Bernice Sandler, 1928–2019
The Title IX activist who battled discrimination
Sandler was born in Brooklyn to parents who owned a women’s sportswear store, said The New York Times. In school, she was annoyed that boys got to do the best jobs, “like be a crossing guard, fill the inkwells, or operate the slide projector.” She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and a doctorate in education counseling, but after failing to secure a full-time job in those fields worked as a preschool teacher, guitar instructor, and secretary. At the time, Sandler didn’t consider herself a feminist. It was her husband who described her rejection notices as “sex discrimination,” sparking her interest in the field.
“Working with the fledgling Women’s Equity Action League, she amassed evidence of discrimination” in virtually all aspects of higher education, said The Wall Street Journal. Sandler filed hundreds of complaints against colleges and was hired by Congress to research gender bias in academia. The passage of Title IX triggered “a sea change” in universities, said NPR.org. Schools could no longer provide swank facilities for male athletes and second-rate gear for women, and quotas that limited women’s access to programs in law and medicine were abolished. Yet Sandler, who never stopped campaigning against discrimination, understood that it would take generations to fully eliminate gender bias. “We have only taken the very first steps,” she said in 2007, “of what will be a very long journey.” ■