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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ellen W. Gerber, February 18 and March 24, 1992. Interview C-0092. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Title IX and deciding to attend law school

Gerber explains that her decision to go to law school was prompted by her interest in women's rights. During the 1960s, Gerber had received a Ph.D. in physical education and had been teaching in colleges. She focuses specifically on the importance and impact of Title IX on women in sports and on her own career trajectory. Following passage of the act, Gerber began a speaking tour, visiting college campuses regarding its implementation. While doing so, she became increasingly convinced that law was the most important conduit for promoting change and determined to return to school in order to study law.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ellen W. Gerber, February 18 and March 24, 1992. Interview C-0092. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

When did they start giving equal money to, you know athletes…
In 1972 Congress passed what was called Title IX, it was an amendment to the Higher Education Act. From '72 to '75 Title IX mandated sexual equality in the school systems, and of course that affected sports more than anything. From '72 to 75 they spent three years wrangling over what the regulations would be, but that department, well, in those days education was in HEW, Health Education and Welfare. And so they spent all that time wrangling, and I knew the woman who was working on that and that whole process, I followed it. When '75 came and the regulations were published and HEW started enforcing that, that is when they began to get equal money. Now, remember, I, from '72 to '73 and a half so to speak, was when I was running around, '74, that I was running around the country. Most of the women in the colleges teaching, who would be doing the coaching and running these sports programs, were opposed to this, to doing it. They were opposed because they had been brought up in an era that said this was no good. And they kept, their main theme song was this is like we don't want to be like the men, we don't want to have our sports programs to be these horribly distorted, overly competitive programs like the men.
Did you find that frustrating, that kind of attitude that you were going to cross, have to in turn battle women who were supposed to be…
Right, ah, I don't think I found it frustrating. I found it, I thought of it more, I understood where they were coming from, but I felt they hadn't thought it through carefully, and that's sort of what I was doing. I would go to a university, they would invite me to make a speech, I would stay, spend two or three days there, I would often meet with a department, I'd have a newspaper interview, and I would try to urge them to see that first of all 90% of men's sports were wonderful. I mean, you know, what they were picturing were these football teams or basketball teams that were just in the top ten schools, you know, that were just sort of grossly manipulated. But when you think about the cross country teams, and the tennis teams, and the track teams, and the lacrosse teams, and the even the basketball teams in some of the other kinds of schools, you realize that there was an awful lot of very good sports programs going on for the men. And the women had by refusing to have top level sports hadn't set any role models, hadn't set anything to aim for, and so they had a very, very, very small percentage of women competing in sports. Anyway, in the course of running around and doing all this, I was, again we're talking about in the early '70s, it came, and you had to think about the Civil Rights movement and its activities at that time, it, it really became apparent that all the action was in the courts. You know, and I realized that I could make 100 speeches that wouldn't do what one good legal case could do.
And then I knew there was a story behind there.
And so I, so largely because of my interest in the rights of women, which was very strongly a part of my philosophy and way of thinking, and for some other personal reasons, I decided I would go to law school. And so I left physical education and I was on a leave of absence during that time I was doing that speaking, and I left physical education and I started law school at …