By Angela Tudico | National Archives News
WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2022 — Title IX has fundamentally changed the face of American sports, giving girls and women vastly expanded opportunities to compete. Part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the measure has exponentially increased the share of girls and women who play sports in the United States, from about 3 percent before its passage to 40 percent today.
To commemorate half a century of civil rights law, documents related to the legislation are on view in the featured documents display: 50th Anniversary of Title IX. The exhibit will be open through September 7 in the West Rotonda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC. It also serves as a preview of the new exhibition, which opens on September 16, All American: The Power of Sportswhich will run through January 7, 2024 in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives.
Title IX and related documents will be exhibited as part of the exhibit when All American opens on September 16
Some of the objects in the Power to Break Barriers section of All American exhibit will show the impact of Title IX on women in sports in a way that numbers alone cannot.
“The landmark Title IX act is on display, along with artifacts from championship women’s sports teams that celebrated victories at the White House,” said exhibit curator Alice Kamps. “Without the opportunities to advance their sport at the college level that Title IX made possible, many professional women’s sports teams might not exist today.”
Presidential gifts on display include an autographed basketball from the 2012 Women’s National Basketball Association championship team, the Indiana Fever, and a 2015 USA Women’s National Soccer Team jersey given to President Barack Obama.
While these artifacts reflect success at the championship level, they also show how Title IX increased access to team sports for girls and women across the country and contradict women’s individual athletic achievements prior to the passage of Title IX, which are also highlighted in the All American exhibit.
The triumphs of tennis champion Althea Gibson, Olympic sprinter Wilma Rudolph, and runner Katherine Switzer are featured and show the challenges female athletes faced before the passage of Title IX. Gibson broke class and racial barriers when she worked to integrate national and international tennis and became the first black woman to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament in 1956. Although Rudolph was the youngest American Olympian that year and went on to win three gold medals at the 1960 Rome Olympics, her sporting success did not necessarily translate into economic opportunity at home. For Switzer, the challenge and the triumph were one and the same – to participate at all.
“It’s shocking to realize that in 1967, when Catherine Switzer became the first officially registered woman to run the Boston Marathon, most people didn’t believe women were capable of completing it,” Kamps said. “Not only that, but she was viciously assaulted by a race official for daring to try to compete against men. This was the pre-Title IX landscape. When you look at the opportunities and respect for female athletes today, you realize that Title IX has changed the game.”
Read more about the 50th anniversary of Title IX and watch clips of Gibson, Rudolph and Switzer at the National Archives The unwritten records blog, “Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Title IX with Archival Footage of Sports Legends.”
All American: The Power of Sports made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of AT&T, AARP, and Mars, Incorporated. Additional support provided by HISTORY® and the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family.