Bernice Sandler is considered the godmother of Title IX, a 1972 regulation that banned sex discrimination in schools that accept federal funds.
In 1970, Sandler led a class-action complaint charging colleges and universities with an “industry-wide pattern” of sex discrimination. Her goal was to right the wrongs she experienced when trying, and failing, to land a job as a university professor.
Born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, where her parents owned a clothing store, Sandler earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees to prepare herself for the career she wanted as an educator.
Her career as an activist fighting sex discrimination in education led to changes that went beyond access and employment. Notably, Title IX required equal resources for girls and boys in high school and college sports. Title IX opened doors and established protection for women. Today it applies to 16,500 school districts and 7,000 other institutions. Before Title IX only 4% of high school girls played sports; 40% play today.
By the time of her death in 2019, Bernice Sandler had earned dozens of awards and honorary degrees and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.