not only affect tennis but also the next step in equal rights. After the Virginia Slims Circuit took place many began to be attracted to the competition and over time equal pay in tennis competitions became more common. Now, thanks to the original nine women tennis players are able to make tennis out of a living and showed that women are equally capable as men and that they are not inferior but equal.