"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.”
Crafted in 1971 by the late Senator Birch Bayh, Jr. was enacted June 23, 1973. The IndyStar, reflecting on Bayh's death this week at age 91, offered powerful testimony about the power of Title IX:
"I put it right up there with women's right to vote," said Lin Dunn, who has coached women's professional and college basketball for more than 40 years, including Purdue and the Indiana Fever. "I honestly believe that the package of Title IX, that piece of legislation, is one of the most powerful pieces to empower and impact women ever."
The impact of Title IX on women's sports is hard to understate. The number of girls playing high school sports has grown from fewer than 300,000 in 1974 to an all-time high of 3,415,306 in 2018. According to the NCAA, women's participation in college sports has grown every year for the last 15 years and women represent 44% of all college athletes — an all-time high.
The IndyStar shares the origin story of Bayh's interest in the subject, tracing it back to when a young Bayh asked his father, then the superintendent of physical education in D.C. what he was going to tell Congress. In a first person account on his website, Bayh recalled, "He said, 'I’m going to tell them that little girls need strong bodies to carry their minds around just like little boys.'"
Bayh co-wrote what would have been the 27th Amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment, prescribing equal treatment of women in all fields. He then produced Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. It banned gender discrimination in schools receiving federal support. According to the WaPo, he recalled the argument he made in the 1970s: "In a country that prides itself on equality, we could not continue to deny 53 percent of the American people equal rights."
The Title IX legacy continues to play out powerfully. "What we see female athletes doing all the time is breaking barriers, and what we want to do is inspire that next generation of female athletes to continue to think big and bold," US Women's Soccer Team player Megan Montagne said in a phone interview with The Lily. Former US Women's Soccer Team player Brandi Chastain also speaking with The Lily added, “The ascendancy to success is not a straight shot."
Chastain's words are a clear nod to our collective cultural amnesia: When we move forward, it is not without setbacks. Fortunately, this is one area where steady progress has continued. The numbers of high school girls and college women playing sports continues to increase. There are more women and girls than ever with strong bodies to carry their minds around. And the power of that legacy extends far beyond the track, playing field, court, and pool.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services and now a Congresswoman from Florida, said: “Title IX was a game changer. It created opportunities for women students, faculty, administrators. Without it, you wouldn’t see as many women studying law and medicine — or serving as university presidents.”