Ber­nice fought for equal rights

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - OBITUARIES -

Known as the God­mother of Ti­tle IX, Ber­nice San­dler was in­stru­men­tal in end­ing the dis­crim­i­na­tion Amer­i­can women faced with ed­u­ca­tion.

For decades she worked tire­lessly to en­sure no one could be pre­vented from learn­ing be­cause of their sex.

Her mis­sion be­gan in 1969 when, af­ter com­plet­ing a doc­tor­ate at Mary­land Uni­ver­sity, she ap­plied for a teach­ing po­si­tion there.

She was knocked back by one of her male col­leagues. “Let’s face it,” he said. “You come on too strong for a woman.”

And when she tried again she was told it would be too much of a risk tak­ing her on – with the in­ter­viewer say­ing women spend too much time at home, look­ing af­ter their sick chil­dren, in­stead of work­ing.

Over the years that fol­lowed, Mrs San­dler doc­u­mented and in­ves­ti­gated all of the ways the cul­ture of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion could be changed.

She joined a women’s rights group, the Women’s Eq­uity Ac­tion League, and filed a clas­s­ac­tion law­suit against 250 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, cit­ing a piece of leg­is­la­tion signed by Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B John­son pre­vent­ing em­ploy­ers from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against ap­pli­cants.

At the time Mrs San­dler said: “Many de­part­ments had no women at all, even though women of­ten ob­tained as many as 25% of the doc­tor­ates in those fields.

“The pat­tern was clear – the higher the rank, the fewer the women.”

Mrs San­dler’s move­ment quickly gained trac­tion and she soon found her­self tes­ti­fy­ing at con­gres­sional hear­ings.

It even­tu­ally led to the in­tro­duc­tion of Ti­tle IX, a piece of leg­is­la­tion ban­ning gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in any form of pub­licly-funded ac­tiv­ity or ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme which was signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1972.

In the years that fol­lowed, Mrs San­dler con­tin­ued to fight against dis­crim­i­na­tion. She sat on sev­eral gov­ern­ment pan­els work­ing to re­move the gen­der gap and gave more than 2,500 pre­sen­ta­tions on the topic.

Most re­cently, she was a se­nior scholar in res­i­dence at the Women’s Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute in Washington, DC.

She died on Jan­uary 5 at the age of 90.

Ber­nice San­dler fought against dis­crim­i­na­tion

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