Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

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.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Watching US With Horror, European Groups Push Leaders to Strengthen Abortion Rights

"This is an important moment for leaders across Europe who are committed to reproductive rights to lead by example and galvanize action in their own countries," said one campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressive Delia Ramirez Defeats Billionaire PAC Money to Win Illinois Primary

"Billionaires and their super PACs are spending millions to defeat progressive candidates," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Ramirez. "They have the money, but we've got the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo