Bernice Sandler never mentioned athletics during her landmark testimony before Congress 40 years ago. Not even once.
A year later, the woman who would come to be known as “the godmother of Title IX” mentioned sports once, and only in passing, when it came to discrimination against women in higher education and the workplace.
Few people since have had a greater impact on the games we play.
Sandler’s work, as well as that of other pioneers, will be the subject of film “License to Thrive: Title IX at 35,” scheduled for viewing in Lawson Auditorium at Maryville College’s Fayerweather Hall on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The film, sponsored by the American Association of University Women, will be presented by Maryville College athletics director Kandis Schram and former Heritage High Athletic Director Terri Bradshaw and will serve as the association’s kickoff to Women’s History Month.
“It’s an exploration of the unique history of the Title IX legislation over the last 35 years and its contribution in creating female leaders,” AAUW Maryville vice president of communications Ruth Berry said.
Sandler, prompted by hiring practices at the University of Maryland, brought suit against 250 colleges and universities in January 1970. A part-time lecturer at Maryland, Sandler had three times applied for a full-time position at the school. Each time she was rejected, including once being reportedly told, “You’re not really a professor, just a housewife who went back to school.”
Sandler’s suit and testimony before Congress led to the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, signed into law by President Nixon. The legislation has become famed for its impact on sports at all levels. It was only during a study group two years later, however, that Sandler, lawmakers and others uncovered stunning inequities when it came to funding for men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics.
The University of Michigan, it was uncovered by the group, had an athletics budget of $1.4 million, with none of it going to its women’s programs. Men’s teams typically flew to games. Often, women’s coaches like Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, featured in Sunday’s film, drove the team van to road games.
While still a contentious subject, many of the problems in athletics, both at the collegiate level and below, have been addressed since Sandler’s trailblazing days. Many of the issues Sandler originally championed, Berry said, have seen little progress.
Admission to the film is free and donations to go to area scholarships will be accepted for those who wish to help.