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  1. Politics
3 October 2010

50 most influential progressives of the 20th Century

The joy of lists.

By Jon Bernstein

Not everybody loves a list. When we ran our second, annual 50 people who matter compilation last month some correspondents to the NS dismissed it as “filler” and “low-grade” journalism.

Judging by its response online, however, it is clear that many others enjoy engaging in this kind of journalism — not least to vehemently disagree with our selection (Julian Assange, Stephen Mcintyre and Lady Gaga, anyone?).

It’s good to know, too, that other long-established titles indulge in this kind of exercise. The venerable Nation has just published its 50 most influential progressives of the 20th Century. The joy of the list is the surprise inclusion. Billie Jean King? The Wimbledon tennis champion? One of the most influential progressives? Not likely. But read the citation and you are sold:

Billie Jean King (1943-) was at the top of women’s tennis for nearly two decades. She won her first Wimbledon singles title in 1966, piled up dozens of singles and doubles titles before retiring in 1984 and was ranked number one in the world for five years. She founded the Women’s Tennis Association, the Women’s Sports Foundation and WomensSports magazine. She championed Title IX legislation, which equalized opportunities for women on and off the playing field. In 1972 she signed a controversial statement, published in Ms., that she had an abortion, putting her on the front lines of the battle for reproductive rights. In 1972 she became the first women to be named Sports Illustrated‘s “Sportsperson of the Year”. In 1981 she was the first major female professional athlete to come out as a lesbian. She has consistently spoken out for women and their right to earn comparable money in tennis and other sports.

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