Creative Collaborations

As a social worker in Nebraska I connected with some women who had heard about a request for proposals from the Federal government to train school districts on implementing the new Title IX legislation. The regulation simply stated: “There can be no discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program funded by the Federal government,” but in 1975, many sports enthusiasts feared requiring athletic budgets to include women’s sports would mean the end of college football. About the time the Nebraska football coach was consulting with congress, warning them of these dire consequences, a woman friend and I convened in her kitchen to read the instructions, to write and to submit a grant application. Various women, (some of whom, unlike the two of us, may have actually seen a grant at some point in their lives), dropped by and gave us their advice.

The lead time was so short; most anyone who knew what it took to write a grant wouldn’t have attempted it. But our ignorance stood us in good stead and our Center for Co-Equal Education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln became established as one of only eleven training centers funded in the country.  I learned that sometimes, when the time is ripe, change can happen swiftly and irreversibly. In spite of the initial widespread vocal opposition to sharing funds and gym equipment with girl students, (who, it was said, didn’t want to play sports anyway), in the couple of years of our project, involvement of girls in sports, and non-traditional fields like science and math, skyrocketed. The vindication we felt as we drove through the main streets of small Nebraska towns, draped with banners from their lampposts, to proclaim the victories of their daughters’ teams.