Billie Jean King
November 22, 1943

Billie Jean Moffit was born and grew up in Long Beach, California. Her father was a firefighter, her mother was a homemaker, and her younger brother grew up to become a major-league pitcher. Billie liked to play football and softball when she was a child, but her parents thought she should play a more "lady-like" sport and suggested tennis. When Billie talked about tennis later in her life she said, "I knew after my first lesson what I wanted to do with my life."

Billie practiced tennis on the public courts of Long Beach. She was a very good tennis player and won international recognition at the age of 17 when she and a partner named Karen Hantze won the doubles championship at Wimbledon in 1961. Karen and Billie received a trophy for their efforts.

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By 1966 Billie was married and had won her first singles title at Wimbledon. The next year she won at Wimbledon again and she also won the U. S. Championship. When Billie was not competing in tennis she went to Los Angeles State College and worked as a playground instructor. During this time Billie also helped make tennis a professional sport. Once tennis became a professionally recognized sport in 1968, prize money became available if a player won.

Billy continued to win many games and was now able to make a living playing tennis. Even though Billy won lots of prize money, she noticed that the prize money paid to women athletes was much less than the prize money paid to men athletes. She talked to other women tennis players and they formed a Women's Tennis Association. The women tennis players said they would not play tennis unless the prize money for women tennis players and men tennis players was equal. The women were successful and in 1973, the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women. Billie Joe King was a very good women athlete and will always be remembered as an excellent tennis player. Billie Joe is a great American women because she helped forge equal opportunities for women in sports.

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