Last week we took a look at the start of the Rad Women walking tour in downtown Grand Rapids. To continue in this theme, this week’s art tour is featuring the next stop. This piece is located on the corner of Lyon St. and Monroe Ave. and was painted by Emily Macdonald, a local artist.
Pictured on the box is Billie Jean King, an accomplished tennis player. She was born on November 22, 1943 in Long Beach, California. Billie started out as a basketball player, then played softball, and finally started playing tennis in the fifth grade. Her goal was to become the number one tennis player in the world, but faced challenges because she was a young woman. She started to gain notice in 1955 when she won her age bracket in the Southern California Championship. She then gained international recognition when she and Karen Hatze Susman won the 1961 Wimbledon’s Women’s Title. In 1966 Billie achieved her goal of becoming the number one female tennis player in the world and proceeded to hold the title for five years! Between 1961 and 1979 she won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles from all around the world.
Off the court she fought for equal rights for women. She campaigned for equal prize money for both men and women and continually proved that women can be just as skilled in sports as men can. In 2009 Billie Jean King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama for her advocacy for women and the LGTBQ+ community. She is definitely an influential woman and is very deserving of this spot in Grand Rapids as a part of our art infrastructure!