Five female activists who championed educational equity
Written by Aylin Cook
HopSkipDrive is committed to enabling access to education for every child through safe and reliable transportation. This Women’s Month, we’re highlighting the stories of five women who’ve paved the way for educational equity in the United States.
Patsy Mink was a United States Congresswoman from the state of Hawaii. She was the co-author of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, which banned gender-based discrimination by all federally-funded schools and educational programs. In 2002, following Mink’s death, the Title IX portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 was renamed in her honor. Mink was also instrumental in introducing progressive legislation that promoted federal child care, bilingual education, special education student loans and more. She is widely known for shining light on the discrimination she felt as both a woman and Asian American, and dedicated her career to creating more opportunities for marginalized groups.
Known as the godmother of Title IX, Bernice Sandler tackled sex discrimination at college campuses head-on. As an academic at the University of Maryland, Sandler was told she “came on too strong for a woman” to be considered for even one of seven employment opportunities in her department. When she applied for yet another job, a hiring manager told her he didn’t hire women because they stayed home when their children got sick. Sandler began documenting sex discrimination in hiring practices at federally-funded colleges and universities. She joined the Women’s Equity Action League and did everything she could to catalyze change—from charging over 250 colleges with sex discrimination to initiating a letter-writing campaign so profuse that Congress had to hire full-time employees to read all the correspondence.
At just 23 years old, Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani social activist dedicated to championing female education and equality. As a child, the Taliban stopped her and other girls from attending school—an experience she openly wrote about. At age 15, a Taliban gunman attempted to assassinate Yousafzai. She survived, and has used her experience to further champion her causes, even starting a non-profit organization. In 2012, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to receive that honor.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman in space. Her legacy as an astronaut, a physicist and a woman lives on nearly a decade after her passing. Ride founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. The organization works to reverse inaccurate beliefs about women in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. Ride believed that all students should feel inspired and welcomed to learn about these subjects, even if they erroneously believed that only boys should study STEM.
Billy Jean King
Billie Jean King is as famous for her off-court heroics as her on-court accomplishments. The tennis pro leveraged her fame to ensure the Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1974 (WEEA) passed. WEEA affords women educational equity by offering federal protections against gender discrimination at all levels of education, but especially at elementary and secondary schools. WEEA also paves the way for grant money that helps develop more opportunities for women. King, who was once the top-ranked tennis player in the world, is also known for winning the “Battle of the Sexes”, a tennis match in which she defeated male tennis player Bobby Riggs.
These five women are just a handful of the powerful, inspiring activists who have dedicated their lives to ensuring more equal education for all.