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Women in Sports: Title IX History

Title IX History

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” - Title IX of the Civil Rights Act
These 37 words, penned by Senator Birch Bayh, were signed into law by President Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972.


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A History of Title IX

The roots of Title IX go back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin—but made no mention of discrimination based on sex. Women were included in the Civil Rights Act only in Title VII, an amendment that addressed equal employment opportunity but did not apply to educational institutions, among other areas.

By the early 1970s, girls and women continued to face discrimination and unequal treatment in many areas of education. Female students were often barred from certain male-only courses or fields of study, including everything from wood shop and calculus to criminal justice, law and medicine. Some U.S. colleges and universities refused to allow women to attend, or established quotas that limited the number of female students regardless of how qualified they were compared to male applicants. Others denied tenure to female professors, or refused to hire them at all.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which included Title IX, into law. Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, who introduced the amendment in the Senate and helped guide the bill through Congress, called it “an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs.”

By the time compliance with Title IX became mandatory in 1978, the law had already made an impact on sports. In a cover story that June, TIME reported that six times as many high school girls were participating in competitive high school sports than in 1970.

“Participation rates for women have exploded every single year since Title IX was passed in 1972,” Hartman says. “We see not only how sport has become more culturally acceptable for women to participate in, but how they also have increased their competitiveness.”

The law’s far-reaching impact could be seen at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where American women dominated sports from gymnastics to basketball to swimming. That year saw the largest contingent of U.S. female Olympians in history, with a total of 292 women and 263 men. Back in 1972, only 90 women had joined the U.S. Olympic team of 428 athletes.

“It's kind of like ‘if you build it, they will come,’” Hartman says. “If you give opportunities, then you see how competitive and athletic all bodies can be, no matter if they're men or women.”

Organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have challenged Title IX’s legality, while others have argued that it should apply only to educational programs that directly receive federal funds. 

In 1984, the Supreme Court agreed with this interpretation in Grove City v. Bell, effectively removing Title IX coverage of athletics except for athletic scholarships. Passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (over President Ronald Reagan’s veto) reversed that decision, and reinstituted Title IX’s broad coverage for any educational institution receiving any federal funds.

The 1990s and beyond have seen continued legal challenges to Title IX, as well as a number of lawsuits alleging the violation of its protections. “Over the decades since it's been passed, legal cases have tried to give more guidance for Title IX, and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights created compliance elements for it,” Hartman says. “That path over 50 years has been bumpy….[and today] up to 80 percent of higher education institutions are still out of compliance.” Continue reading from History

Books from the Collection

Link to Forward by Abby Wambach in the catalog
Link to Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati in the catalog
Link to All In: An Autobiography by Billie Jean King in the catalog
Link to The Hard Parts by Oksana Masters in the catalog
Link to Sidelined by Julie DiCaro in the catalog
Link to Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman in the catalog
Link to 37 Words: Title IX and fifty years of fighting sex discrimination by Sherry Borschert in the catalog
link to unrivaled by Jeff Goldberg
link to strong like her by Haley Shapely  in the catalog
Link to when women stood by alexandra allred in the catalog
link to the longest race by kara goucher in the catalog
link to choosing to run by des linden in the catalog