University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

Half a Century

Photo credit: Scott Streble

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

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