June 23 marks 50 years since Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, was signed into law. The anniversary has sparked discussion of Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii) — the first woman of color elected to Congress in 1964, for whom Title IX was renamed in 2002. In fact, the media often refers to Mink as the "mother” of Title IX.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
But while Mink strongly defended Title IX and focused on bringing about equality under the law in her 24 years in the House, she did not actually write the bill or introduce it into Congress. Rep. Edith Green (D-Ore.) wrote Title IX and worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this landmark legislation that has improved the lives of millions of women and girls over the past half-century.
Today, as conservative activists and politicians work to ban the teaching of certain concepts and history related to sex and race, it is important to insist on historical accuracy in our political discussions and remembrances. Mink more fully embraced the feminist and political ideals embedded in Title IX than did Green. But the true story of Green’s involvement reminds us that progress doesn’t only come from the political leaders you’d expect.
Green was well-poised to take on legislation like Title IX by the early 1970s. Before tackling sex discrimination in education, she led an eight-year battle to pass the Equal Pay Act of 1963 — the first legislation of its kind, even if limited in scope by today’s standards. After 15 years in the House, Green became chair of the subcommittee on higher education. She authored or influenced nearly every education bill during her tenure in the House, earning her the nickname “Mrs. Education.”
Green was a champion of sex equality and educational reform, but she seemed to have at least one blind spot on race. By February 1970, when she introduced the first iteration of Title IX, Green was a vocal opponent of court-ordered busing to racially integrate schools. Although Green didn’t see herself as racist, her argument that busing decisions should be left to local control was a favorite of anti-integrationists. Critics alternately referred to her as “the liberal racist,” “the sweetheart of the Southerners” and “the Nixon Democrat.”