Courtly Love at Forest Hills

In 1942, William duPont Jr. told his twenty-four-year-old fiancée, tennis phenom Margaret Osborne, that he would give her and her doubles partner, (Althea) Louise Brough, “something red” if they won the National Tennis Championship. 

The women won, and duPont gave them both platinum ruby-and-diamond tennis racket brooches designed by Warren D. Perry. Roughly sixty years later, Brough (pronounced BRUFF) donated hers to the museum at the NEH-supported International Tennis Hall of Fame, where the approximately 2-inch-by-1-inch bauble has since been on display.

Brough and Osborne won a string of consecutive championships at Forest Hills from 1942 through 1950. Both women collected singles and mixed doubles championships as well, and they often faced off against each other in grueling marathon matches. At different times, both were ranked No. 1 in the world.

Whether or not Brough ever wore her brooch, with 27 rubies and 29 diamonds, is not clear. She certainly appreciated the lavish awards that came with winning.

An admirer of Serena Williams, Brough marveled at the earning power of contemporary stars. “I could slit my throat,” she once quipped, “when I think about how much money I could have won playing today.”