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Testimony on 
Women’s Educational Equity Act
of 1973

November 9, 1973 — Subcommittee on Education, Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, US Senate, Washington DC


Ms. King. Thank you very much. Senator Cranston and Senator Mondale.

First of all, what I would like to say is, of course, I am in support of the Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1973, but I think it should be changed to the Educational Equity Act because grants will be given to both men and women. It was very misleading to me when I started reading the bill, and I recommended that the name be changed. It sounded too big.

I think from my point of view what I would like to express is what athletics has done for me from a personal point of view, and then again to describe the discrimination that I have experienced through my childhood on to my present age which is almost 30 — I hate to say it.

As you know I think more and more we are realizing how important it is to be in shape. I know when I am not in shape I cannot think as well. All through my childhood it was always stressed that athletics really built character in boys.

My father was a fireman and mom was a housewife, and my dad was a sports nut; my mother does not like sports at all. So this was a good balance for me, but when I became 11 years old my mother said, You cannot play touch football anymore you must be a lady at all times whatever that means. I still have not figured that one out. All I know is that deep inside of me I have loved sports — all sports — and I was oriented in team sports. I can remember one morning at the breakfast table asking my father what a good sport would be for a woman, and right there, now that I reflect back, I realized I was already a product of the conditioning that goes on.

Why should I worry about it? But I did. So I got into tennis, which I had never heard of getting into, and playing at the local level I realized that in the school system there was no tennis available in high school.

As far as local associations helping girls in tennis, we were not helped. I can remember examples of boys in the 15 and under age group receiving $1,000 to travel to the east coast to play. I was No. 1 in southern California, and when I went to the association and asked for funds, they said. No. I never could understand why. I was No. 1, and here they were giving a boy who was No. 5 $1,000 — and I really needed the money because my parents could not afford it.

I found the girls who go ahead and pursue a career in sports are actually stronger and more of an individual because we are not accepted by our peers as youngsters. We are considered freaks, we are considered masculine — whatever that means — that boys are not going to like us because we like sports.

I was told when you go on a tennis court and you play against a fellow, make sure that you let him win. I am telling you I used to do this. As I started seeing things happen, I realized how stupid and how ridiculous it really is because I love to hit the ball, and I get just as big a charge out of this as Rod Laver does; it is the esthetics of it. It is a great life, and all I know is there have been too many battles from a personal point of view.

It is tough enough to guts it out on the tennis court than to have to worry about all the other aspects of society accepting you as a human being, and we are just now being accepted. I had to wait this long.

Unfortunately I think that for women there are very few professional sports open to us. That is the finishing line for most athletes. That is the standard to which they relate. This is how the public identifies with you. You are the one who gets them turned on through your sport, and then they go out and try to emulate you, and young women never have had other women to look up to. This is just now happening for the first time. As a girl I had to look up to a male athlete.

It was brought out in a series of articles in Sports Illustrated concerning women athletes, that the ratio spent on boys versus girls is 99 to 1.

Senator Mondale. I have read that series. I think we are going to put that in the record as an appendix.

Ms. King. I would like to see more and more acceptance through industry, through every other thing that can facilitate letting girls enjoy themselves, and if they love sports, right on. If they do not, that is fine too.

I think that is what the whole women’s movement is about: Let us do what we can, but there has to be a vehicle; that means there has to be a little do, ray, me.

If you have any questions, I would be pleased to try to answer.

Senator Mondale. Would you say that your experience is a usual one or an unusual one for girls interested in athletics? Have the other girl athletes you talked to had similar experiences, the difficulty in being recognized, the difficulty in believing they can do it and all the rest?

Would you say this is a very common pervasive feeling among women athletes?

Ms. King. It is very common but because of our lack of acceptance women athletes have a tendency to bend over backwards to try to be more feminine — “Don’t rock the boat” — they try to be more passive.

There seems to be a difference now. Some women are going out and saying what they really feel, but, privately, yes, they tell me these things, but when it comes to saying it in public, they are afraid because they want to be accepted.

Senator Mondale. Do you see a change in that now ?

