The first recorded organization of women’s athletics at Vanderbilt University was by Stella Vaughn in the 1890s. Women students participated in numerous athletic activities from then on, never receiving much appreciation or support from the university. There were intramural teams and occasionally inter-collegiate competitions in tennis and basketball with local colleges but never the full support that men’s sports enjoyed. By the 1970s, women on campus were eager to participate more fully the activities and amenities that football, basketball and baseball players enjoyed. Things changed rapidly after the passing of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Title IX became effective in 1975. Universities were given three years to comply with the regulations.
Margaret (Peggy) Layne entered Vanderbilt in the fall of 1976 to pursue a degree in environmental engineering. In high school she participated in athletics but found at Vandy few opportunities for women to be active in sports. By early 1977, Layne had helped form the Title IX in Tennessee (TNT) committee to push Vanderbilt into a conversation about the application of the law. The group drew up a list of actions the university needed to take to be in compliance, with suggested priorities. The TNT committee was soon represented by Woods & Woods law offices in Nashville where an official complaint was filed to the Health, Education and Welfare Department of the US Government. Soon after the filing was made public Vanderbilt began addressing the demands listed by TNT, and by December was in compliance.
This scrapbook, collected and prized since 1976, was donated by Layne to Vanderbilt Special Collections and University Archives early this year. The letters, news clippings, documents and the first Title IX Report of the university are invaluable in our understanding of the actions taken by students to lay claim to the same rights afforded to generations of male students at Vanderbilt. We would never have the amazing memories and sports records of Heidi Gillingham, Ryan Tolbert, or Candice Storey Lee, or have won NCAA championships in Women’s Bowling and Tennis, without the first steps taken in the 1970s by Margaret Layne and women like her.
The scrapbook is now available for viewing in Special Collections and University Archives by appointment.