Because Title IX Isn’t Just for Athletes.
Does anyone else feel like International Women’s Day was just too short? Us, too, which is why we’re taking this week to honor women both around the globe and stateside.
Today’s piece covers legislation that changed the course of history for women in the U.S. These landmark decisions helped even the playing field for female athletes, gave us increased autonomy over our reproductive health, helped close the gender pay gap, (though we’re not there yet,) and gave us the right to vote.
Here are five pieces of legislation that all women should know.
Women’s Right to Vote
This essential women’s right was ratified in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It gave American women the right to cast their votes, (also known as women’s suffrage), with one very big caveat: Many women of color were not granted this same right until nearly half a century later. Today, more women vote in general elections than men.
As a former college athlete, this one is near and dear to my heart. Signed into law in 1972, Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded educational program or activity, which includes almost all private and public universities. Title IX applies to programs like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), course offerings, counseling, financial assistance, educational programs, and most notably, sports.
It requires that men and women be provided equal opportunities to play sports, access to scholarships, locker rooms, practice facilities, the list goes on. Putting it simply, Title IX changed the game for female athletes.
Roe v. Wade
This 1973 Supreme Court decision might be the most notable and controversial of the list, as it ruled that a state law banning abortions except to save the mother’s life was unconstitutional. “Jane Roe” or Norma McCorvey, was a pregnant Texas woman who challenged her state’s law, filing a suit against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. The case eventually landed in the Supreme Court, who ruled in a 7-2 decision the legality of abortion under the 14th Amendment.
This decision gave women the right to an abortion during their entire pregnancy but set up conditions for states to be able to regulate abortions during the second and third trimesters. Thus, women gained a bit more autonomy over their reproductive rights. However, Roe v. Wade is still challenged to this day.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
It’s no secret the gender wage gap exists — today, it sits at around 20 percent. This 2009 act was named after Lilly Ledbetter, who worked as a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Gadsden, Ala. Ledbetter discovered she was being paid less than men doing the same job and sued her employer.
She took her complaint all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled that these types of claims had to be made within 180 days, even if the worker didn’t learn about the pay gap until later, as was the case with Ledbetter. The Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act, which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964, allows unfair pay complaints to be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck and resets with each discriminatory paycheck issued. It was the very first bill signed into law by President Obama.
The Violence Against Women Act
This piece of legislation — passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013 — set out to improve the response of both the criminal justice system and the community to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. While VAWA has been the recipient of some criticism, domestic violence rates decreased by 64 percent from 1993 to 2010, which some attribute to VAWA.
Though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go. What legislation do we need regarding women’s rights? Tell us in the comments.