A look at nine people who have shaped Title IX and educational equality over the past 40 years.
Patsy T. Mink
A visionary leader and pioneer in education reform, Representative Patsy T. Mink (Hawaii) is also recognized as the major author and sponsor of Title IX, which she wrote in part as a response to the adversities she faced as a woman during her own education experience. In 1964, Mink was elected as the first woman of color and first Asian-American in the House of Representatives and went on to serve 12 terms. With the help of Rep. Edith Green and Sen. Birch Bayh, Title IX was passed in 1972 . After Rep. Mink’s death in 2002, the official name of Title IX was changed in her honor to the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
Edith Louise Starrett Green
Representative Edith Green’s (Oregon) commitment to education earned her the nickname “Mrs. Education,” and, though she also focused her role on women’s issues and social reform, is probably most noted for her work in helping to create the legislation that was to become Title IX. Green was particularly motivated to fight inequality in education after learning in the late 1960’s that while there were programs designed to help keep boys in school, there was nothing similar in place for girls. Working alongside fellow Rep. Patsy Mink and Sen. Birch Bayh, Rep. Green worked to introduce a bill that contained provisions for gender equity in education, which following hearings resulted in the passage of Title IX in 1972.
Rep. Green ultimately served 10 terms in the House between 1955 and 1974 and was considered by Sen. Mark Hatfield to be “the most powerful woman ever to serve in the Congress.”
Former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, who served between the years of 1963 and 1981, is known today as the “father” of Title IX because of his role in crafting the original legislation and seeing through its passage in the Senate. Sen. Bayh was also the principal architect of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed Constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights to women, which has been ratified by 35 states.
Bernice R. Sandler
Dr. Bernice R. Sandler has spent over 40 years advocating women’s rights and is today widely known as the “Godmother of Title IX” for her pivotal role in the creation and implementation of the law. Dr. Sandler began fighting for the rights of women in education after she personally experienced sex discrimination when she was told she came on “too strong for a woman” to be hired in academia.
Between 1969 and 1971, Dr. Sandler volunteered for the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL). During this time, she worked to enforce an Executive Order by President Johnson that prohibited sex discrimination within institutions with federal contracts. She went on to file approximately 250 discrimination complaints against institutions including universities stating that they discriminated against women faculty and provided data to document it. In addition, Dr. Sandler, alongside Rep. Edith Green, worked to spearhead hearings which documented discrimination in employment and education and eventually led to the passage of Title IX and other anti-discrimination laws.
As the former Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation and a National Hall of Fame athlete, Dr. Donna Lopiano is recognized as one of the foremost national experts on gender equity in sports. Dr. Lopiano, who also served 18 years as the University of Texas at Austin Director of Women’s Athletics, testified about Title IX and gender equity before three Congressional committees, served as a consultant to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights Department of Health, Education and Welfare, on the Title IX Task Force and as an expert witness in 28 court cases. She has also served as a consultant to school districts, institutions of higher education and state education agencies on Title IX compliance and to non-profit organizations on governance and strategic planning.
Billie Jean King
As one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Billie Jean King has been a relentless fighter for women’s rights as well as a champion of Title IX.
King went from saving $8.29 in a Mason jar to buy her first tennis racquet to becoming the first woman athlete in any sport to earn more than $100,000 in a season. A pioneer in women’s equity in sports, King helped pave the way for the future not only of women’s tennis, but for all female athletes through her outspoken advocacy of women’s rights that included fighting for equal prize money for male and female tennis players. King continues to fight for women’s rights and acts as a role model not just for female athletes but for all women.
Plaintiffs in Alexander v. Yale
Ronni Alexander, Margery Reifler, Pamela Price, Lisa Stone and Ann Olivarius, plaintiffs in Alexander v. Yale, were all Yale students between 1973 and 1980 and the first to use Title IX in charges of sexual harassment against an educational institution. Instead of seeking damages from Yale, the plaintiffs wanted the court to order Yale to set up a Grievance Procedure for students who felt they had been sexually harassed. Although the women did not win their case, the District Court upheld this legal view, ruling that, “It is perfectly reasonable to maintain that academic advancement conditioned upon submission to sexual demands constitutes sex discrimination in education.”
As a result of the case, Yale, along with most U.S. universities, instituted grievance procedures for sexual harrasment. At a pivotal moment in Title IX history, these women contributed to the emerging concept of sexual harrasment.
David and Myra Sadker
Drs. David and Myra Sadker, both professors at American University, have been lifelong educators and leaders in advocating equal education opportunities. Myra Sadker, who personally experienced gender discrimination throughout her own education, pioneered the research that documented gender bias in America’s schools. In 1973, she wrote the first book on U.S. educational gender bias, Sexism in School and Society. In 1994, she and her husband David co-authored the first popular book on sexism, Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls, bringing the issue of gender equity in education to a national audience. Together, they have spoken in more than forty states and overseas, giving hundreds of presentations and workshops for teachers and parents concerned with the devastating impact of sexism in the classroom. In scores of articles and in over a dozen research studies supported by federal grants, they documented and publicized this persistent barrier to educational equity. Myra Sadker died in 1995 while undergoing breast cancer treatment, but her work is carried on by her husband and the Myra Sadker Foundation, which continues her efforts to create more equitable and effective schools by granting awards and scholarships to promote gender equity.
Benita Miller was born to teen parents and later found herself a young single mother in law school. After graduating, she worked as a childrens’ attorney for Legal Aid, where she became even more acutely aware of the struggles of young mothers to continue their education and realize their full potential. Inspired to help address the situation, she went on to found the Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective (BYMC), an organization that provides legal information, advocacy training and social services support for pregnant teens and young mothers. Its in-school program addresses topics such as sexual/reproductive health education, childbirth, family court consequences, special education services and Title IX protections. Miller continues to be an outspoken advocate against the many barriers that continue to derail students from staying in school during pregnancy and once they give birth, and has become a national expert on the issues confronting pregnant and parenting teens. While there is still much work to be done on behalf of assisting pregnant teens and young mothers, through the BYMC, Miller has developed a model that engages pregnant teenagers and provides them with many crucial resources to help them thrive as young mothers.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.