On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into federal law. It stated that, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
At the collegiate athletics level, Title IX ensures that women and men are provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. Fifty years after the landmark legislation, we take an overview look at the rise of women's athletics at the University of Chicago.
Women's athletic activity was a staple in the early years of the institution. Gertrude Dudley became the leader of a movement towards expanding athletic and competitive opportunities for women at UChicago. Dudley was hired as Director of Physical Culture for Women in 1898. She remained in that capacity through 1935 and helped facilitate the growth of women's sports.
Dudley was an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke, one of the early vanguard schools who established athletic activity for women. She brought her vision and traditions of the eastern schools to UChicago. Dudley's innovations during her tenure were consistently supported throughout the university community and garnered high enthusiasm from the student body. She believed that physical education was essential to the betterment of the student's intellect and comportment.
Dudley moved away from the stylized Swedish and German gymnastics training that was popular at the time and introduced interclass competition. Under her leadership, competitive intramural basketball, field hockey, baseball and tennis quickly became popular women's sports. Dudley started an Annual Field Day for University women, which featured competition in various team and individual sports.
The class games soon became a staple. Students could choose basketball, baseball, field hockey, and swimming, and would compete class against class, with tournaments at the end of the quarter. Offerings expanded to include tennis, gymnastics, rowing, fencing, lawn hockey and golf.
The establishment of the Women's Athletic Association in 1904 helped organize, codify and advance the cause of women's sports in the decades to follow. The WAA seeks to "encourage close relationships between the women athletes of the University of Chicago in order that they may work together as a body to promote women's athletics." As opportunities for women in sports changed and grew, the organization evolved from one that promoted intramural opportunities into the letterwinner's organization for varsity women.
In the 1920s and 1930s, intramural participation continued along with the development of specialty clubs: Tarpon (swimming), 300 Club (bowling), Pegasus (equestrian), Artemis (archery), Racket (tennis) and an Outing Club.
Edith Ballwebber took on the mantle of directing women's athletics at UChicago starting in 1937 and continued in that role through 1967. Women's intercollegiate competition in the 1930s and 1940s was conducted during Play Days. Schools from the Midwest would gather at one site and teams were formed with representatives from different schools. This allowed a higher level of competition without putting too much emphasis on winning. Telegraphic competition was held in swimming and archery; individuals would compete at their home institution, and results were compiled at a neutral site to determine place finishes.
Intramural and club competition continued in the 1950s and 1960s with some very limited intercollegiate competition conducted in basketball, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.