In history, some people are remembered long after they are gone, while others are completely forgotten. While some people should be remembered and revered for generations, some of the most prominent figures in our history books are often the ones who have done us the most harm. This Week in History, we will take a look at some of the important people to shape the world in which we live today. So let’s dive in!
On Sept. 20, 1973, 48 years ago, tennis icon, Billie Jean King, defeated Bobby Riggs in the highly-publicized “Battle of the Sexes.”
In the early 1970s, King was at the top of her game. With several Wimbledon titles and a U.S. Open under her belt, she was the first woman named as Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” in 1972. In 1973, she became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association and was globally regarded as the best female tennis player to step foot on the court.
A former No. 1 ranked men’s player, Riggs was a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, who boasted that he could beat any female player, even in his old age. He openly stated that women were inferior to men and belonged in the kitchen instead of on the tennis court. At the age of 55, he challenged the 29-year-old King to a match.
At the Houston Astrodome, in an arena of 30,000 spectators, with an additional 50 million people watching on television, King triumphed over Riggs, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. The event was not only a legitimization of women in professional sports, but a defining moment of the women’s rights movement. King would go on to become one of the most celebrated female athletes of all time, while Riggs would fade into obscurity shortly after the match.
On Sept. 21, 1780, 241 years ago, Benedict Arnold betrayed the Continental Army and sold precious information to the British during the Revolutionary War.
While his name is now synonymous with the word “traitor,” Arnold began his life as a well-respected member of colonial society. Coming from a prominent Connecticut family, Arnold made a name for himself as a commanding officer during the French and Indian War, and again in the Continental Army when war broke out between the British and the 13 colonies.
Though he had the favor of men like George Washington, Arnold made several enemies within the fledgling American military, and thus was overlooked for several promotions. In addition to this, he recently remarried and spent tremendous sums of money he did not have on a lavish lifestyle in Philadelphia. Bitter, resentful and plagued with debt, Arnold promised the fort at West Point (the site of the modern military academy) to the British Major John Andre in exchange for a great deal of money and a high-ranking position in the British military.
The colonists discovered Arnold’s treason and executed Andre, though not before Arnold could escape to the British side and take up arms against his neighbors on the battlefields of Virginia and Connecticut. When the British surrendered and the Redcoats fled the colonies for the British Isles, Arnold was among them, spending the remainder of his life in London, though never being fully reimbursed for his deeds.