Half a Century
Documenting sweeping change is a ticklish business,
most effectively done with the benefit of hindsight.
After all, it’s only through remembering and spotlighting
hundreds of individual moments that the full impact of
monumental change comes into focus.
That’s certainly true for Title IX, the landmark equal
rights legislation signed into law 50 years ago this June.
Title IX, a 1972 amendment to the Federal Civil Rights
Act, put teeth behind the idea that women must be
treated equally with men, at least in institutions that receive federal funding.
That mandate affected schools and colleges across the U.S., including the
University of Minnesota.
Many educational institutions struggled mightily in early days to identify
what Title IX really meant in the day-to-day world, including the University.
Ann Pflaum (Ph.D. ’75), who recently retired from the U of M after a 45-year
career, would become the University’s first Title IX Coordinator in the mid-’70s.
It was a sprawling job with few role models to draw upon. In an interview
Pflaum gave in the mid-’90s, she recalled being told during her job interview
that the legislation “requires a study of the entire institution in terms of access
for women. It’s got to be done fast and we’re way behind.”
Today many assume Title IX’s most dramatic effects occurred primarily in
the realm of sports—and that’s certainly true to a point—but the legislation
was and continues to be much farther reaching. Title IX, coupled with the
reinvigorated women’s movement during the early 1970s, helped ensure
women could claim their place not only on courts and fields, but also in
professions that had historically been considered male domains. Women
fought for and won the ability to pursue their rightful place in every classroom—studying law and medicine and hard sciences, if they chose to—rather
than just be passively steered into more stereotypical female professions.
Title IX also provides protection and support for LGTBQIA+ individuals and
those with disabilities, and today it requires teaching institutions to actively
work to prevent sexual harassment and violence.
In this issue, we speak with a wide range of U of M women who saw and lived
through Title IX developments firsthand, including those who fought hard to
make that promised equity real.
Their stories are worth reading. And their accomplishments and struggles
are worth remembering.
Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.