Billie Jean King after winning Wimbledon

Photo: Billie Jean King Enterprises/Michael Cole

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Another legend receiving a Minerva Award in 2008 is tennis star Billie Jean King. Billie Jean helped raise awareness in the fight for equality in sports and contributed to the passage of the educational amendment Title IX. This amendment gave equal funding to schools' educational programs or activities that received federal funds so men and women could have the same opportunities.

Before the bill passed, there were quotas in schools that limited the number of women who could become doctors or lawyers, but Title IX has changed all that. "I think most people think it's about sports because we're so visible," Billie Jean says. "But it's really about education."

Billie Jean also created the first female professional tennis tour and fought for equal prize money for women's and men's champions. "This is how far we've come, people. When Billie Jean won Wimbledon in 1968, her prize money was just 37 percent of what the male tennis player won. That was 40 years ago," Oprah says. "When Venus [Williams] won Wimbledon in summer in 2008, she took home the exact same prize as the men's champion."

While she was a member of World Team Tennis, Billie Jean also became the inspiration for the Elton John song "Philadelphia Freedom." "He used to sit on the bench at The Spectrum in Philly and be our cheerleader," Billie Jean says. "Then one day, we're going to a concert and he goes, 'I want to write a song for you.'"
FROM: Women Who Changed the World
Published on October 16, 2008


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