Last weekend marked the 35th anniversary of Title IX, the legislation credited with increasing gender equity in sports. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, since its enactment in 1972, female athletic participation has increased by a staggering 904 percent in high school and by 456 percent in college.
As someone who has benefited from Title IX, softball star Jennie Finch is quick to share her appreciation for those women that came before her. "I'm truly grateful for people who have paved the way, and have fought the fight," Finch said in the Daily Freeman. "I'm happy they broke down barriers to give women like myself the opportunity to be successful athletes and make a living playing a sport that I love."
I’m no softball star, but I am also thankful for the positive influence of Title IX in my life and the opportunity to play ball in college. Here are some other women who have enjoyed the effects of Title IX and are part of my favorite moments in sports history:
1996 | New Women's Olympic Sports. Women's softball and soccer made their Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Atlanta, and the U.S. dominated, winning the gold in both sports, as well as in basketball, gymnastics and synchronized swimming. The Atlanta Games made stars of Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm and Lisa Fernandez, giving rise to professional softball and soccer leagues for women in the U.S.
1999 | Women's World Cup. A billion TV viewers and a stadium crowd of 90,000 witness the celebration as the U.S. wins the Women's World Cup in an overtime shoot-out against China. Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning goal, giving little girls someone besides a model to look at for a strong, beautiful body. And for the first time, a women's soccer team got as much attention a men's squad usually does.
2007 | Equal Pay at Wimbledon. After 123 years of awarding more prize money to men than women, Wimbledon yielded to public pressure and announced on Feb. 22, that it will offer equal pay through all rounds at this year's tournament.
2006 | Winningest Coach in NCAA History. Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history--male or female--earned her 900th career win as the Tennessee Lady Vols beat Vanderbilt, 80-68. That year, Summitt signed a $1.125 million deal for the 2006-07 season, making her the first women's basketball coach in history to be paid a million dollars or more.
2003 | Annika Plays a PGA Tour Event. Annika Sorenstam became the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945 to compete in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam missed the cut at the Colonial--in Fort Worth, Texas--by four strokes, but walked off the course to a standing ovation.
1997 | The WNBA is Born. The WNBA kicked off its inaugural season with eight teams, but unlike the other women's pro basketball leagues before it, this one has enjoyed longevity, this year celebrating its 10th year of existence.
2001 | Increased Exposure for the Women's Tournament. The NCAA and ESPN announced an 11-year agreement for the cable outlet to televise every game of the women's national championship basketball tournament.