This year’s Summer Olympics were full of records being broken, but most striking were the 29 Golds won by American women, more than the gold totals of all but two countries: China (38) and Britain (29). US women won 58 medals in all, better than all but three countries (China, Russia, Great Britain). And they topped the American men both in Gold medals (29 to 17) and overall medals (58 to 45).
Our women would not have won them without the Title IX Amendment to the Higher Education Act, which was passed 40 years ago. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was written in order to end discrimination based on religion, race, color, or national origin, the act also energized the women’s rights movement. Ironically, while Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, the original statute made no explicit mention of sports.
Coincidently, Title IX was passed in the year of the first national collegiate women’s basketball tournament, which was won by little Immaculata College in Pennsylvania. Their story is portrayed in the entertaining 2010 movie The Mighty Macs. Before Title IX, they were able to succeed against far larger schools. Immaculata’s relative fortunes declined as our nation’s young women were given greater opportunities to compete and excel at other schools. We saw the cumulative results last month in London.
The 2012 Games will be remembered for many achievements by men, but nobody dominated the Games like the women of the United States, including Naperville’s Candace Parker.
Most importantly, other countries around the globe will catch the women’s rights contagion as they try to compete with American women—now the strongest, fastest and most nimble. And the entire world will be the better for it.