Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever signed.
On June 23, 1972, then-President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX of the Education Amendments, which stated:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Since the legislation was signed, the landscape of sports changed forever with the opportunities it has given female athletes.
While there are have been millions of female athletes impacted over the past 50 years, on the anniversary of this legislation, here are nine legendary female athletes we are highlighting that you might never heard of if not for Title IX.
Billie Jean King
An advocate of Title IX’s legislation who went to Congress to testify on behalf of its passing, King is one of the greatest female tennis players ever, having won all four majors and 12 career Grand Slam singles titles. She also won 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles and 11 in mixed doubles.
One of the greatest basketball players — male or female — to ever play, Miller helped bring women’s basketball to unforeseen heights in the ‘80s. She scored 105 points in a high school game, scored over 3,000 career points in college and won two national championships at Southern California. To top if off, she was a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team that won a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
At last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, Felix became the most decorated track and field athlete ever — male or female — from the U.S. when she won her 11th overall medal. Felix has competed at the last five Summer Olympics.
Before the likes of Mia Hamm, Megan Rapinoe or Carli Lloyd got recognition as impactful female soccer players for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Akers was the original American female soccer star.
Akers was named FIFA Female Player of the Century in 2002 and was the best player at the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991, scoring 10 goals during the event in China to lead the U.S. to the title.
Akers was a starter on the U.S. team that won the 1999 World Cup.
Arguably the best female tennis player of all-time, Williams has 23 Grand Slam singles titles and has been ranked as the No. 1 player in the world 319 weeks.
She has also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.
Widely regarded as the best gymnast of all-time, Biles won four Olympic gold medals, seven Olympic medals overall, and 19 gold medals at the World Championships in her storied career.
She won the all-around competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics and five times at the World Championships.
Regarded by some as the best female track and field star from the U.S., Joyner-Kersee won gold medals in the heptathlon at the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympics and won six Olympic medals overall.
She won medals at four different Olympics.
The dominant female golfer of the 80s and 90s, Lopez won 48 LPGA events and three major championships.
She was LPGA Tour Player of the Year four times and won the money title on the tour three times. In 1987, she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Arguably the greatest U.S. female speed skater ever, Blair won five gold medals and one bronze medal over the course of three Winter Olympics from 1988 to 1994.
She won the 500 meters at each of those three Olympics in Calgary, Albertville and Lillehammer. She also won gold medals at three different World Championships.
Is there another female athlete not on this list you want to highlight on Title IX’s 50th anniversary? Let us know in the comments below.