This month, 24 soccer teams from around the world will compete in the eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup taking place in France. 2019 also marks twenty years since Mia Hamm and company of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Their win in 1999 became an iconic moment in American sports history. It is often cited as a catalyst for propelling women’s soccer forward by creating high public interest in the sport and was a cultural moment that inspired a generation of girls. But, none of that would have been possible without Title IX, a law passed by the US government in the early 1970’s.
Passage of Title IX
The passage of Title IX in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 by the federal government of the United States made it illegal to discriminate based on sex in educational programs receiving federal funding, which includes almost all public and private universities. Before the bill, written by Representative Patsy T. Mink, Representative Edith Green and Senator Birch Bayh, 295,000 girls participated in high school sports, compared with 3.67 million boys. Also, fewer than 32,000 women participated in intercollegiate athletics, receiving 2% of school’s athletics budgets. Although the bill did not ensure total equality in terms of money invested in female and male athletic programs, it provided a better opportunity for women to play sports by ensuring at the very least, they get the chance. Even now, women represent more than half of the students at NCAA schools while receiving 28% of the total money spent on athletics.
The women on the 1999 world cup team were members of the first few generations to feel the impact of Title IX’s provisions on women’s sports. Without the law, their 1996 Olympic Gold Medal, 1991 World Cup win, and even the team’s formation in 1985 might not have occurred at all.
Even before the passage of Title IX in the United States, women from all over the world participated in organized sports. Above is footage from a 1951 women’s football match held in Holland between Manchester United and the Dutch women’s team. While women did participate in organized sports as reflected above, the opportunities available to them were very limited. And while Title IX worked to ensure women had more opportunities to pursue sports in school, it did not ensure broad-sweeping equal protections at all levels of sport. Women still continue to fight for equal exposure, equal pay, and equal recognition in their sport.
Title IX As Reflected in NARA’s Holdings
Several productions in NARA’s holdings reflect the early impact of Title IX in athletics. The below clips, taken from Soccer USA, produced in 1980, reflect a shift in the way those within the sport as well as the general public view women’s participation in sports. The film, part of our holdings from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a successor agency to the United States Information Agency, documents the growth of soccer in the United States. It discusses the sport’s growing popularity and the way American culture shapes European Football into American Soccer.
The first clip is two interviews, one with a coach from Pelé’s soccer clinic and another with a group of school-aged girls. The coach points to the Women’s Liberation movement, of which Title IX is a part, as the cause of an uptick of women participating in organized sport. The second interview is with a group of school-aged girls who play soccer and have undoubtedly been exposed to other sports in school. Their introduction to the soccer, ensured by Title IX, would not have been a guarantee before the law’s passage.
Clip from Soccer USA, 517-BBG-30613 When asked if they play as well as the boys, the girls being interviewed answer with a resounding yes.
The interview below, taken from Soccer USA, is with parents at a girls soccer clinic held in Westport, Connecticut. The parents represent a first generation of adults in the United States who were exposed to soccer as a major recreational option for their children.
Young girls were not the only ones impacted by the passage of Title IX; high school and college-aged women had more options for pursuing sports at a higher level. The below clip, taken from a TV Satellite File news report distributed by the United States Information Agency, shows members of the McLean Redshins soccer team from McLean Virginia. At the time of filming, the Redshins were at the top of the A division in the Washington Area Women’s Soccer League and competing for the first National Women’s Challenge Cup. The team played their first game in 1976, the league they were a part of, the Washington Area Women’s Soccer League, formed in 1980 and is still active today.
The women highlighted in the clip have a wide range of experience with playing soccer. Some have played their entire lives and others have just recently been introduced to the sport. The footage is from 1980, just eight years after the passage of Title IX, but shows that women’s exposure to sports in a larger capacity leads to continued participation well past their adolescent years. Members of the McLean Redshins had more opportunities in high school and college to play soccer which led to them playing in the organized Washington Area Women’s Soccer League.
Growth of Soccer Mirrors Title IX
Soccer grew in popularity in the United States during the 1970’s and 1980’s while at the same time, Title IX started being enforced in schools across the United States. The rise of soccer would not have been the same without women’s participation in the sport which was encouraged with the passage of Title IX. Without Title IX, soccer in America would look entirely different. The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) has been a dominate force on the international stage for over 30 years and the National Women’s Soccer League, is one of the top leagues in the world. The USWNT are reigning world champions and start their FIFA Women’s World Cup run this Tuesday, June 11. The team wouldn’t be what it is today without Title IX and the women who came before them.
Still from 306-TVSF-30
Records pertaining to women’s soccer can be found in NARA’s catalog: https://catalog.archives.gov/search?q=women%20soccer&f.materialsType=photographsandgraphics
If you would like to read more about the McLean Redshins, a 1980 Washington Post article can be found here: “McLean Redshins Part of First Part in Capital Area Women’s Soccer”