Billie Jean King’s life-long fight for equality is best characterized by her efforts for pay equity for women in professional sports, starting in the earliest days of professional tennis. Fifty-one years ago, tennis tournament prize money was as much as eight times greater for men than for women. Despite her grand slam victories, King struggled to earn a living as a tennis professional. Infuriated at the inequality, King decided to act.
Nine top-ranked women tennis players, led by King, each signed a $1 contract to play in a new all-female tournament. Risking their national rankings and eligibility for the Grand Slams, the “Original Nine” built the foundation for women's professional tennis. Featuring photographs, posters, and ephemera from New-York Historical's Billie Jean King collection, the installation details the story of the Original Nine within the greater context of the emerging women's liberation movement, and King's tireless advocacy for pay equity.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.