This Day in Swimming: Title IX Becomes Law
This quotation (left) comprises the core of Title IX, the landmark legislation signed into law on June 23, 1972. Its impact has been particularly notable on female athletes. Before Title IX, their prospects were considerably limited.
In 1971, girls accounted for a mere 7% of all high school varsity athletes; in 2001, their numbers had grown to 41.5%. The collegiate statistics are similar.
Consider the career of swimmer Donna de Varona. While still a high school student, she won two gold medals at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. As she recounted to USA Swimming in a 2015 interview, she then had virtually no options to continue swimming as a college student.
Since then, she has fought to support younger generations of female athletes while building her own career as a sports broadcaster. Her legacy includes tireless work to pass Title IX.
As de Varona views it now, the law is less about equality between the sexes and more about the equitable distribution of resources. The result: A New York Times article reported that sports participation has contributed to increased educational and employment opportunities for women.
These days, the full extent of Title IX is still being determined. In areas such as sexual assault and transgender rights, the law remains a hot-button issue. But for up-and-coming role models such as Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, and Simone Manuel, Title IX stands as the bedrock on which they’ve been able to build careers, world records, and their own self-esteem.