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Most of us don’t think twice about tuning into an NCAA track-and-field event to watch dozens of our favorite female athletes line up at the start. Nor do we bat an eye when those runners become professional athletes or compete in the Olympics. We know Title IX helped pave the way for them and bring more equality to women’s athletics. But how fully do we understand what Title IX is, how it came about, and how it’s impacted and continues to impact our culture?
June 23rd is the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools and other educational programs that receive federal financial assistance. We can’t think of a better way to commemorate this important date than to dig in and learn more about the law, so we can both appreciate the progress we’ve made, but also recognize how much further we have to go.
Here is a collection of articles, books, documentaries, and podcasts that dive into the definitions, stories, and people who have been a part of the Title IX narrative in sports and beyond.
The Law Itself: Start Here
To kick off your exploration of Title IX, you might want to read the law itself—it’s only 37 words—to get a basic understanding of its scope and enforcement. This explanation from the U.S. Department of Education will help you do just that.
Articles We Recommend
Earlier this year, the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King, put out a report about the history of Title IX and its impact on society. This well-researched report “examines Title IX through the lens of intersectionality, explores emerging issues, and looks ahead to what is needed to accelerate the pace of change for the next 50 years.” Its information, accompanied by colorful infographics and engaging photos, is designed to draw you in, whether you’re reading the full report or the fast facts.
In this Sports Illustrated article, written by Maggie Mertens, you’ll read about what’s unfolded in women’s sports over the last fifty years—and also get a glimpse of what college athletics looked like for female students before Title IX. Not only does this piece depict how far women’s sports in college have come, but it also highlights the imbalance that still exists between men’s and women’s college athletic programs. Also from Sports Illustrated, this timeline takes you through the milestones of the law, from November 1964 to April 2022.
Certainly, we want to celebrate the progress of Title IX, but it’s just as important to acknowledge its challenges. Written by writer and running coach, Elizabeth Carey, this piece poses an important question: Is Title IX doing its intended job? After providing some context around the history of women’s track-and-field—including some interesting details about the running cultures in communities of color—the article provides statistics highlighting current disparities between men’s and women’s sports when it comes to opportunities in high school, attrition rates, financial support, and more.
This article from ESPN reveals the story of Title IX from its origins, jumping back and forth between what was happening in Washington D.C. and how it was affecting the female athletes themselves. Some of the game-changers Steve Wulf writes about are Bernice “Bunny” Sandler who helped draft the legislation; Margaret Degidio “Digit” Murphy, an American ice hockey star who championed it; and the 1976 Yale women’s rowing team who organized a provocative protest that caught the media’s attention and earned them the showers they didn’t have, but needed.
Meet the most influential women and men behind Title IX in this piece published by the American Civil Liberties Union. You’ll find brief profiles about the people who helped create and implement the legislation, the students who championed it, the athletes who helped bring equality to women’s sports, and more.
Books We Recommend
37 Words: Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination by Sherry Boschert
If you’re eager to learn even more about the people behind the law, you’ll find their stories in this book. In it, the drama of Title IX—from the legal conflicts to its life-changing outcomes—is brought to life through the intersecting narratives of students, activists, and the many other women who continue to seek opportunities and protection from the legislation.
Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX by Karen Blumenthal
Although it was written for children and teens, this title is recommended reading for adults, too, according to journalists such as Sherry Boschert and Steve Wulf. Blumenthal takes readers through the creation, revision, fight for, and passing of Title IX. It’s enhanced with a mix of relevant facts, personal stories, compelling cartoons, and historical photos.
Gender Inequality in Sports: From Title IX to World Titles by Kristin Cronn-Mills
In addition to delving into the history and positive impact of Title IX in the world of athletics, Cronn-Mills also points out the inequalities that remain in women’s sports programming. She suggests changes that could lead to more equality in sports for not only women, but for transgender and nonbinary athletes as well.
Strong Like a Woman: 100 Game-Changing Female Athletes by Laken Litman
Published by Sports Illustrated for the fiftieth anniversary of the law, this book is a written and visual celebration of 100 females who are blazing the trail for future Olympians, Paralympians, collegiate athletes, and more. Also available for purchase from Sports Illustrated is their June 2022 issue, which includes articles, essays, photos, and a cover dedicated to Title IX.
