Babe of the Week: Christine Grant

I remember the very first time I heard of Title IX. I was 16, playing for my high school varsity softball team and in the preseason when it was still freezing in New Jersey, we’d practice inside. My high school very specifically had a girl’s gym and a boy’s gym. The girl’s gym was pretty standard. It fit a basketball court and had bleachers along one wall that folded in and out for space. Just across the hall, literally steps away – the boy’s gym. Can you guess what I’m going to say next? The boy’s gym was much larger, with room for bleachers on both sides, new digital scoreboards, a glossy floor with our school colors and mascot painted on. I would go as far as to say it even had nicer lighting. It felt brighter. The girl’s gym was dark. The floors creaked and the only decorations were student-made posters advertising the next pep rally (in the boy’s gym).

I brought this up to a male teacher once, and he responded with “you have your own gym because of Title IX.” Helpful! Way to really grab that potential teaching moment by the horns. Thinking back, was he implying that we should be so lucky to have a smaller, dingier gym because… at least we had one? I’d like to think this was his strange way of saying “thanks to Title IX, you girls have your own space. Isn’t that cool?” Ok. It was still bullshit that our gym was smaller, dirtier, darker, and there was always a faint smell of feet.

So why did you just subject yourself to that anecdote? This is supposed to be the Babe of the Week. Because on December 31, 2021, Dr. Christine Grant passed away at the age of 85. Christine Grant was a Scottish born American athlete and staunch advocate for women in sports. Most notably, she was an essential part of shaping Title IX, the 1972 amendment that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded institutions (i.e. schools).

via University of Iowa Athletics

She gave the opportunity to thousands upon thousands of girls to enjoy and benefit from participating in athletics. Without Dr. Grant’s commitment and efforts to gender equality, girls and women would not be able to experience the benefit of sport the way we know it today.

Lisa Bluder, Hawkeyes Head Coach

She spent most of her career at the University of Iowa, as an esteemed women’s athletic director and coach. She earned her PhD, was widely considered an expert on Title IX and served as a consultant on the Civil Rights Title IX task force. Is that it? Nope.

She also founded and later served as president of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. Grant was a longtime member and short time president of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (now known as Women Leaders in College Sports). She went on to hire more female coaches at the college and in 2007 was awarded the Gerald R. Ford Award for leadership in intercollegiate athletics.

Jesus, this woman. I wish I had the honor of meeting her. She was a passionate trailblazer who did so much of the heavy lifting in order for female athletes to succeed. Another activist of the Title IX era, Charlotte West, once described Grant as “very gentle but extremely forceful.” Please, please, please someone use this to describe me when I’m gone.

This June marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, one of the most important pieces of federal legislation passed for women in history. So sure, maybe we had a stupid little gym, and we sure as hell know there’s a lot more work to be done in terms of gender equity, but we would be nowhere without Christine Grant. She dedicated her life to fighting for women in sport. And that makes for a pretty badass babe.

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