On January 25, 1972, Representative Shirley Chisholm launched her bid for the Democratic nomination in the 1972 Presidential Election, becoming the first Black candidate for a major-party presidential nomination and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Born in Brooklyn on November 30, 1924, Shirley Chisholm spent her early years in New York, graduating cum laude from Brooklyn College and pursued a graduate degree in education at Columbia University. Starting as an educator and community organizer fighting racial discrimination in housing and seeking to increase economic opportunities in Brooklyn,. Chisholm was elected to the New York State Assembly, representing the 17th district, in 1964 and won her Congressional election in 1968. Representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the two poorest Black urban communities in the country, she worked hard to represent her constituents and fight for the rights of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. She championed policies in favor of feminist and anti-racist causes, such as co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus, becoming one of the most prominent supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and serving as President of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), a leading organization lobbying for pro-choice causes. An important figure of the Black feminist movement and in Capitol Hill politics, Chisholm would pave the way for both Black and women in politics.
In 1974, Ann Meyers became the first woman to win a full athletic scholarship for college, with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After playing with UCLA, she signed a contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1978, but was cut from the team soon after. Ann Meyers' start in organized basketball coincided with a nationwide rise in girls' participation in high school sports, particularly with basketball, peaking in 1977. This came roughly half a century after the first professional women's basketball championship was introduced, in 1926. Meyers would be quintessential to the founding of the Women's Professional Basketball League (WNBL) in 1979, the precursor to the modern-day Women's National Basketball League (WNBA), later working in an executive role for the NBA's Phoenix Suns, and would become enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Basketball legend Bill Russell—regarded as one of the best players of all time--would say of her: "[she] was one of the greatest players ever. I didn't say male or female, I said ever."
1972 Women can finally enter the Boston Marathon; Katharine Switzer ran
Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon in 1967. This marathon had been an all male event; even though there was nothing in the rule book stating this, stereotypes of women made sure that such was the case. In Switzer's words: "Anything long like 800m, or even longer... was considered dangerous, de-sexing and de-feminising for a woman...[It was thought] that their uterus might fall out and their legs would get big...." To enter the race, Switzer signed paperwork with her initials: K.V Switzer, which made it nearly impossible for the officials to know she was a woman. Switzer trained with Arnie Briggs, an older man who was a veteran of 15 Boston Marathons. Switzer didn't try to hide the fact that she was a woman-she even wore lipstick! After being physically attacked by the race's co-director Jock Semple, Switzer finished in 4 hours 20 minutes. Switzer was never really involved in any form of activism before, but the race sparked something in her, and she realized that she needed to prove herself in athletics, and help create opportunities for other women to do the same. After her run in 1967, Switzer led a campaign to help get official status for women in distance races and she became one of the first women to chair a United States Track & Field Long Distance Running District. She helped to revolutionize the 1972 Boston Marathon, which finally officially accepted women into the race. Eight women entered, with Switzer herself coming in third. Other marathons followed suit such as the New York City Marathon in the same year, and a Women's Olympic Marathon in 1984.
Battle of the Sexes
The Battle of the Sexes is considered the pinnacle of Billie Jean King's career fighting for women's equality. In this widely televised tennis match on September 20, 1973, King proved that a man was not physically, athletically, or psychologically superior to a woman. A woman tennis player deserved as much respect, honor, and pay. As one of the best tennis players of her time and the leader of women's tennis for equal pay, King had constantly stood up against sexism in the sports industry. A setback to her efforts was when Margaret Court lost to Bobby Riggs in a humiliating match that seemed to prove that men were seemingly stronger. King knew she had to prove this notion wrong so she accepted to play a match against Riggs, a match she had once turned down.
The match between King and Riggs was advertised as the ultimate showdown between a man and a woman competing in athletics. Leading up to the match, Riggs used a lot of sexist rhetoric and taunts. Many bet that Riggs would win the match simply because Riggs was a man and he had won against Court. None of this intimidated King who knew she had to win to prove her point. This match stood for more than just entertainment.
The two hour game was watched around the world by 70 million people. King was fully concentrated and ready during the match. Unfortunately for Riggs, he never got into the right momentum. In the end, King won the 100,000 dollar prize money but also her message of equality was proven. Women were not limited to domestic affairs and being the inferior sex. Women could play sports just as well and deserved the same pay.