The passage of Title IX completely changed the landscape of women’s sports, opening the door to previously non-existent opportunities and changing what was possible for women and girls. In honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23rd, we bring you incredible moments that advanced women’s sports for each decade since Title IX’s passage in 1972.
1970s - Billie Jean King Wins The Battle of the Sexes
During the 1970s, Billie Jean King strongly focused on campaigning for equal pay for both men and women in tennis. In the year 1973, self-proclaimed male chauvinist and former number 1 player Bobby Riggs stated that women’s tennis was inferior to the men’s game and boasted that he could beat the current no 1 female player (Billie Jean King), even as a 55 year old man who had retired from professional tennis. He challenged King to a match and she accepted to disprove his assertions. The match was dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes”, and was highly consequential given the recent passage of Title IX, and the fact that it took the campaign for equal pay to the world stage with 90 million people worldwide turning in to watch. Billie Jean solidly defeated Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
1980s - The First NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament
In 1982, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) finally hosted its first women’s basketball tournament to answer the men’s March Madness tournament that had been taking place since 1939. The first two women’s teams that met in the women’s NCAA basketball finals were Louisiana Tech and Cheyney State, with Louisiana Tech winning the tournament.
Source: Stars and Stripes FC
1990s - The USWNT’s 1999 FIFA World Cup Win
The U.S. Women’s national soccer team defeated China going head-to-head in a penalty shootout to win the World Cup in 1999. The match was played in front of a sell-out crowd of over 90,000 people with millions tuning in on TV. The women’s team’s performance brought soccer into popular focus in the U.S., as the U.S. team came out strong and beat every other team in the world in soccer, a sport in which the United States had never dominated. This moment was also an important moment for women’s sports, as it both showed how compelling and exciting women’s sports are, as well as represented the legacy of Title IX 27 years after its passage. As Julie Foudy, co-captain of the 1999 Champion team, said: “We [the team] were Title IX babies.” This USWNT and their monumental World Cup win represented the first generation of US women who benefited from the opportunities of Title IX, and thus were able to come out onto the world stage, dominate, and showcase their own incredible abilities as well as those of all women in sports.
2000s - Equal Pay at All Four Grand Slam Tournaments
In 2007, both Roland Garros and Wimbledon tournaments began offering equal prize money to men and women players. The announcements by both tournaments marked the moment when all four Grand Slams finally offered equal pay regardless of gender, a process which started with the US Open in 1973.
Source: Entertainment Tonight
2010s - Simone Biles’ Record-breaking Olympics Gymnastics Performance
In her first Olympics in Rio 2016, Simone Biles smashed every Olympic record in women’s gymnastics that previously stood, performing routine after routine of highly technical skills--including one which is named after her. She also entered history books in those games by earning five Olympic medals (four gold, one bronze), setting a US record for most medals in a single Olympics by a female gymnast. By continuously raising the level of women’s gymnastics beyond what has previously been possible, she inspired a whole new generation of female athletes, showed the incredible power and athleticism of female athletes, and established herself as the greatest female gymnast of all time.
Source: The Guardian
2020s - USWNT’s Equal Pay Win
The women of the US Women’s National Soccer Team have been fighting a six-year legal battle for equal pay which started with a wage discrimination complaint in March 2016. In late February 2022, their efforts finally paid off with a multi-million dollar legal settlement and new contracts that ensure equal pay. US Soccer and its men’s and women’s national teams announced this landmark agreement that guarantees players equal pay, including World Cup prize money.
There are so many inspiring achievements, matches, and athletes that it was extremely hard to pick just one to feature per decade. While we still have work to do in the realm of women’s sports and in achieving gender equality, these incredible moments have all pushed women’s sports forward and represent the monumental strides that women have achieved since the passage of Title IX.
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