Women’s History Month: Women’s Athletics at Elon in the 1960s-1970s

Julia Mueller
March 15, 2013

Women's Volleyball Team in 1975

Women’s Volleyball Team in 1975

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of different turning points in both American and Elon history.  The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights and women’s movements were just a few of the milestones that occurred.  This impacted women’s sports in various ways.  The Commission of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was soon recognized, and America faced a time of subsiding societal restrictions.  This in part was due to increased coverage of the Olympics, where women had been at least to some extent competing since the 1900 Paris Games. 

In the 1960-1961 academic year, Elon drastically changed the curriculum from requiring two years of physical training to two semester hours of physical education and one semester hour of hygiene.  In 1965, the first Spring Fiesta was established replacing the annual May Day program, which had been sponsored by the Women’s Athletic Association since 1939.  Many notable female coaches came to Elon during these decades, leading the women athletes to several victories.  These coaches include Kay Yow, Barbara Yarborough, Mary Frances Jackson, Karen Carden, and Janie Brown.  Impressive student athletes also graced this time, such as Diane Eberly in 1971.  She was the first woman to receive Most Valuable Player award in Elon basketball.  Susan Yow and Teddy Ireland were also remarkable female athletes.

Title IX was perhaps the most landmark legislation for women’s sports.  Former President Nixon passed this in the Education Amendments of 1972.  It prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs or activities receiving federal financial aid.  It involved the “equity in providing equipment and supplies, scheduling games and practices, and in providing coaching.”  While this created equal opportunity to participate in male and female athletics, the Women’s Athletic Association was soon dissolved because under the new law, it was considered discriminatory.  At the same time, Elon did not have the funds for scholarships nor equal facilities and struggled to meet the new demands established by Title IX.  In terms of spirit, however, the campus had been increasingly supportive of women’s sports for years.

The decades also introduced new sports to Elon for women, including synchronized swimming and skiing.  By 1975, the women’s teams had a new name– “The Golden Girls.”  They were often successful in competitions against other colleges, and by 1977, basketball, volleyball, and softball were Elon’s first three female intercollegiate teams.

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