Title IX: Activism On and Off the Field



The 1982 Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters basketball team, winner of the inaugural NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament

On view May 13 to September 4 at the New-York Historical Society is Title IX: Activism On and Off the Field, a new exhibition that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Title IX. This groundbreaking legislation that reshaped womens’ sports in America was an addition to the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that prohibited discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal assistance.

Title IX is Best known for its twin flashpoints of sports and sexual harassment. The exhibition traces its evolution through the work of those whose personal and professional experiences with sex discrimination in education and federal government agencies made them advocates for Title IX. There are personal items, photographs, and a re-creation of a campus kiosk advertising Take Back the Night demonstrations over the last 30 years, which in the 70’s became the first worldwide movement to combat sexual violence.


Artifacts and photographs from Title IX: Activism On and Off the Field

Although Title IX was based on the Civil Rights Act, the federal government ultimately endorsed sex-segregated sports following extensive debates by women’s rights organizations, athletics organizations, schools, and students. A space that evokes a stadium is dedicated to the explosion of girls and women engaging in sports and fitness after the passage of Title IX. Artifacts from professional athletes and the consumer culture that arose to celebrate them — from Barbie dolls to Wheaties boxes — chart the opportunities for women athletes and the new standards of femininity and strength.

“Fifty years ago, the federal government sought to prevent discrimination in education on the basis of sex,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, New-York Historical’s president and CEO. “As our latest exhibition from the Center for Women’s History demonstrates, the path leading up to the creation of Title IX and the subsequent years since its passage have been full of successes and obstacles — with activists advocating for equal opportunities in the classroom and on the field and protection from sexual harassment.”


With current efforts to overturn other landmark legislation like Roe v. Wade that protects womens’ rights, and nationwide demonstrations in protest, the exhibition feels particularly relevant at this moment in time.