Celebrating 50 Years
of Title IX: Progress over Perfection
This month, Morristown Beard celebrated 50 years of Title IX, the historic legislation that extended the Civil Rights Act with the hope of ending discrimination based on gender and sexual identity. When politicians and activists championed this legislation in 1972, it would have been difficult to predict its many effects.
Personally, I have been so influenced by its impact on women’s sports. While we could talk for hours about the impact of this legislation in so many profound ways—for example, I am not sure I would be the first female Head of School at MBS without this legislation—we have chosen to celebrate the impact of this legislation on women in athletics. With over 80 percent of our female identifying students playing sports, it has real relevance today.
About 10 years after the passage of Title IX, I was a college athlete, playing DI lacrosse at University of Maryland. In those days you just assumed you would get the stadium field when the guys were done, and most days we practiced on an extra field at the far end of campus. And you assumed you’d likely change for a game in your room and shower back in your dorm. The facilities for women were minimal and that was part of our norm.
In 1986, my collegiate lacrosse team won the National Championship. Sometimes people look at the photo from that game and ask me, "Why are the stands so empty?" It was back before schools—and society—packed stadiums for women’s games. In fact, that same year the Maryland men’s lacrosse team won the ACC tournament and lost in the NCAA semi-finals and were rewarded with plaques, watches, and all kinds of swag. When our women’s team went all the way, we got a jacket and a small ring. To be clear, I don’t want to suggest that stuff matters. I had a fabulous athletic career and played for the true love of the game. But if you look at the “stuff” as the reflection of the value of the accomplishment, the optics suggest that the men’s team mattered more, even despite the outcome.
Maybe more than the national title, what matters most about playing on that championship team is what I have carried with me for life. I learned that magic can happen when a team collectively comes together. I learned that sometimes in life the needs of the team are more important than my needs or my goals. To be honest, as individuals, we didn’t have the highest number of All-American players. But that team was a testament to the idea that sometimes collectively the group is stronger than its component parts. We had drive, we had determination, we had trust, and then we had a national title.
After college, I played for a competitive club in Boston and represented New England in national tournaments. I told myself I’d keep playing for as long as it was fun. It’s now been a few decades and until last year I was still playing in the annual Lake Placid tournament. It was as much about lifelong teammates and friendships as it was about lacrosse. For me, lacrosse has been so much more than a sport. You may know that I’m helping coach our girls team this spring, and I’m reminded of the way that sports help you discover more about yourself and grow together in a group.
To help us celebrate and share perspective on Title IX, several alumnae returned to campus. We hosted an All-School Meeting featuring Taz Brower ‘47, Tiffany Garris ‘05, Julie Guempel Rosania ‘09, Tatiana Johnson ‘12, Kendall Cornine ‘15 and Bridget Monaghan ‘19. These extremely accomplished athletes answered student questions while recalling their formative experiences at both The Beard School and MBS. Additionally, we hosted The Honorable Siobhan Teare ‘77, Superior Court Judge who serves Essex County. Judge Teare gave historical and legal context for the legislation while also sharing how being part of a team shaped her sense of self. Our alumnae offered insights and advice to our current students. While no legislation is perfect, we celebrate some of the progress that has been made over the last 50 years.
All of us in this community should know that we stand on the shoulders of the women who led and lobbied for equal opportunities. As a woman leader, as a mother of daughters, as a teacher and coach to young people who are just beginning to understand everything they are capable of, I’m so grateful for the women and the allies who came before me and fought for gender equity. I celebrate their legacy and join the fight as I try to recognize inequality and do what I can to make change.