The following post comes from Blogging While Blue contributor Ruth Woodling 

Last Saturday was the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Some have called it the second most important Civil Rights law of the last 50 years. Yet its impact was largely unforeseen.

In 1972, the year Title IX was signed into law, 300,000 high school girls in the United States were participating in sports. By 1974, just two years later, the number had more than tripled to 1.3 million. But as interesting as those numbers are, even more interesting is the fact that Title IX didn’t target athletics.

Title IX nowhere uses the words “sports” or “athletics”. It only prohibits discrimination against females in “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” It was primarily intended to give women additional opportunities in higher education. In 1972, for example, only a small percentage of law and medical students were women.

By the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, only a generation after the passage of Title IX, American women athletes were in the forefront. My daughter and I still remember the excitement of watching the United States Women’s Soccer Team win the Olympic Gold Medal. In a recent interview on NBC, the network that will host the 2012 Olympics, Mia Hamm, the high-profile member of the 1996 women’s soccer team, attributed her soccer career to Title IX.

Through Title IX, the law of unintended consequences worked for both female high school and college students waiting to be given the chance to participate in sports of all kinds. Perhaps even more important, however, is that the law has had a significant impact on women’s roles well beyond athletics. Their increased participation in sports has given them confidence in their ability to perform in competitive situations, to improve through instruction and to work in a team environment, all things that have benefitted males for a very long time in areas such as business and the professions.

Whether or not the magic of Title IX’s formula could be replicated for other groups whose energies are waiting to be released remains to be seen, but it is a question we all should be asking in light of the law’s unanticipated wide-ranging impact.


  1. K. R. H. says:

    Shhh… The republicans will try and reverse it.