Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Bernice Sandler, the "Godmother of Title IX," died last weekend at age 90. (Photo: Twitter)

Leaving Legacy of 'World-Altering Work' for Women, 'Godmother of Title IX' Bernice Sandler Dies at 90

"Every woman who has gone to college, gotten a law degree or a medical degree, was able to take shop instead of home-ec, or went to a military academy really owes her a huge debt."

Julia Conley

Dr. Bernice Sandler, whose experiences of sex discrimination on a college campus in the 1960s became the basis for sweeping reforms to ensure an equitable learning environment for women, died last weekend at the age of 90.

Sandler had "embarked on a lifelong mission to change the culture of sex discrimination on college campuses," said the National Organization for Women (NOW) president Toni Van Pelt in a statement. "She spent decades documenting, investigating, and working to change the arbitrary limits and sexist standards that held women back academically and professionally."

"Title IX turned out to be the legislative equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. It opened up opportunities in so many areas we didn't foresee, and [Bernice] laid the essential groundwork for it all." —Marty Langelan, sexual harassment expert

After becoming fed up with casually sexist remarks dismissing her accomplishments and her potential as a professor, Sandler embarked on a campaign that paved the way for Title IX, the educational civil rights law that has forced schools across the country to work to root out discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.

One colleague at the University of Maryland, where Sandler taught part-time, had told her she "came on too strong for a woman," while an interviewer dismissed her as "just a housewife who went back to school" after she'd obtained a doctorate in education in 1969.

Sandler responded by approaching the National Organization for Women (NOW) with research she'd compiled on sex discrimination, forming the foundation of a class action complaint she and the group filed in 1970 with the Labor Department.

Congressional hearings and Title IX legislation followed, with President Richard Nixon signing it into law in 1972. The law has protected women on college campuses from sexual harassment, required that men and women have equal access to all campus resources, and opened doors for female athletes.

"Title IX turned out to be the legislative equivalent of a Swiss Army knife," Marty Langelan, an expert in sexual harassment, told the New York Times. "It opened up opportunities in so many areas we didn't foresee, and [Bernice] laid the essential groundwork for it all."

Women's rights organizations celebrated Sandler's life and work on social media, expressing gratitude for the effect she had on the lives of women across the country.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

NDP Expected to Wield Power in Canadian Parliament as Trudeau Maintains Minority Govt

"We are going to continue fighting for you, just the same way we fought for you in the pandemic, you can count on us to continue those fights," said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Julia Conley ·


#UprootTheSystem: Climate Movement Readies Another Global Strike

Youth activists are demanding not only climate action but also equitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

Andrea Germanos ·


Big Pharma Greed 'Literally Killing Americans,' Sanders Says Outside Drug Lobby HQ

"How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?" asked Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Vaccine Equity Coalition Warns 'Pathetic Trickles of Charity' Won't End Pandemic

"Rich countries are selfishly looking out for themselves but short-changing all of us. We need bold solutions now, not more empty gestures."

Jake Johnson ·


'Do Better,' Say Advocates as Biden Seeks to Double Refugee Admissions

"When thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo