50 years ago, on June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Education Amendments Act. This law, Title IX, recognized gender equity in education as a civil right. Although the written law said nothing about sports, by demanding gender equality in the classroom, the world of female athletics changed dramatically...
The first official women's rowing program was established in 1875 at Wellesley College, just about 100 years before the Title IX Act. Nearly 70 years later, women started competing in more formal intercollegiate championships, which starting in 1971 was overseen and hosted by the National Women's Rowing Association. When Title IX passed the next year, it led to a huge growth in women's rowing. At this time, the women were only racing 1,000 meter races, compared to the 2,000 meter format of all mens racing. In 1985, the FISA and Olympic course distance was changed from a 1k to a 2k, showing the evolution of the public perception of women's strength and ability to participate as equals in sports. This continued until 1997, when women's intercollegiate rowing elected to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Since joining the NCAA and order to comply with Title IX, many universities have added women's rowing to their athletics departments to help balance out the amount of male athletic scholarships. Many schools have women's sports such as rowing, volleyball, and field hockey, to balance out their football teams, given there is not a female counterpart sport to offset the 70+ males needed for a full football roster (ie. men's basketball and women's basketball, men's tennis and women's tennis, etc.). This requirement to provide funding, athletic support and scholarships for an equal number of male and female athletes has resulted in a huge growth in women's rowing specifically. Title IX has created equality and opportunities for women in the classroom, on the sports field, and in our case, on the race course...
Title IX has created an incredible opportunity for women in all sports. In rowing specifically, this law has resulted in exponential growth, which has greatly accelerated the evolution and competition of the sport. I have been fortunate enough to live and compete in a world where Title IX has always been the norm, but it is not lost on me or my female teammates how lucky we are to be competing at a time where equality is expected...
Although there is always room to grow when it comes to gender equality (both in sports and in life), Title IX has had an incredible impact on my life and on the lives of many strong and inspiring women that I know. I reached out to a few well-accomplished women in rowing asking what Title IX means to them, and I wanted to share their thoughtful responses...
"While there is still plenty of work to be done to make the world of sports equal for all, the progress set in motion by the 1976 Yale women’s crew has opened the door for me and many athletes to fall in love with, compete in, and foster the growth of rowing in the USA. Without their work, I may have never been introduced to rowing as a high school freshman, immigrant daughter to a single mother. What that moment did for me was life changing, giving me the opportunity to be recruited by, earn a rowing scholarship at, and get a world class education from UCLA.
It has also allowed me to pursue a professional career in rowing. Now I watch, year after year, the high school women of CRF pursue the same goals and reap the same rewards of the hard work that they put in, going on to represent some of the best colleges in the world. Title IX has spanned multiple generations and will continue to impact women’s sports well into the future and I hope to one day watch my two young daughters have the opportunity to prove that they, too, deserve equal footing in the world of sports."
Maida Wallin - Chicago Rowing Foundation Coach, UCLA Class of '07
“Title IX means women empowerment to me. If it weren’t for Title IX, I truly wouldn’t be exactly who I am today. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a passion and inspiring goals with extremely driven, strong and intelligent women. Women should feel seen and lift each other up - together, we are stronger.”
Riley Brown - NCAA Champion 2016, 2018. Cal Berkeley Class of '19
"Title IX is everything to me. It gave me the chance to play sports from a young age, and continue to all the way through college at an elite level. Sports taught me so much growing up and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, and certainly not without title IX"
Caroline Hendershot - University of Michigan '10, All-American 2019, Big10 Athlete of the Year 2019, NCAA Medalist 2019, NCAA Medalist 2017
"Title IX means girl boss! Title IX gave me the experience of being an athlete and the opportunity to show what women can do! The strength, confidence, and sportsmanship I learned from being a college athlete are qualities that will stay with me my whole life. Everyone, regardless of gender, should be able to share similar experiences when it come to sports."
Lark Skov - U23 World Championship Medalist 2019, NCAA Champion 2019, 2021, CRCA All-America 2020, University of Washington Class of '21
“Title IX means the opportunity to show the world how strong and inspiring women can be. I always associated it with the Yale W crew team that wasn’t afraid to demand better training conditions. I also think about how women used to do 1000m instead of 2000 for no good reason, and now the 2k NCAA A finals for women’s rowing are some of the most competitive and exciting races we see in the rowing world.“
Alie Rusher - 2020 Olympian, U23 National Team 2017 and 2018, Stanford Class of '18, First Team All-American 2018, NCAA Medalist 2017
“Title IX is the only law that grants women any form of equality in America. Today we a celebrate women and we celebrate their accomplishments: all that can be accomplished when the bar for equal opportunity remains on the floor. Thank you to the generations of women and athletes championing the cause. Without them I would not be where I am today."
Grace Joyce - Green Racing Project, U23 National Team 2018, 2019, University of Wisconsin Class of '20
“It’s hard to think of a world without title IX. It’s even harder to think of a world without female sports. As a former collegiate and national team rower, I celebrate Title IX for the opportunities its given me both athletically and academically and will forever be grateful for the teammates I’ll have for life.“
Lizzy Youngling - NCAA Champion 2012, U23 National Team 2013, 2014, 2015, First Team All-American 2015, University of Virginia '15, Junior National Team 2010, 2011
"Title IX has given me infinite opportunities in this sport and beyond. Without this legislation women’s rowing would not be half of the powerhouse it is today. Having the opportunity to be a part of a women’s rowing team has pushed me to my limits and ultimately changed my life."
Teal Cohen - U23 National Team 2019, 2021, University of Washington Class of '22, NCAA Medalist 2021, NCAA Champion 2019, U19 National Team 2017
“Title IX means lifelong friendships and new opportunities to me”
Colette Lucas-Conwell - NCAA Medalist 2015, U23 World Champion 2015, 2016, University of Virginia '17, USA Mens Senior Team Coxswain