Margaret Dunkle is the unsung heroine of Title IX, the 1972 landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in schools and colleges receiving federal funding. Her leadership was a major force in ensuring strong Title IX rules, especially in athletics, which quickly became the most visible and contentious area of inequities for women and girls.
Within days of Title IX’s passage, Ms. Dunkle joined the influential Association of American College’s Project on the Status and Education of Women. As athletics became the engine of Title IX, she wrote the groundbreaking analysis documenting massive discrimination against female college athletes. Her powerful 1974 report provided the blueprint for the Title IX regulations on athletics, leading James A. Michener, in Sports in America, to call it “a model of restraint, persuasion and good sense. But it also has a sharp bite.” She reported, for example: a large Midwestern university spending more than $2,600,000 on men’s athletics, but nothing on women’s; a West Coast university providing special insurance for male athletes only; and a private New England college fully covering travel for men’s teams, while female athletes had to hold bake sales and sell Christmas trees.
Colleges nationwide used her manual, Competitive Athletics: In Search of Equal Opportunity, published by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, to identify and correct athletic inequities, from adding more teams to offering athletic scholarships to women.
In 1975, Ms. Dunkle became the first Chair of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, which led the successful fight for strong Title IX regulations and their effective implementation. She chaired meetings with cabinet secretaries, and testified in support of the Women’s Educational Equity Act and improved vocational education opportunities for girls. Organizationally, she paved the way for this Coalition to institutionalize itself so that it still exists today.
Ms. Dunkle many firsts include documenting the pervasiveness of pregnancy discrimination in college student health insurance policies and the degree to which public schools discriminated against pregnant and parenting students. As Director of the AAUW Educational Foundation, she commissioned the influential 1991 study, How Schools Shortchange Girls. Legislatively, she conceived a 1986 federal provision that enabled low-income women to receive student financial aid without losing welfare or health insurance, and a 2007 Head Start requirement for developmental screenings of all enrolled children. As President of the Federation of Organizations for Professional Women, she helped shape the 1980 Science and Technology Equal Opportunities Act, which increased opportunities for women and minorities.
Ms. Dunkle has a family member who is vaccine-injured, sustaining brain injury and subsequent developmental disabilities. This concern led her to found the Early Identification and Intervention Collaborative for Los Angeles County, involving more than 350 partner organizations to promote early screening and effective intervention for young children with disabilities and developmental delays. It is also why she has a focus on vaccine safety.
Ms. Dunkle – a Maryland native who has lived in Calvert, Cecil, and Garrett counties – has more than 100 publications. As a teenager, she won a Maryland essay contest on American freedoms and appeared with President John F. Kennedy at Independence Hall. She is currently Lead Research Scientist with the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2012.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2012