In 1940, a young boy named Birch Bayh sat at the breakfast table with his little sister listening to his father tell about his forthcoming congressional testimony. Their father was an educator and served as the Superintendent of Physical Education for the Washington, DC School System.
“What are you going to tell them, Daddy,” they asked.
“I’m going to tell them that little girls need strong bodies to carry their minds around just like little boys.”
Today, you are entitled by law to an equal education alongside the boys that you attend school with because of Birch, that young boy who grew up to become a U.S. Senator from Indiana and wrote one sentence that would change all girls’ lives forever:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity – Title IX
Title IX was added 40 years ago today on June 23, 1972 as part of the Higher Education Act.
I wrote Title IX — just one sentence long — and moved in the Senate to have it added to the reauthorization bill. Another senator ruled a Point of Order, contending that since the word “sex” was not included in the Higher Education Act, Title IX – which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex – was not germane. - Senator Birch Bayh
The very idea of denying young girls freedom to attend the school of the choice right here in the U.S. must sound ridiculous to you, but your mother was indeed treated much differently when she was your age. Birch stated the following on the Senate floor as he passionately tried to build support for Title IX:
“We are all familiar with the stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband, go on to graduate school because they want a more interesting husband, and finally marry, have children, and never work again. The desire of many schools not to waste a ‘man’s place’ on a woman stems from such stereotyped notions. But the facts absolutely contradict these myths about the ‘weaker sex’ and it is time to change our operating assumptions. While the impact of this amendment would be far-reaching it is not a panacea. It is, however, an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs—an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop the skills they want, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work.”
Who knew that a simple breakfast conversation would lead to opening doors to education and to sports for young women. When Birch grew up he married a very smart and beautiful lady named Marvella who wanted so much to attend the University of Virginia, but she was denied enrollment because there were state laws that would not allow women to go to the University of Virginia.
My late wife, Marvella, educated me about discrimination against women in higher education after her experience being told by the University of Virginia that “women need not apply.”
Birch would later write.
Prior to Title IX, women students were denied equal opportunities under the law in academics; women applicants were routinely denied equal acess to medical, law and other graduate disciplines; and women athletes were denied equal participation in sports. Similarly, female faculty members were denied equal compensation and promotion. – former Senator Birch Bayh.
In 1972, only 15 women served in the U.S. Congress. Today, there are 93. Think we’ve made strides? That is only 17 percent of the entire U.S. Congress. Women make up more than 51 percent of the U.S. population. We need to raise that number.
So girls, get your thinking caps on, go get your education at the college of your choice and please, please, think about running for office. And, when you do, don’t follow the party agenda. Do what you think is right. You probably won’t get re-elected, but another one of your GIRLFRIENDS will rise to take over.
Very truly yours,
Your 1000 GIRLFRIENDS