Ms. King. Very much, but only through those vehicles, because the only way that people appreciate me is through the success I have achieved, because money is a measuring stick. It does not mean that I do not love my tennis — and that is what people in this country have to learn to get rid of, the word “amateur.” I think it is the most misleading word ever.

I played tennis as an amateur, I was paid under the table; it is degrading, and I think if we can get rid of this word it will mean something, because it is athletics that turns you on. It does not matter whether it is professional or what it is.

“When we are young we are taught and we are manipulated by so many various committees, amateur sports committees — and that is another thing about the current bill; I think they should delete the word “amateur.”

People try to separate sports from everyday life, and that is iust one part of life. I do not know why we have always done that. I do not know where it started, but we put sports up there in the clouds some place, and it is not; it is a part of everyday living.

Senator Mondale. In your prepared statement you recommend that more money be spent on athletic programs for women. Specifically what do you think is needed? Do you think we need more training programs for women physical education teachers, better equipment, or facilities?

Where would you emphasize the expenditure of money if it were available to overcome what you are talking about?

Ms. King. At the educational level.

Senator Mondale. Can you give me some examples?

Ms. King. Elementary, junior high, high school, et cetera.

Senator Mondale. Would you say the earlier, the better? In elementary and secondary school?

Ms. King. For instance, in junior high school we had a girls’ athletic association program at the school, but I had to go play tennis. But I put in 2 or 3 hours after school every day, but we had a point system. Well, I could not use those 2 or 3 hours I practiced toward that.

That used to bother me because I put in more time than some of the girls who stayed after school. We always had to use the boys’ facilities when they were finished. We should have our own vehicle.

I know a lot of people that say, let the boys and girls start competing against one another — and I think in time that is going to happen whether I like it or not — I will be long gone — but at least let us have our own opportunity, our own funds first.

I think through education, through the recreation departments — I learned tennis free through the recreation departments in my State, and without that I would not be here today. That is without any question of a doubt.

Senator Mondale. Senator Javits.


Senator Javits. Thank you.

Ms. King, what is the connection between athletics and physical fitness and intellectual attainment and scholastic attainment?

Sometimes it is a popular conception that people who participate in sports neglect their studies. On the other hand, we have had some extraordinary all-Americans in many fields who were top students. What do you think?

Ms. King. I think the one thing that athletics help you in is discipline and organizing your time. That is another thing you need, when you are studying, to organize your time. It does take some amount  of discipline.

All I know is when I am not working out, when I go to read my retention becomes lower. I am much sharper when I am physically feeling healthy, and any time any of us are ill we realize how important this is.

I do not think that every person is going to be interested in the same thing. You are going to get people who are inclined to go into the academic, and you are going to get people inclined to go into athletics. All right. One I do not like is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). They have a complete monopoly on college athletics. A lot of times when a college athlete goes to school, he receives an athletic scholarship. Why does he? Because he is accepted in his particular sport.

It is also an automatic farm system for your pro football, so the schools have gotten so that they are sitting on a gold mine. They go to the networks, they get college football on television for millions of dollars.

What about this poor fellow on the football team if he hurts his knee and never can play pro football? As far as I am concerned, we should get rid of this monopoly — the NCAA — in athletes because they are going to school because of their excellence in sports. If they want to go to school to get their education and then have intramural programs, which I am very much in favor of — but who is kidding whom? College athletes today are professional athletes. I do not know why we try to keep it the way it used to be because it has not really been realistic.


Senator Javits. Do you feel they should in some form be guaranteed or insured against injury, et cetera? Many athletes carry these injuries through life, and quite apart from an inability to play professional football, they have some great difficulty, and often their lives are shortened.

Do you feel we ought to be thoughtful about how to protect them?

Ms. King. In reality what is going to happen is that a college is going to sign a player at their school to represent them. It depends on the contract, what they sign, but the way it is now. you are right: there is no protection for the athlete in the end.

Of course the school wants protection too so that he does not drop out of school before he graduates, because they want the full 3 years of varsity playing, which helps the school get the alumni to donate more money toward the school. It is really a business to them. That is fine; I do not mind it, but let’s say it like it is.

