The Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) hosted a tribute night in honor of Founder Billie Jean King's 75th birthday at the New-York Historical Society on November 14, 2018.
The event titled “BJK 75” served as a platform to raise funding for a permanent exhibition of King’s collection at the museum and the digitization of her archives to ensure future generations have the opportunity and access to learn from King’s life story.
“Ensuring that Billie Jean King and her collection remains a permanent fixture in our halls is an important statement in the history of women who have a significant impact on American history,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “While the museum is an incredible place to visit, we are conscious that not everyone has access. The digitization of the collection will ensure we can share Billie Jean’s story and message about inclusion and equality with people all over the world.”
The tribute night included musical performances from Alan Cumming, Emma Stone, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles, Nona Hendryx and tap-dancing group The Syncopated Ladies. Robert Kraft, Jeanie Buss, Maria Sharapova, Mary Carillo, John McEnroe, Holly Hunter and Kate Clinton shared anecdotes about their friendships with King.
Thanking the co-chairs and supporters of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, Billie Jean King said, “If you can see it, you can be it and that’s why it is so important to support the museum in its continued efforts to educate the next generation of leaders and share the lessons of those who have come before us. The more you know about history, the more you know about yourself.”
After the tribute performance, friends and family of King and Kloss had the opportunity to view “Billie Jean King: The Road to 75” an exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, curated in honor of King’s 75th birthday and celebrating her life and career through more than 75 photographs. The exhibition is available to the public for viewing until January 27, 2019.
Among her many achievements, King led the way in founding the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973; lobbied for, and obtained, equal prize money at the US Open in 1973; co-founded World TeamTennis in 1974; and is renowned for her celebrated win over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match on September 20, 1973, with an estimated worldwide audience of 90 million people. Named one of Life magazine’s “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century,” she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Obama. In 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 continues to work to advance social justice causes, serving on the boards of the Women's Sports Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 2014, she launched the BJKLI to advocate for equality and inclusion in the workplace.