Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 20 is the 263rd day of the year (264th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 102 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1973, in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beats Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that they couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and that even at his age he could beat any female player. The match was a huge media event, witnessed in person by over 30,000 spectators at the Houston Astrodome and by another 50 million TV viewers worldwide. King made a Cleopatra-style entrance on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by female models. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell called the match, in which King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s achievement not only helped legitimize women’s professional tennis and female athletes, but it was seen as a victory for women’s rights in general.
Billie Jean King (née Moffitt; born November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California) is a former professional tennis player from the United States. She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. King has been an advocate against sexism in sports and society. She is known for “The Battle of the Sexes” in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men’s singles champion.
King is the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis, which she founded with her former husband, Lawrence King.
Despite King’s achievements at the world’s biggest tennis tournaments, the U.S. public best remembers her for her win over Bobby Riggs in 1973.
Riggs had been a top men’s player in the 1930s and 1940s in both the amateur and professional ranks. He won the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 1939, and was considered the World No. 1 male tennis player for 1941, 1946, and 1947. He then became a self-described tennis “hustler” who played in promotional challenge matches. In 1973, he took on the role of male chauvinist. Claiming that the women’s game was so inferior to the men’s game that even a 55-year-old like himself could beat the current top female players, he challenged and defeated Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1. King, who previously had rejected challenges from Riggs, then accepted a lucrative financial offer to play him.
451 – The Battle of Chalons takes place in North Eastern France. Flavius Aetius’s victory over Attila the Hun in a day of combat, is considered to be the largest battle in the ancient world.
1187 – Saladin begins the Siege of Jerusalem.
1378 – Cardinal Robert of Geneva, called by some the Butcher of Cesena, is elected as Avignon Pope Clement VII, beginning the Papal schism.
1519 – Ferdinand Magellan sets sail from Sanlucar de Barrameda with about 270 men on his expedition to circumnavigate the globe.
1596 – Diego de Montemayor founded the city of Monterrey in New Spain.
1633 – Galileo Galilei is tried before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for teaching that the Earth orbits the Sun.
1697 – The Treaty of Rijswijk is signed by France, England, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch Republic ending the Nine Years’ War (1688-97).
1737 – The finish of the Walking Purchase which forces the cession of 1.2 million acres of Lenape-Delaware tribal land to the Pennsylvania Colony.
1792 – French troops stop allied invasion of France, during the War of the First Coalition at Valmy.
1835 – Farroupilha’s Revolution begins in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
1848 – The American Association for the Advancement of Science is created.
1854 – Battle of Alma: British and French troops defeat Russians in the Crimea.
1857 – The Indian Rebellion of 1857 ends with the recapture of Delhi by troops loyal to the East India Company.
1860 – The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of the United Kingdom) visits the United States.
1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chickamauga ends.
1870 – Bersaglieri corps enter Rome through the Porta Pia and completes the unification of Italy; see capture of Rome.
1871 – Bishop John Coleridge Patteson martyred on the island of Nukapu, a Polynesian outlier island now in the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands. He is the first bishop of Melanesia.
1881 – Chester A. Arthur is inaugurated as the 21st President of the United States following the assassination of James Garfield.
1891 – The first gasoline-powered car debuts in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States.
1906 – Cunard Line’s RMS Mauretania is launched at the Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
1920 – Foundation of the Spanish Legion.
1930 – Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is formed by Archbishop Mar Ivanios.
1942 – Holocaust in Letychiv, Ukraine. In the course of two days German SS murders at least 3,000 Jews.
1946 – The first Cannes Film Festival is held.
1954 – New Zealand’s Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents reports just ten days after concluding hearings.
1962 – James Meredith, an African-American, is temporarily barred from entering the University of Mississippi.
1967 – The RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 is launched at John Brown & Company, Clydebank, Scotland. It is operated by the Cunard Line.
1970 – Syrian tanks roll into Jordan in response to continued fighting between Jordan and the fedayeen.
1973 – Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in The Battle of the Sexes tennis match at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
1977 – The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is admitted to the United Nations.
1979 – Lee Iacocca is elected president of the Chrysler Corporation.
1979 – A coup d’état in the Central African Empire overthrows Emperor Bokasa I.
1982 – The National Football League players begin a 57-day strike.
1984 – A suicide bomber in a car attacks the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing twenty-two people.
1990 – South Ossetia declares its independence from Georgia.
2000 – The British MI6 Secret Intelligence Service building is attacked by a Russian-built Mark 22 anti-tank missile.
2001 – In an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people, U.S. President George W. Bush declares a “war on terror”.
2002 – The Kolka-Karmadon rock/ice slide started.