Senator Javits. And let’s do it down the line so everybody treats it as a business.

Ms. King. That is right.

Senator Javits. You do not feel, I gather, the main thrust of your testimony is — that interferes in any way with sportsmanship or the example of sportmanship?

Ms. King. No. It depends on what you feel is a good sport. I feel a good sport is somebody who tries the very, very best and plays within the rules. I know that I throw my racket. I scream, go crazy, but I know deep down if I try my best and do not try to cheat my opponent it is good sportsmanship. Some players, to be very honest with you, are very quiet, very demure, but those are the ones who cheat. That is what I cannot understand.

Senator Moxdale. We see the same thing in politics.

Ms. King. It is changing I think.

Senator Javits. Ms. King, to get back to the intellectual relationship of sports, would you conclude therefore that there is not any reason in the world why the good athlete, even the professional athlete, cannot be at the same time an excellent student?

Ms. King. It depends. It is a very difficult question. You are talking about college now?

Senator Javits. I mean there is no inconsistency between the two, as I gather from your testimony. You organize your time and you can do both.

Ms. King. I can do both, but I think it is more difficult on the athlete who is trying to do well in her studies too. I think that we have put too much emphasis on every person going to college and going on. I think that not everyone is meant to go on.

I find through my travel throughout the world the most important thing to me is to be able to communicate with people and share with people, and sometimes being “book smart” just is not where it’s at. Every person is different, and I do not think the pressure should be on every single person to go to college, to live up to his or her parents’ expectations.

I think it is very important that you have self-awareness, but this is part of education, having the self-awareness, understanding yourself, to go ahead and pursue what you want to do.

Senator Mondale. Ms. King. I do not want to detain you very long. Senator Schweiker is waiting to ask questions. I have just one other question. In your travels around our country do you find serious deficiencies in athletic facilities? For example, just to point out what I mean, there are many rural and less settled communities, and people think they live an outdoor life, and yet they have practically nothing in the way of athletic facilities, let us say, during the winter season.

What is your own experience on how spotty is the availability of athletic facilities, whether it is tennis courts, basketball courts or what have you?

Ms. King. There is a difference in lack of the various facilities — at least the areas I go to differ. Often teachers and coaches come up to me and ask for suggestions? I was brought up in California, and I did not realize how much I was spoiled with our recreational facilities, so probably I am not the best one to talk on facilities.

I know what I hear from others, and I think — of course the biggest problem — is when we get to talking about cities New York City, for example — so many people to take care of, and a lack of land.

I was thinking today I would like to see a tennis court on top of every building, or it could be converted into a basketball court or volleyball court, whatever.

I think people are turning on to being fit again. I see people jogging all over the place. I was in Philadelphia the other day, and these two fellows came down in the hotel lobby in their track outfits, and it was cold outside, and they just opened the door and started jogging. I think that is great.

But in the past girls were afraid to do that because we did not want anybody to see us, you know, but I think that is finally changing.


Senator Javits. Our chairman might give his own example of his unusual use of parking lots for tennis courts. Thank you very much.

The Chairman mentioned before we came in the fact that in one city — I forget the city — parking lots were used on weekends for tennis courts as an example of how space can be utilized for athletic purposes. I thought it was a very good example. I think you mentioned Hawaii.

Senator Mondale. Senator Schweiker.


Senator Schweiker. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Billie Jean, I am very glad to have you with us here this morning. I saw the whole tennis match, and you did an excellent job, and I am one of the tennis buffs who would not think of challenging you. You can put me in that category; I know my limitations.

Seriously though I would like to ask you one or two questions about your statement, because I think one of your paragraphs goes to sort of the heart of the issue which you say, “By the time a girl reaches high school or college she is often well programed to think of sports as extraneous.” I want to go a little further than that.

It seems to me some of our social mores in our society say that all sports are unladylike or tomboyish, and in addition if you jump over that hurdle then there is another discrimination that it is all right for girls to play certain sports, that is, tennis, skating, swimming, horseback riding, but do not go beyond that.

