Displaying buttons reading, "Give women a 'sporting chance,' " and "God bless you, Title IX," about 150 members of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education gathered yesterday on the steps of the West Front of the Capitol to celebrate the 10th birthday of Title IX legislation.
Among the speakers at the rally were Janet Guthrie, the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500; Lacey O'Neal, a two-time Olympic hurdler, and Reps. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.) and Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), both longtime proponents of the legislation.
An attempt to eliminate sex bias in federally assisted programs and activities, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is considered a landmark in women's high school and collegiate sports. Before Title IX, no colleges or universities offered athletic scholarships to women, the coalition said. Today, it said, more than 10,000 are given each year.
Before Title IX, according to the National Advisory Council of Women's Educational Programs, only 7 percent of high school varsity athletes were girls; today, that figure has climbed to 35 percent.
"We are here to celebrate our accomplishments, but also to point out how much work remains to be done," said Guthrie, who has found it increasingly difficult of late to find backers for her auto-racing career. "We have the framework in place to insure equality, to insure us of what is morally and legally just. Between 1979 and 1981, over 1,300 complaints have been brought to court under Title IX. We have to call attention to people of the progress that is being made."
Earlier this year, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sponsored a bill that, according to Guthrie, would have severely threatened the powers of Title IX. Hatch later withdrew the bill, but, according to the coalition, other senators have expressed similar sentiments.
The Department of Education is also contemplating the narrowing of Title IX.
"It can't be a fight; all groups have to work together," said O'Neal, who told how frustrating it was for her to have had no chance of obtaining an athletic scholarship to college. "All of the boys around me were shooting for scholarships which I could not shoot for. When I was coach of Florida for a couple years, it brought tears to my eyes to be able to give out an athletic scholarship to a woman. And that was because of Title IX."