By Louise Bernikow
Friday, July 18, 2003
(WOMENSENEWS)--The words are few, the impact enormous and surprising: Sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal financial assistance has been against the law since June 1972, thanks to Democratic Congresswomen Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Edith Green of Oregon.
As a growing women's movement swirled around them in the early 1970s, Mink and Green toiled on a House subcommittee studying discrimination in education, noting textbooks and classroom materials promoting homemaker preparation for girls and career-oriented skills for boys, along with selective entrance requirements and hiring procedures in many schools.
Mink herself had been denied admission to medical school. Green, then chair of the special subcommittee on education, conducted the hearings that led to Title IX's passage. Mink testified. Being legislators, they held hearings. In June 1972, when Title IX of the Education Amendments became law, women got 9 percent of medical degrees and 7 percent of law degrees. Nobody was thinking about the soccer field.
From equipment to scholarships to coaches' salaries, the idea of equality in athletics shook the country. By 1975, a fierce opposition tried to exclude sports from the law's equity requirements. The only female athlete with enough stature to testify in the committee room, Mink lamented, was Billie Jean King. The male jocks lost narrowly. Mink fled the room crying, which the media thought meant defeat, but in fact, her daughter had been in a car accident. Her daughter recovered, played collegiate sports and became a political activist, and the battle moved to the courts, where it is still being waged.
In 1999, the World Cup champion U.S. women's soccer team witnessed the first woman, Col. Eileen Collins, command an American space shuttle. There to shake hands with such disparate beneficiaries of Title IX was Patsy Mink. Edith Green died a few years earlier.
Louise Bernikow is the author of seven books and numerous magazine articles. She travels to campuses and community groups with a lecture and slide show about activism called "The Shoulders We Stand on: Women as Agents of Change."
For more information:
United States Department of Education:
"Title IX: A Sea Change in Gender Equity in Education":