Like Title IX itself, perhaps the passing of its author, former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, as detailed in your March 15th obituary, cannot be overestimated, with tennis legend Billie Jean King calling him “one of the most important Americans of the 20th century.” Similar to Martin Luther King’s profundity in pushing Jim Crow laws, which made African-Americans second-class citizens, into the dustbin of history, Title IX precipitated women’s academic and subsequent societal rise by guaranteeing that any school that receives federal money from the elementary to university level — in short, nearly all schools — must provide fair and equal treatment of the sexes in all areas, including athletics.
Before Title IX, only 1 in 27 (3.7 percent) high school girls played sports but now, 1 in 2 (50 percent) plays sports, bringing with it scholarships, networking, self-confidence, empowerment, equality and societal interest. Today’s U.S. women’s soccer team is the envy of the world, international champions incredibly juxtaposed with Birch Bayh’s Title IX realization when he jogged around the track and eventually saw an equal number of little girls and boys playing soccer.
Rolling Stone’s current issue bears the headline “Women Shaping the Future” featuring 4 congresswomen who helped the Democrats win back the House in the 2018 mid-terms. The 2020 presidential race already has three strong female senators enthusiastically ready to take on the current “grab ’em by the you-know-what” White House occupant. While those with myopic vision credit Hillary Clinton for unleashing this female wave, I think it’s Title IX, bringing with it a new generation accepting female leadership even if it unfortunately fails to penetrate Mr. Trump’s narcissistic shield. Title IX’s impact has arguably been as great as the Civil Rights Act, both of which provided minorities with very significant legal protection to claim their rightful place in sharing this country’s great bounty.
In conclusion, was Birch Bayh one of the most important Americans of the 20th century? Maybe. Was Birch Bayh’s visionary legislation one of the most important legislative victories of the 20th century? Definitely, and every American, female and male, owes a debt of gratitude to his remarkable accomplishment.