The statistics you have provided here are quite accurate, quite realistic in terms of the money the physical education department has spent on men versus women.

The question I have to ask you if if you had equality of funding, would you not have immediately some real problems? How would you solve them, such as breaking down among girls and women the concept of the unladylikeness and also the matter of jumping from say swimming and tennis to some other sports, and how do we educate society on the social mores that obviously are involved?

Ms. King. I think it starts at home. I know mothers come to me with daughters and now they are very concerned. They hold their daughters on their laps, and all of a sudden they think, I want my little girl to have the same opportunities as my little boy; so she starts thinking, but she does not have those opportunities.

I think that is one of the factors that is starting to change. At least I notice this because more people come to me and tell me what they are thinking.

I got the same shots in 1966 that I made in 1973. Now, why all of a sudden do people know me? I was world champion in 1966. I used to come home and get off the plane, and they did not know anything; right?

It is the vehicle. It is getting the attention of the sports writers as an athlete, and not writing the stories such as “Cute blue eyed petite da-da boo-boo.” That is the way they talk about women athletes. They do not start a story about a male athlete the same way.

I remember speaking before women. I went to a breakfast one time with Gloria Steinem to speak, and there were all women there, and I froze. I am used to seeing all men — sports writers, press — there are really very few women involved. I think we have to cliange. Through having these programs and being accepted, we will be accepted in time. That is the one thing I have tried to make happen ever since I was 11 years old.

I was not allowed in a photo because I did not have a tennis dress on. I knew that day I wanted to change tennis. That is just a small part. Now I would like to see all women sports changed and help men in sports too. What about the boy who is not very athletically inclined? Why should he be put down too if he is a book worm and he does not like sports?

How many times do you see parents pushing him “Come on, Freddie, get out there. You can do it. Show daddy and show mommy.” Forget it. Let people do their own thing where their abilities are. There are so many women who have potential to be athletically inclined, and they are just afraid, but if through these educational programs, if you do fund athletic programs and girls find out it is fun, they find out that they are accepted, in fact they are looked up to, this will change everything.

It is when they go home and tell their family how much fun they are having, and you see your children happy and their bright eyes — that is the best way.

I always have felt to change, we have to have professional vehicles. That is why we want tennis to be professional, very much, because we are the motivators, and I really think that is where it is at for a professional athlete. I feel I can motivate and get other people turned on to my sport, but the only way I could do it is to be a professional, and that is the truth.

As an amateur, I was saying the same things I am saying to you today, and nobody could care less. So we have to have examples for young people to look up to, and the better you do something, the more responsibility you have to yourself as well as to others, because young people come up to me and ask me a lot of things about drugs — about everything.

I do not know how to answer all their questions, but at least they have identity. They identify for the first time in their lives. Little boys come up to me and say, I want to be a great tennis player like you.

They don’t think of me as a woman or man; all they know is I am an athlete.

I think it is at the educational level, it is through our textbooks, it is through sports, whatever field you are talking about, but we have wasted half the potential of this country.

It makes me sad from that point of view, but I would like to see it changed. I think it can change. It is changing, and it is not unladylike to be assertive. Women are starting to have more self-respect, walking tall, and I think a lot of it is just because of that match against Roberta Riggs the other day. 

I cannot believe what that did, and what made me happy is, I was world champion for the fifth time, and that turned me on the most from self-satisfaction — but what I could do through that match against Bobby who — I know that is going to help a lot, and that really makes me happy because it is getting people turned on.

It is just amazing how many husbands are washing dishes this week really. You would not believe that. Well, maybe you do. Maybe you are all at parties, I do not know, but I am really turned on to getting other people to change their attitudes and to start having more fun, both men and women.

I think it has been a good thing for men, too, because they have a lot of pressure on them. They get a lot of ulcers because of what society has done to them. “You have to be the breadwinner; you have to make straight A’s; you have to do this and that.”

Everyone is not the same, and some people are just going to get C’s in school — boy or girl — but the pressure is always on the boy to get in there. “You are going to be a breadwinner some day; you are going to be a doctor some day; you are going to be a lawyer.” Parents should let their children find themselves, not live through their children.

