Woman's National Democratic Club

Edith Green, the Mother of Title IX

By Margaret Dunkle, First Chair of National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education

Representative Edith Starrett Green

When Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law, there were just 13 women in Congress—fewer than 3%—compared with almost 30% today. 

One of the most senior of that baker’s dozen was the mother of Title IX, Edith Green of Oregon, elected in 1954. In Congress, with seniority comes clout, power, and the ability to make legislation “happen.”  By the 1970s, Rep. Green was known as “Mrs. Education” and chaired an important subcommittee.  She had also long-championed equal pay and opportunities for women. 

With this history, Congresswoman Green held landmark 1970 hearings that became the legislative base for Title IX. As Rep. Green’s junior colleague of Hawaii, Patsy Mink, said on Title IX’s 25th anniversary:  “The origins of Title IX began in a series of hearings on sex discrimination … led by Congresswoman Edith Green, who was chair of the Special Subcommittee on Education.”

The 1970 Green hearings got the Title IX ball rolling. Rep. Green then strategically incorporated what became Title IX into a larger—and must-pass—higher education bill.  She wisely counseled advocates to “stay mum,” with the result that Title IX became law on June 23, 1972, with little fanfare and no ruckus.  (Of course, that came later….)

Edith Green was the first and most essential leg of the three-legged stool that made Title IX a reality. Without her leading the right subcommittee at the right time with the right ideas, Title IX would not have happened. 

Dr. Bernice (Bunny) Sandler was the second leg.  She brought data, passion, and a network of advocates with her complaints against 250 colleges and universities for sex discrimination in employment. She also helped Rep. Green compile the 1970 hearings.

The third leg was a little-engine-that-could organization called the Women’s Equity Action League, the vehicle for Bunny Sandler’s complaints. WEAL also provided critical connections to congressional leaders. Edith Green was on WEAL’s Advisory Committee, as were Senate sponsor Birch Bayh, and Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm and Martha Griffiths.

Edith Green retired from Congress in 1974, as the Title IX regulations were being drafted and the country was just beginning to realize Title IX’s importance for women and girls. Rep. Green left a rich legislative legacy, not the least of which is Title IX! 

In the 1970s, Margaret Dunkle was the first Chair of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education and Associate Director of the Association of American College’s Project on the Status and Education of Women.

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