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Happy Birthday Title IX, Happy Birthday to You

Title IX turns 40 on Saturday. What's Title IX you say? Well it's 37 words that changed the country, especially for women and girls in sports and yes in science. Title IX says "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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

What does that mean? Well gather around and let me tell you some stories. While I didn't have to walk three miles in the snow to go to school, when I got to school I had to take home ec and couldn't take shop. I played girls' basketball (half court) but only against others in my school; there were no sports teams for girls. Two days a year we had field days where girls could compete against girls from other schools (I played ping pong) but of course we didn't have any of the luxuries like coaches.

One of my friends "got pregnant" as we used to say, our senior year. Of course she got kicked out of school. In those days we thought that pregnancy was contagious and the school didn't want anyone else to catch it. However mine was an enlightened school and she was a very smart girl, so the school let her do the work at home and she got her high school diploma. No of course she couldn't go to graduation - what were you thinking (1)?

I was a math and science geek in high school (go figure) and I was thinking about becoming an engineer. So I started looking for engineering programs in my home state- and found most of the schools with engineering programs didn’t let women in. Yes I wanted to go into engineering but as a young woman I had almost no opportunities to do so. I remember one institution would let me in as an engineering student but wouldn’t let me live on campus. Universities worried more about girl cooties in those days (2).

Things are different now and Title IX was the catalyst for much of that change. We're not where we need to be but we are a lot further along than we used to be. Happy birthday Title IX and thank you to those who made it happen--especially Bunny Sandler, Representative Patsy Mink, and Representative Edith Green. We owe you!

1. In case you were wondering, she's doing very well. She became a CPA and has her own firm.
2. I know Title IX specifically exempted single sex colleges. But Title IX changed attitudes as well as laws and soon after most all male schools became coed.