I find that so much in sports like little league and all that. I have a younger brother who is a professional baseball player with the San Francisco Giants, I think the reason we are here today is that our parents did not live through us; they stood behind us. There is a big difference.

We did not have a lot of money, but we knew they loved us, and they were there. But parents really want their childrento do what they wish they had done. I cannot stress that enough.

That is all I wanted to stress. I am very disorganized when I am speaking. I get emotional.

Senator Schweiker. I thank you very much. That is all I have.

Senator Mondale. Senator Stafford.


Senator Stafford. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to express my appreciation to you, Ms. King, for your being here. I have read over your statement, and it indeed points up an imbalance in the expenditure of funds in colleges and universities that ought to be corrected.

I have followed your career with admiration, and since I come from a part of the country where we have lots of cold weather, I cannot resist referring to skiing which is one of our favorite sports in northern New England. In my State of Vermont, most of the public schools set aside at least one-half day a week of school time and send all of the students of both sexes to the ski slope to learn to ski, starting when they are young.

I do not think in skiing there is much discrimination as far as the availability of funds to both sexes are concerned, and maybe this is one of the reasons that the only two Gold Medal winners we have had in the Olympics have both come from Vermont: Andrea Meade back in the 1950’s and Barbara Cochrane at the Olympics at Tokyo, Japan.

So I wonder if this is what you have in mind as an equal opportunity for both sexes to participate in sports, just what the Vermont schools are doing in skiing.

Ms. King. That is very much what I am talking about. Of course, we have been in sports where most women, such as Senator Schweiker mentioned with skiing, tennis, golf, swimming, that is exactly where most of the women athletes have turned to. I think there is a very big discrimination against women in team sports like softball, track, and a lot more attention should be paid to this. Track and field sports might be one of the best sports on which to concentrate some effort because there is no equipment needed. We can all go out and run 10 yards or 100 yards without needing any equipment.

But it is going to be a long process. Nothing is going to change quickly. I think it is great that New England is doing that. However, I feel it is up to the women to get together and decide to do their own thing. I hope the younger people today do not have to go through what I had to in tennis because it took away from my performance level. Any time you take away from your performance level as an athlete, it tears you down in some way.

At Wimbledon I was in more than 16 or 20 hours of meetings to get the Womens’ Tennis Association started. I locked the doors and I said, “You are not going to get out until we have an association.” Now they are happy that they have had some effect on their conditions.

I really do not know that much about what is happening on the educational level as far as funds are concerned, maybe you have some suggestions for me.

Senator Stafford. We are here to get suggestions from you and the other witnesses.

Ms, King. I like to learn from others because you see your own situation from your own local viewpoint, but other views are important. I travel so much I get caught up in a very small world at times.

Senator Stafford. From reading your prepared text, I gather part of your message to us today is that it is highly beneficial for every person to be involved in athletics, to have an athletics experience, a real one in grade school and on into college, and this benefit carries over into your subsequent life as well as the period when you were a student.

Ms. King. That is true. I think one thing sports teaches us is no matter at what level of competition you may be, first of all you have to have funds; second, it teaches you the day-to-day life of winning and losing, to accept it, to go forth and try to prove yourself as a person.

One day you play great, the next day you play badly, and you cannot understand why, but that is the way everyone feels.

It teaches you a lot about yourself, about other human beings, about how they react under pressure. As Bobby Riggs always said, a woman always chokes and folds under pressure. He really meant that. Some of his statements were pure show biz.

Senator Mondale. Thank you very much. While this morning’s testimony is concentrated on athletics, I gather that is your belief that the bias and this problem you have described in the educational system is pervasive in all of its aspects, and that through the educational system we should try to eliminate these notions, these mores, and prejudices that you faced in athletics.

Ms. King. That is right.

Senator Mondale. I think your statement has been excellent, that you have shown you are an intelligent spokeswoman for what we call equity in education, and we are most grateful to have had you as a witness.

Thank you very much.



Source: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare of the United Sates Senate, Ninety-Third Congress, First Session, on S. 2581 (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office), 1973, pp. 76-85.