Billie Jean King exhibit celebrates tennis icon and activist

Athlete. Feminist. Icon.

It’s hard to find one word that describes Billie Jean King.

She’s a legendary tennis player who smashed stereotypes and the glass ceiling. She was a champion of equal rights for everyone. And she’s an LGBTQ activist who says it took years to feel comfortable with her own sexuality.

King turned 75 last month, and the New-York Historical Society is celebrating that milestone with a photography exhibit that highlights her remarkable life.

“There’s some wonderful images of her playing tennis, but we wanted people to know there is so much more to Billie Jean King than her championships — even though with 39 Grand Slams she is one of the greatest tennis players of all time,” said Marilyn Satin Kushner, co-curator of “Billie Jean King: The Road to 75.”

“The work she does for equal rights and gay rights and children’s rights to make the world a better place is such an important part of who she is,” said Kushner, curator and head of the museum’s Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections. “If you don’t know that side of her, you don’t really know her.”

Among the exhibit’s 75 photos, there are images of King’s grand entrance into the Houston Astrodome for the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match against Bobby Riggs; testifying before the U.S. Senate; and as Grand Marshal for the NYC Pride March earlier this year.

Kushner recounted how King spoke about being No. 1 in the sport at a young age, primarily so people would listen to what she had to say.

“She really used her platform,” said Kushner, who curated the show with Helen R. Russell, a researcher who has worked for King.


‘Billie Jean King: The Road to 75’ runs now through Jan. 27, 2019, at the New-York Historical Society | admission $21/adults, $16/seniors, $13 students and $6/ages 5-13 | 170 Central Park W., 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org

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