50 Years Later, the 37 Words That Opened Opportunities for Women

An image from RetroReport

It's been 50 years since Title IX – the section of a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools and other educational programs that receive federal financial assistance – was signed into law. While Title IX was intended to equalize college admissions for women, it also required men’s and women’s intercollegiate sports teams to be treated equally. That fueled an explosion of sports for girls.

“There had to be legislation that opened the door and changed the mind-set,” Dr. Courtney Flowers, a sports management professor at Texas Southern University and a co-author of the report, told The New York Times. “Because of Title IX, there is a Serena, there is a Simone Biles.”

Here are selected articles, books, documentaries, and podcasts that explain Title IX and its impact on sports and beyond.

  • This list of milestones that defined the growth of women's sports begins with the primary author and sponsor of Title IX, Patsy Mink (D.-Hawaii), who was the first woman of color and first Asian American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After her death in 2002, the bill was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. [Sports Illustrated]
  • Earlier this year, the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King, published an impact report titled “50 Years of Title IX: We're Not Done Yet.” The report “explores emerging issues, and looks ahead to what is needed to accelerate the pace of change for the next 50 years." “Everyone can relate to sports, whether it's your favorite team or college athletic experience — sports are a common denominator that brings us together,” Dr. Courtney Flowers, a sports management professor at Texas Southern University and a co-author of the report, told The New York Times. [Women's Sports Foundation]
  • Mink is first on the A.C.L.U.'s list of influential people behind Title IX. Others include the Yale athletes who were the first to use Title IX in charges of sexual harassment against an educational institution, and David and Myra Sadker, professors at American University and co-authors of the first popular book on sexism, “Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls.” [American Civil Liberties Union]
  • ESPN is streaming a collection of videos exploring the legislation, including “37 Words,” a documetary that spotlights “the rippling impacts of the landmark civil rights law that continue to resonate today." The title refers to the word count of the legislation. [FuboTV and ESPN+]
  • “Miles to Go” is a podcast narrated by the runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the gold medal in the first Olympic marathon for women. She recounts her story and those of the women athletes who paved the way and competed against her, “whose passion for running also became a race for equality - and change - that continues today.” [Audible]
  • From a young age, Mink learned that striving for goals came with challenges. But she also learned to never give up, as the Japanese proverb in this biography's title attests. She wanted to become a doctor, but at the time, medical schools didn't admit women. So she carved her own path. She went to law school, ran for a seat in the United States Congress, and helped create Title IX. This picture book, below, is suitable for children ages 4-8. [“Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight”]

This article first appeared in Retro Report's free weekly newsletter. Subscribe and receive lessons from history in your mailbox. Follow us on Twitter @RetroReport.