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Bernice Sandler (1928–2019), “Godmother of Title IX”

by Kirk Fox

Bernice Sandler (1928–2019) played an integral part in the creation of the landmark Title IX law that prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions that receive federal funding. The federal civil rights law was passed in 1972 and assures women have equal access to financial assistance, admissions, and other benefits. The law has had a major impact on equality in sports at high schools and colleges.  

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Died: Saturday January 5, 2019 (Who else died on January 5?)


Details of death: Died at the age of 90 from cancer at her home in Washington.

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Her motivation for Title IX: In 1969, Sandler earned a doctorate in education at the University of Maryland and applied to open positions at the university but was not considered for any of them. She asked a male colleague why she wasn’t in the running for a job and he replied, “Let’s face it, you come on too strong for a woman.” She challenged hundreds of universities with sex discrimination claims and spearheaded a letter writing campaign that overwhelmed the mail system in congress. —According to the Washington Post

Her eureka moment: While doing research, she discovered an executive order signed by President Lyndon Johnson that prohibited sex discrimination in organizations that have federal contracts. “It was a genuine ‘Eureka’ moment,” she later recalled in an account of her work. “I actually shrieked aloud for I immediately realized that many universities and colleges had federal contracts, were therefore subject to the sex discrimination provisions of the Executive Order, and that the Order could be used to fight sex discrimination on American campuses.” —According to the Washington Post

What people said about her: “Such a huge debt owed to Dr Sandler, the godmother of Title IX. As we come up on the 50th anniversary of our program we’re thankful for those who fought hard to open doors.” —Catholic University field hockey program on Twitter

Full obituary: Washington Post

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