by Chris Lombardi
Gail Collins, author of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Story of American Women From 1960 to the Present, was on a book tour last week mostly to share her amazement at "that thing we did," meaning the transformation of the role of American women. As part of the tour, Collins and interviewer Lynn Yeakel talked to a packed crowd at Philadelphia's Constitution Center. (Click here for Part One of WVFC's coverage from Philly.) The conversation was heightened by a blizzard of controversy surrounding last week's Shriver Report on women's role in the U.S. economy, including a widely read New York Times piece by Joanne Lipman, "The Mismeasure of Woman." Photo- Sports Illustrated
Part One of Collins' talk focused on how women's inclusion in the Civil Rights Act of 1965 sparked a near-half century of legal challenges to discrimination against women, and the dramatic shifts in public perception that enabled them to succeed. In women's sports, for example, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act enabled to equal participation by girls and women on the country's athletic fields and school teams — but in many ways it was the iconic 1973 Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that turned the tide of public opinion, said Collins. When taunted by retired tennis pro Riggs, King "just turned it around and made it work for her," including entering the Astrodome on a Cleopatra-style litter before easily beating her opponent. "Everything changed after that," Collins said. "You didn't have this universal feeling that women could not compete, or shouldn't."
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