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No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972

How the University of Virginia partially inspired Title IX

Virginia's ties to Title IX come from the "Father of Title IX," former Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana. His motivation to get Title IX passed as law in this country was due to the experience of his wife, Marvella. 

Photo of Marvella Bayh

As described in an article in the Indianapolis Star, Marvella grew up in "borderline poverty," their son Evan Bayh said, in a tiny house in Oklahoma in the 1930s and 40s. While the family didn't have much, Marvella's parents doted on her and encouraged her academics. They told her again and again that she could be anything she wanted to be. Marvella was the first girl at Enid High to be elected president of the student body. She was elected governor of the American Legion Auxiliary Oklahoma Girls State. When she became president of the American Legion Auxiliary  Girls Nation in Washington, she was greeted by President Harry Truman.

After high school, Marvella's dream was to attend the University of Virginia. But that wasn't allowed. "Women need not apply," the university said in 1951. (She instead graduated from Indiana University.)

In 1971, as the legislation for Title IX emerged from the House, Birch Bayh was reminded of his wife's experiences. She talked to her husband about being turned down by the University of Virginia simply because of her gender. "This was imprinted in his mind," said Jay Berman, Birch Bayh's director of legislative affairs when Title IX passed, who later became his chief of staff.

His son Evan said, "My father thought it was just an injustice that my mother hadn't gotten to attend Virginia," Evan Bayh said. Birch thus became the champion for Title IX in the Senate and ensured its passage in 1972.

The discrimination Marvella experienced from UVA fueled the passage of a civil rights law with a monumental reach, covering K-12 and colleges, admissions, financial aid, sports--and in 1981, the Department of Education said Title IX's reach included incidents of sexual harassment, including sexual assault. It's not something to be proud of, that Marvella wasn't able to come to Grounds and be a part of our community, be great, do good. But knowing our ties to Title IX can help us be more committed to doing the work, every day, to create a community where no one is denied their rights, no one is pushed aside, no one is left alone. 

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