Title IX, Pat Summitt, and Tennessee's Trailblazers
50 Years, 50 Stories
In June 1972, President Richard Nixon put pen to paper and signed the Educational Amendments of 1972 into law. The nearly 150-page document makes no mention of “gender,” “athletics,” “girls,” or “women.” The closest reference to “sport” is transportation. In fact, the bill did not appear to contain anything earth shattering. But tucked into its final pages, a heading appears, “Title IX—Prohibition of Sex Discrimination.” These 37 words would change the world for girls and women across the United States. On its face, Title IX legally guaranteed equal opportunity in education. In time, Title IX would serve as the tipping point for the modern era of women’s sport. Slowly but surely, women’s athletics at the high school and collegiate levels grew to prominence, and Tennessee fast emerged as a national leader.
In Title IX, Pat Summitt, and Tennessee’s Trailblazers, Mary Ellen Pethel introduces readers to past and present pioneers—each instrumental to the success of women’s athletics across the state and nation. Through vibrant profiles, Pethel celebrates the lives and careers of household names like Pat Summitt and Candace Parker, as well as equally important forerunners such as Ann Furrow and Teresa Phillips. Through their lived experiences, these fifty individuals laid the foundation for athletic excellence in Tennessee, which in turn shaped the national landscape for women’s sports. The book also provides readers with a fuller understanding of Title IX, as well as a concise history of women’s athletics in the pre- and post-Title IX eras.
With interviewees ranging from age 20 to 93, Pethel artfully combines storytelling with scholarship. Guided by the voices of the athletes, coaches, and administrators, Pethel vividly documents achievement and adversity, wins and losses, and advice for the next generation. This book represents the first statewide compilation of its kind—offering readers a behind-the- scenes perspective of Tennessee women who dedicated their lives to the advancement of sport and gender equality. Readers will delight in Title IX, Pat Summitt, and Tennessee’s Trailblazers: 50 Years, 50 Stories.
MARY ELLEN PETHEL is an assistant professor in global leadership studies and honors at Belmont University. She is the author of Athens of the New South, A Heartfelt Mission,and All-Girls Education from Ward Seminary to Harpeth Hall. She is also the project director of NashvilleSites.org as part of the Metro Historical Commission Foundation.