Title IX: Two Lifetimes of ActivismOctober 09, 2009
Editor’s note: This post was written by the AAUW members whose activism inspired AAUW’s new Program in a Box Title IX Compliance: Know the Score. Kathryn (Kathy) Braeman is a member of the AAUW Arlington (VA) Branch, and her daughter, Elizabeth Kristen, is an AAUW member-at-large.
Kathy: Congress passed Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, and two years later I went to Washington, D.C., with my daughter. I was in law school (one of 10 women in my law school class). My daughter Elizabeth had just finished second grade.
My summer job involved lobbying for women’s issues on Capitol Hill. One of the strategies was to fill the corridors of the U.S. Capitol with women and girls to protest the failure of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to issue the implementing regulations for Title IX. At that time, all of the education lobbyists were men, so lining the corridor with women and girls had a dramatic effect in persuading Congress to mandate that the Title IX regulations be issued ASAP.
Elizabeth: After I went back to school that fall, my third grade teacher gave me a flyer about a boys’ basketball league. Knowing about Title IX, I asked my mom how it could be that there was no girls’ team. My mom helped me advocate for girls’ participation in sports at my school. The school’s solution was to give me a chance to try out for the Lions, an all-boys team. (The school did eventually start a girls’ league.)
Kathy: After I finished law school, I returned to Washington, D.C., with Elizabeth. I practiced law with the U.S. government for many years and later started a second career as a life coach.
Elizabeth: I attended law school like my mother. Thirty years of Title IX, however, made a huge difference in law school admissions. My law school class was nearly 50 percent female. I clerked for a federal judge—when my mom tried to clerk, she was told the judge didn’t think she was strong enough to carry his briefcase! I pursued a public interest career with The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center in San Francisco and have litigated a number of cases under Title IX on behalf of girls.
One of those cases, Ollier v. Sweetwater, is a case against the largest secondary school district in the state. At Castle Park High School, the girls’ softball program was forced to play on a substandard field that lacked basic amenities, while the boys’ baseball field was in excellent condition. The school district also cut girls’ teams such as field hockey, despite strong interest in the sport.
The plaintiffs recently won part of their case against the district on its failure to provide equal participation opportunities to girls. The court found that the “defendants are not in compliance with Title IX based on unequal participation opportunities in athletic program[s].” The lawsuit is ongoing.
I am inspired about my work and my mother’s leadership.
Kathy: I feel proud to have passed the torch to the next generation; I introduced Elizabeth to AAUW, and we are now both members and worked on the team to create the Title IX Program in a Box effort that has just launched nationally.