A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX by Welch Suggs
It’s true Title IX has played a role in shaping every level of American sports, but much of its origin story took place at colleges. This book chronicles the development of the law in the context of higher education. Suggs explores both the successful and the regrettable consequences of Title IX and shares personal interviews with and stories about many of the key players behind it.
Documentaries and Films We Recommend
As part of ESPN’s month-long Fifty/50 commemoration of the anniversary of Title IX, this four-part series chronicles the events around the legislation, including, as it’s described in a press release, “the hard-fought battle to push for equal rights in education and athletics; the decades-spanning effort to nullify its impact; and the rippling impacts of the landmark civil rights law that continue to resonate today.” 37 Words is just one of the documentaries in a collection of special content ESPN is presenting during June.
Presented by The Big Ten Network and the University of Illinois, this short documentary shines a light on the earliest years of post-Title IX women’s athletic programs. Many of the people who were part of the college sports landscape at that time share how the law affected their lives back then and how it still affects them today.
Like ESPN, NBC is also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX with themed content across their platforms, including Becoming Annika (subscription required), a film documenting the life of golfer, Annika Sörenstam who not only became one of the most legendary golfers in the LPGA, but also started a foundation that provides opportunities to female golfers at the junior, collegiate, and professional levels.
If you’re in the mood for fiction, this is the month to watch—or rewatch—the 2017 film, Battle of the Sexes. Starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, this movie brings the legendary 1972 match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, a tireless champion for Title IX, to life on the big screen.
Podcasts We Recommend
Title IX affects all women’s sports, but this podcast is all about distance running and its female pioneers, including Bjorg Austrheim-Smith and Marilyn Bevans among others. Each episode features one trailblazer telling her story in her own words. One of the podcast creators, Cara Hawkins-Jedlicka, told Women’s Running she hopes to “solidify these pioneer’s legacies” and “inspire future generations of runners and cement women runners as part of the larger running culture.” Upcoming guests, according to Hawkins-Jedlicka: Robin Campbell, Madeline Manning-Mims, and Lynn Jennings, to name just a few. Although she wants listeners to come away feeling grateful for these women, Hawkins-Jedlicka hopes the podcast will also help people understand that the effects of Title IX on collegiate programs didn’t happen in an instant.
Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medalist in the first Olympic marathon for women, wants more people to know the stories of the female athletes who helped pave the way for not only her, but for all girls and women in sport today. This podcast, narrated by Samuelson and created by Peter McDonnel, shares those stories and demonstrates how each one of them has contributed to Samuelson’s own journey.
Through compelling storytelling and engaging characters, this podcast traces the evolution of Title IX through the lens of women’s basketball. Narrated by Ibtihaj Muhammad—an Olympic medalist in fencing—the five-episode series takes listeners through the earliest years of Title IX, the takeover of women’s basketball by the NCAA, the 1996 Olympic gold medal win, and Sedona Prince’s infamous 2021 TikTok video exposing the shocking difference between women’s and men’s facilities at that year’s NCAA tournaments.
Laughter Permitted with Julie Foudy bonus episodes
From ESPN, this podcast is hosted by American soccer great, Julie Foudy, who talks with other trailblazing athletes about life’s ups and downs. In celebration of Title IX’s fiftieth anniversary, the podcast released three Title IX-themed bonus episodes, featuring a mix of female and transgender guests including Donna Lopiano, Katie Barnes, and Mia Hamm.
Outside & Women’s Running Gives Back
At Outside, we believe in supporting and partnering with nonprofit organizations who work to protect the planet and grow outdoor participation among youth and underrepresented communities. We believe that together, we can make a difference. That’s why we support an array of nonprofit organizations that are on the ground doing this work every day.
One of those is 261 Fearless, an organization supporting women to lead healthy, fearless lives through running. The story of 261 Fearless begins with Kathrine Switzer (bib no. 261), who faced down an attack mid-race to become the first woman to complete the 1967 Boston Marathon. In 2015, she and CEO and President Edith Zuschmann established a global organization of running clubs dedicated to helping women of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to uncover their self-worth and potential through running.