My Mom, the GAA, & Title IX

One high school's sports for women before Title IX.
One high school’s sports for women before Title IX.

Society changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes the change can seem as slow as molasses. Often I think we forget about the changes – the differences within just a lifetime. 

I watched the Olympics during these past two weeks in awe of the amazing athletes. After the closing ceremony, headlines announced that American women were the true winners. They edged out the U.S. men and rivaled most countries (except two) with their gold, silver, and bronze collection. This despite earlier news accounts and commentary, which introduced medalists by way of their husbands and failed to acknowledge the achievement of athletes, who happened to be women. 

While visiting my mom last week, we talked about her upcoming 50th high school reunion. We paged through her senior yearbook, and I listened to her memories of classmates. Flipping through the multi-page spreads of football, basketball, and baseball, we arrived at two pages with four photographs of young women assembled and the acronym GAA.

“GAA?” I asked.

“The Girls Athletic Association. This was the sports group they had for girls. It was like a club. I did basketball and track,” my mom said.

A semi-recent article in The Atlantic Monthly questioned the effectiveness and quality of Title IX for women in athletics. With valid points about injuries and a lack of female coaches at all levels, I am still struck by a simple fact. My mom couldn’t join a high school varsity athletic team in 1966. Yet sixty-one American women received medals at the Rio Olympics, and over three million young women were on high school athletic teams in 2012. 

With the help of Title IX, change that is worth remembering.


Sources Consulted:

The Shield, Luther South High School Yearbook 1966, Chicago, Illinois.

Jeré Longman, “For Those Keeping Score, American Women Dominated in Rio,” New York Times, August 22, 2016,

Lee Moran, “The Media Are Saying and Doing a Bunch of Sexist Stuff During the Olympics,” Huffington Post, August 12, 2016,

Linda Flanagan and Susan H. Greenberg, “How Title IX Hurts Female Athletes,” The Atlantic Monthly, February 27, 2012,

Addie Hibbard Gregory @ the Newberry Library Book Fair

ahgregory-newberryScanning the Chicago shelves at the Newberry Library Book Fair the title of a flowered fabric-covered book caught my eye. But I only picked up A Great-Grandmother Remembers during a second review of the shelves. I’m so glad I did. What a truly amazing find! In this book Addie Hibbard Gregory shared her experiences growing up and living on Prairie Avenue in Chicago. She was twelve years old during the Chicago Fire and lived through both world wars.

The book alone is interesting. (I stayed up late reading it.) But tucked inside were newspaper clippings from the book’s release in 1940, a letter written by Hibbard Gregory, and a memorial card. Yeah it’s autographed copy number 354. 500 were printed. Although I cannot be sure of the exact provenance, it appears from the inscription that the book belonged to a member of the Blatchford family, perhaps Frances Blatchford, at one time. The Newberry Library houses this family’s papers.

All in all, so very cool!  Especially since the materials inside the book went back to Special Collections at the Newberry Library after I contacted the curator about this find. They are available for researchers along with the Newberry’s copy of A Great-Grandmother Remembers.