It has been 50 years since Title IX was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The measure barred discrimination against women when it came to the vast majority of educational programs that receive federal assistance. It has a broad and extraordinary impact on everything from the safety of college campuses to athletics to education at public schools. The progress has been halting at times.
A timeline of key events before, during and after the 1972 passage of the landmark U.S. law known as Title IX:
1836: Georgia Female College is the first women’s college to open in the U.S.
1917: Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to Congress.
1920: U.S. women gain the right to vote.
1936: A federal appeals court effectively says doctors can prescribe women birth control.
1947: The first Truman Commission report pushes for more equal access to higher education, including ending race and religious discrimination.
1953: Toni Stone becomes the first woman to regularly play professional baseball (Negro Leagues).
1954: U.S. Supreme Court rules “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” in landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.
1960: Wilma Rudolph becomes the first American woman to win three gold medals in an Olympics. The star Black sprinter becomes a prominent advocate for civil rights.
1963: The Commission on the Status of Women, headed by Eleanor Roosevelt, finds widespread discrimination against women in the U.S. and urges federal courts that “the principle of equality become firmly established in constitutional doctrine.” Congress passes the Equal Pay Act.
1964: The Civil Rights Act includes sex as one of the things that employers can’t discriminate against. It also establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Patsy Mink of Hawaii becomes the first woman of color elected to the U.S. House; she later co-authors Title IX, the Early Childhood Education Act and the Women’s Educational Equality Act.
1965: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act gives federal funding to K-12 schools with low-income student populations. President Lyndon Johnson also signs the Higher Education Act of 1965 that gives college students access to loans, grants and other programs.
1966: The National Organization for Women is established, calling for women to have “full participation in the mainstream of American society … in truly equal partnership with men.”
1967: Aretha Franklin covers Otis Redding’s 1965 hit, “Respect, ” and it quickly becomes a feminist anthem.
1969: New York Democrat Shirley Chisholm becomes the first Black woman in Congress. She later becomes the first woman to seek nomination for president.
1971: The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) is founded to govern collegiate women’s athletics and administer national championships.
1972: Congress passes Title IX, which is signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Congress also passes the Equal Rights Amendment, but it never gets approval from the 38 states needed to become law.
1973: The Supreme Court issues its Roe v. Wade opinion establishing the right to an abortion. Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in straight sets in the “The Battle of the Sexes” tennis exhibition match.
1974: The Women’s Educational Equity Act provides grants and contracts to help with “nonsexist curricula,” as well as to help institutions meet Title IX requirements.
1975: President Gerald Ford signs Title IX athletics regulations, which gives athletic departments up to three years to implement, after noting, “It was the intent of Congress under any reason of interpretation to include athletics.”
1976: NCAA challenges the legality of Title IX regarding athletics in a lawsuit that is dismissed two years later.
1977: Three female students at Yale, two graduates and a male faculty member become the first to sue over sexual harassment under Title IX (Alexander v. Yale). It would fail on appeal.
1979: Ann Meyers becomes the first woman to sign an NBA contract (Indiana Pacers, $500,000). She had been the first woman to receive a UCLA basketball scholarship.
1979: U.S. officials put into effect the important three-prong test for Title IX compliance when it comes to athletics.
1980: Title IX oversight is given to the Office of Civil Rights in the Education Department.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
1982: Louisiana Tech beats Cheyney State for the first NCAA women’s basketball title. Two months later, the AIAW folds, putting top women’s collegiate sports fully under the NCAA umbrella. Cheryl Miller scores 105 points in a high school game to kick off one of the greatest careers in basketball history.
1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro becomes first woman to earn a vice presidential nomination from a major political party. The U.S. wins its first Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball.
1987: Pat Summitt wins the first of her eight women’s basketball national titles at Tennessee.
1988: Congress overrides President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, making it mandatory that Title IX apply to any school that receives federal money.
1994: The Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act is passed. Under Title IX, schools with federal financial aid programs and athletics must provide annual information regarding gender equity, including roster sizes and certain budgets.
1995: Connecticut wins the first of its 11 national titles under coach Geno Auriemma.
1996: Female athletes win a lawsuit and force Brown to restore funding for women’s gymnastics and volleyball after the saying the school violated Title IX when it turned both teams into donor-funded entities. The NBA clears the way for the Women’s National Basketball Association to begin play the following year.
1999: Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick gives the United States a win over China in the World Cup final, invigorating women’s sports in the U.S.
2001: Ashley Martin becomes the first woman to play and score in an Division I football game as a placekicker for Jacksonville State.
2008: Danica Patrick wins the Japan 300 to become the first female victor in the top level of American open-wheel racing.
2014: Becky Hammon becomes the first full-time female assistant coach in NBA history.
2015: The United States’ 5-2 win over Japan in the Women’s World Cup final becomes the most viewed soccer game in the history of American television.
2016: Citing Title IX, the Obama administration says transgender students at public schools should be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity, the guidance was rescinded by the Trump administration. Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to win a major party nomination for president.
2017: Serena Williams wins her 23rd Grand Slam title, second-most of all time.
2020: New Title IX amendments take effect, largely regarding sexual harassment.
2021: Report rips NCAA for failing to uphold its commitment to gender equity by prioritizing its lucrative Division I men’s basketball tournament “over everything else,” including women’s championship events.
2022: South Carolina’s Dawn Staley becomes the first Black Division I basketball coach, male or female, to win more than one national championship. The U.S. women’s national soccer team reaches a milestone agreement to be paid equally to the men’s national team.