Currently ongoing are the celebrations for Pride Month. And just this past week, events commemorated Juneteenth, including its establishment as a national holiday. But lost amidst the joy is another important civil rights moment in our nation’s history: June 23 marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. In 1972, this historic legislation ended sex discrimination in public education, extending educational opportunity for girls and young women, most dramatically through the elevated status granted to female athletes, including in competitive sports.
This congressional legislation opened doors to gymnasiums, lifted gates to track fields, and welcomed females to classrooms previously shuttered. Surprisingly for me, when I mentioned “Title IX” a few weeks back to my daughter-in-law, she responded, “What’s Title IX?” I don’t imagine she’s alone in not knowing. Maybe that’s even a good thing. For her generation of young women, full and equal access is something that was always there. Her generation would have taken for granted rights that had been denied their mothers.
For my generation, the Baby Boomers, Title IX represented a pivotal moment in our lives. I imagine that our grandmothers’ generation of women must have experienced similar emotions when the 19th Amendment — Women’s Suffrage — was ratified in 1920. Myself now a grandmother, I have lived long enough to enjoy the fruits of Title IX through my nieces, and through my son’s, and now grandsons’, female friends and classmates.
My Chatsworth High School yearbook devoted just two pages to girls’ sports. In 1970, the sports listed were: Touchdown, Basketball, Gymnastics, Tennis, Cheerleading, Ice Skating, and Bowling. (I was a bowler!) The previous 16 pages covered boys’ sports and with much fanfare, including Varsity and Jr. Varsity Football, Basketball, and Baseball. Golf, Field and Track, and Swim Team were among numerous sports open to boys — but entry denied the other half of the Chancellor Student Body.
Twenty-three years following Title IX’s passage, my son, Eric Friedman, graduated from Lompoc High. When I checked out Eric’s 1995 yearbook, the girls are as celebrated on its pages as the boys. Over 30 pages are devoted to Athletics, girls’ sports enthusiastically interspersed among the boys’ pages. “Strides to Victory” reads the caption for the JV and Frosh boys’ football teams. The following two pages are titled: “Over hills, and dales,” covering girls’ cross country. “Ready, Set, Serve”: Girls’ Northern League Champion Tennis Team is touted for their victory. “A Spike above the Rest!” heralds the page for Girls’ Volleyball. The variety of sports for boys AND girls continues for another 26 pages.
Title IX was not just limited to Athletics. Under its mandates, females could no longer be prohibited from academic subjects previously designated solely for boys. I have personal history to that side of Title IX — pre-Title IX.
In July 1968, my folks gave me a glittery green VW Dune Buggy for my 16th birthday. Because it was a “kit car,” I thought it might be a good idea to sign up for Auto Shop the fall semester of my junior year, as much for personal safety concerns as for practical reasons.
I never stepped foot inside the school auto shop.
In reviewing the roster, the instructor had noticed the feminine name and summarily dropped me. I was stunned. I did plea my case before the girls’ vice-principal who, in turn, took it to Sacramento. They denied the appeal. In 1968, under California state law, a high school teacher could deny a student the right to learn, simply because the student was born female.
I lost that skirmish. But four years later, victory was ours. On June 23 we celebrate 50 years of Title IX civil rights protections for all girls — old and young.