37 Words

Title IX and Fifty Years of Fighting Sex Discrimination

A sweeping history of the federal legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education, published on the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX

“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.” —Title IX’s first thirty-seven words

By prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education, the 1972 legislation popularly known as Title IX profoundly changed the lives of women and girls in the United States, accelerating a movement for equal education in classrooms, on sports fields, and in all of campus life.

37 Words is the story of Title IX. Filled with rich characters—from Bernice Resnick Sandler, an early organizer for the law, to her trans grandchild—the story of Title IX is a legislative and legal drama with conflicts over regulations and challenges to the law. It’s also a human story about women denied opportunities, students struggling for an education free from sexual harassment, and activists defying sexist discrimination. These intersecting narratives of women seeking an education, playing sports, and wanting protection from sexual harassment and assault map gains and setbacks for feminism in the last fifty years and show how some women benefit more than others. Award-winning journalist Sherry Boschert beautifully explores the gripping history of Title IX through the gutsy people behind it.

In the tradition of the acclaimed documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, 37 Words offers a crucial playbook for anyone who wants to understand how we got here and who is horrified by current attacks on women’s rights.


“The struggle to win, implement, and preserve Title IX, the bedrock 1972 law banning sex discrimination in education, comes alive in these pages. Boschert’s vivid biographical portraits of key leaders of these efforts, from the 1960s to the present, make this a page-turner that illuminates the historical roots and antecedents of the #MeToo movement.”
—Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology and history, CUNY Graduate Center, and author of On Gender, Labor, and Inequality
“Indispensable reading for anyone who cares about education, including students, teachers, administrators, parents, and graduates—so basically everyone.”
—Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Title IX legal scholar and professor of law, Wayne State University
“A page-turner for anyone interested in learning how one person’s experience can be turned into a national movement.”
—Deborah T. Ashford, senior counsel, Hogan Lovells LLP
37 Words takes perhaps the most consequential piece of legislation—in terms of actual, demonstrable impact—of the twentieth century and makes it come alive. Sherry Boschert argues that Title IX is a vital part of the larger educational mission ensuring that systems of oppression don’t deny young people an honest chance to grow. 37 Words is a book that will expand your mind and take you on a journey far, far beyond the period when Title IX became law. It is a look at more than fifty years of educational history, with lessons for all of us.”
—Dave Zirin, author of The Kaepernick Effect and sports editor, The Nation
“Throughout, Boschert emphasizes that protection under the law is not automatic but relies on pressure from government officials and outside activists; stresses the importance of Title IX in addressing inequities that are grounded in both race and gender; and highlights the persistence and optimism of the educators, lawyers, students, and athletes she profiles. Readers will take heart in this story of hard won progress in the fight for equality.”
Publishers Weekly
“A valuable, well-researched, and nuanced history on an important subject.”
“Boschert’s exquisite achievement in 37 Words rests on deeply researched history, eloquent prose, and perhaps most surprising of all, the page-turning story of how one unassuming yet brave woman—Bernice Sandler—turned sexist oppression into educational liberation for millions of women. There is sobering and uplifting brilliance dancing off the pages of this book, page after page. Do not miss it.”
—Jennifer Freyd, founder and president, Center for Institutional Courage
“Sherry Boschert captures the fight waged by feminists over decades against sex discrimination in education and to secure equal access and opportunity for women and girls. Setbacks and victories, protests and demonstrations, the fights in Congress and in the courts, are all chronicled by Boschert. 37 Words is an important book at an important time, reminding us of the need to keep fighting for Title IX.”
—Katherine Spillar, executive editor, Ms. magazine
37 Words is a stellar and moving tribute to Title IX’s fifty years of gender equity progress in schools. The book centers the champions behind this landmark law—the authors and advocates, survivors and athletes, and every student breaking gender stereotypes to reach their dreams. Well-researched and brimming with hope, the book is an inspiration in our continued fight for gender justice for all.”
—Noreen Farrell, executive director, Equal Rights Advocates
“I’m mightily impressed by the breadth and volume of Boschert’s research and her ability to craft it into a compelling read. 37 Words is a history but it’s also a road map for what it will take to go forward. It’s a really important book.”
—Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author of No Stopping Us Now
“Readers will finish this book with a clearer understanding of Title IX’s impact, its shortcomings, and the continued threats faced by female students as they seek access to educational opportunities.”
Library Journal
“[37 Words] condenses 50 years of history into fewer than 300 pages, an impressive feat. . . . Spun together, the details chart the trajectory of the law from its early days, when it was most closely associated with the expansion of athletic opportunity, to how it became an imperfect tool for holding schools accountable for not taking rape seriously and failing to protect gay and transgender students.”
Washington Monthly

News and Reviews

The Washington Post

Read an op-ed by Sherry Boschert about Congresswoman Edith Green, the true mother of Title IX, in the Washington Post’s Made by History.

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of 37 Words in Publishers Weekly

The Nation

Read an excerpt from Sherry Boshchert’s 37 Words in The Nation.

Goodreads Reviews