Today (June 23) marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the U. S. Congress’s “Education Amendments of 1972″, which was signed into law by Richard Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 brief words, Congress eliminated discrimination against women in educational institutions.
Section 1681. Sex
(a) Prohibition against discrimination; exceptions. 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. . .
(There follow some exceptions, including the Boy and Girl Scouts, fraternities and sororities, and military institutions.)
The amendment was introduced by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, who made this eloquent statement in Congress:
“While the impact of this amendment would be far-reaching,” Bayh concluded, “it is not a panacea. It is, however, an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs—an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop the skills they want, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work.”
Wikipedia gives the tortuous history and implementation of this landmark legislation, which extended rights to women that had been given to blacks nine years before. Importantly, the bill extended to school athletic programs, even if they weren’t supported by Federal funds, for such programs were subject to Title IX if any part of an educational institution received federal funds. All of them do, of course: scientists, for example, get federal grants.
Although Title IX applies to all aspects of education (dormitories, sex-segregated classes, and so on), the big disparity in women’s access was in athletics. I was just out of college when this passed, and heard all the dire predictions from men that it would lead to the death of male athletics, like football and wrestling, by diverting those funds to women’s teams. Well, the former didn’t happen, and there are a ton more women participating in sports now than 40 years ago. I’m sure that Title IX led to the burgeoning of women’s soccer and basketball and the subsequent rise of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
It was a great piece of legislation, but it’s sad that it took two hundred years after the founding of our Republic to get it.