National Affairs: A Dozen Who Made a Difference

  • Share
  • Read Later

(4 of 6)

After her sixth singles victory at Wimbledon last summer, Billie Jean King, 32, retired from competitive singles tennis, but she is busier—and richer—than ever. Last year's "retirement" schedule included sportscasting for ABC-TV, playing for the New York Sets in the World Team Tennis league and publishing her monthly womenSport magazine (circ. 200,000). With additional income from advertising endorsements, the King Enterprises group—the financial empire that Billie Jean reigns over with her very supportive husband Larry—will gross more than $1.5 million this year. "I lived on $90 a month as an amateur and I won't forget that"—or repeat it.

Next, she aims to start a women's pro softball league, to launch professional mixed doubles tennis, to sponsor an "open Olympics" that admits pros and to set up a school for tennis umpires. "I'm not like most tennis players who are happy just hitting the ball and having a good time," says King. "I'm always thinking how I can make something a little bit better."

One thing that is a lot better as a result of King's effort is the financial status of professional women athletes. Largely because King insisted on bringing the principle of "equal pay for equal work" to women's sports, Rival Racketeer Chris Evert, for one, earned more than $350,000 in prize money in 1975. More than any other athlete, King inspired schoolgirls to compete on the field, with the result that hundreds of thousands of young women in high schools and colleges are playing on basketball, volleyball, softball, track and other teams.


Four years ago Susan Brownmiller, one of feminism's most articulate and visible activists, disappeared into the library stacks. She surfaced last fall with Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, the most rigorous and provocative piece of scholarship that has yet emerged from the feminist movement. Brownmiller's meticulously researched book—a kind of Whole Earth Catalog of man's inhumanity to woman or, as Novelist Lois Gould called it, "everything one never wanted to know about sex"—may significantly change the terms of the dialogue between and about men and women. Many shrink from her conclusions: that marriage as an institution has its historical roots in the fear of rape; that the rapist is the ultimate guardian of male privilege; that rape is "the conscious process by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." But she persuasively argues that all forms of oppression have their origin in the often brutal reality of unequal physical power and that this primal fact of life continues to define and distort relationships between the sexes.

A Brooklyn native, Brownmiller, now 40 and single, attended Cornell, leaving before graduation to study acting in Manhattan and to begin a career as a kind of intellectual odd-jobber: as a Newsweek researcher, a civil rights worker in Mississippi, a TV reporter in Philadelphia and a staff writer for the Village Voice. In the late '60s she joined one of the first feminist groups in New York and, says Brownmiller, "all of a sudden I knew I was home."

ADDIE WYATT: Bold Unionist

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6