50 Years of Title IX in Iowa
by Lauren Dufoe
Fifty years ago, the opportunities of girls everywhere were legally elevated to the equal level of their male counterparts. While it’s been a short time that this federal law has been in place, Iowa has been exceeding equality expectations from the beginning. The number of athletic opportunities for Iowa high school girls, even before 1972, have been numerous.
Since the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s birth in 1925, their core value of equality and fairness for all Iowa high school students has been apparent. They have provided a platform for girls to instill change in their own experiences. Much like Susan Harman and her classmates did.
Harman recalled a lot of fun and talented golfing when she represented Cedar Rapids Washington High School. A representation, however, she did not always have the honor of on the course.
Late in the spring of her sophomore year, two girls Harman knew from summer golfing went to their high school principal and requested the addition of a girls golf team. His honest reply was, “Why not?”
After hastily gathering 7-8 girls to form a team, there was just one meet left that season…the state qualifying meet. Without a coach, barely any team practice, and a biology teacher to drive them, the Cedar Rapids Washington girls golf team went to see what they were made of.
“When we qualified, we couldn’t believe it. We had been thrown together, and here we were. I knew we could be competitive though.”
The team proved themselves the next season (1968) by setting the team play record with a score of 368. But in 1967, the individual title was claimed by Harman herself with an 18 hole record score of 81.
“I was shocked when I won. I had expected to at least compete (through knowledge of the other golfers through summer meets) but winning came out of nowhere to me.”
After helping her team set their record in 1968, Harman went on to win the individual title again in 1969.
Claiming these victories brought positive attention to the desire and capability for girls to compete in golf. Similarly, it shed light on the previous treatment girls golf had received.
“Adults assumed girls didn’t want to play sports. Kids today don’t understand how bad it was. In our yearbook for instance, there was no mention of girls sports, when we had fledgling teams organized. When we would be recognized, it was dismissive.”
From spearheading her own golf involvement in the summer, to helping initiate a team to represent their school, Harman and her teammates started the progress that we continue to reap the benefits of today. Susan would go on to become one of the top prep sports writers in Iowa, writing for The Des Moines Register, Ames Tribune and Iowa City Press Citizen.
Now, with 11 sanctioned sports and nearly 70,000 girls competing, Iowa continues to rank in the top half of the United States in terms of girls' high school athletic participation, while being only 30th in national population. We celebrate the progress we have made, and continue to strive forward with passion and love for our Iowa Girls opportunities. May the next 50 years continue the strong tradition of female athletics across the country and specifically, the Iowa Girl.