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New-York Historical Society acquires items from tennis star Billie Jean King's archive
Billie Jean King and Louise Mirrer with objects from her archive, including a 1999 Fed Cup trophy, Adidas sneakers, wood tennis rackets, 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom certificate, Essex Bowl, Philadelphia Freedoms dress, and Philadelphia Freedoms racket cover. Image credit: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society.

NEW YORK, NY.- The New-York Historical Society announced the acquisition of archival materials from social justice pioneer and sports icon Billie Jean King, whose groundbreaking career achievements and activism transformed the sport. Highlights from the archive will be featured in the new Center for Women’s History, which will launch as part of the New-York Historical Society’s transformed fourth floor, opening to the public in March 2017.

“Billie Jean King was groundbreaking in her field, and we look forward to celebrating her achievements in our new Center for Women’s History next year, where we will reveal the often-overlooked stories of women who had an impact on American history,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Women’s history is an important topic for everyone to learn, and women’s achievements have benefitted everyone―not only women―so we are immensely grateful to Billie Jean for sharing these treasured items to help tell this important story.”

The gift of the Billie Jean King archive to New-York Historical comprises 28 linear feet of documents and 12 objects from her storied, 39 Grand Slam title-winning career. A pioneer for gender equality and social justice, King lobbied for, and obtained, equal prize money for men and women at the US Open in 1973, and is renowned for her celebrated win over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match on September 20, 1973.

Other highlights of the Billie Jean King archive include personal scrapbooks, containing a baby book with King’s infant footprints as well as photographs of King throughout her career—starting with her early years in Long Beach, CA; a white lace tennis dress that King wore to win the singles titles at the 1971 US Open in Queens and in 1972 at Wimbledon; a patriotic Philadelphia Freedoms team dress worn during the 1974 inaugural season and which inspired Elton John’s song of the same name; a trophy bowl from the Essex County Club’s Ladies Invitation Tournament, which Billie Jean Moffit, as she was then known, won three times; school assignments written by young girls in support of King in anticipation of the “Battle of the Sexes” game; and King’s 2009 Medal of Freedom certificate signed by President Obama, awarded to King as the first female athlete to receive the honor. Additional items include a dress and racket used by Venus Williams, winner of seven Grand Slam titles. Select items from the archive will be displayed in the Center for Women’s History when it opens in spring 2017.

“I am so honored that the New-York Historical Society will now hold items that I treasure from my career, and that highlights will go on view in the new Center for Women’s History when it opens in the spring,” said Billie Jean King. “I deeply support the Center’s mission to educate visitors about women’s achievements, and I am proud to be in the company of other history-makers featured at New-York Historical.”

Further bolstering New-York Historical’s collection focused on women’s history, the institution is also receiving items from the estate of the late Editta Sherman, a portrait photographer whose work captured the personalities of stars from the golden age of entertainment. The Editta Sherman archive coming to New-York Historical, donated by members of her family, comprises approximately 1,500 photographs, Sherman’s large-format camera, letters, and books that feature her imagery. Called the “Duchess of Carnegie Hall” by her dear friend and neighbor Bill Cunningham, Sherman was featured as the main model of his 1970s series, exploring period fashions against the architectural history of New York City Facades, which was shown at the Museum in 2014.

Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Billie Jean King is the founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and the co-founder of World TeamTennis. She founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and the Women’s Tennis Association. In August 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court. King serves on the boards of the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Andy Roddick Foundation, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation and is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

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