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BGSU tied to gender equity law

Elizabeth Boyer '37 played important role in Title IX

The landmark gender equity legislation known as Title IX was enacted 40 years ago. For nearly 38 of those years, few people, if any, were cognizant of Bowling Green State University's connection to the law that prohibits sex discrimination against students and employees in educational institutions was not recognized.

Dr. Janet Parks, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of human movement, sport and leisure studies, discovered the University's link to Title IX while doing research on girls' and women's athletics. She was familiar with the name, Elizabeth M. "Betty" Boyer, for her involvement as the founding president of the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL). Parks had heard numerous speeches by Dr. Bernice Sandler, "the godmother of Title IX," crediting WEAL and Boyer for supporting her in filing the first charges of sex discrimination against various U.S. colleges and universities.

However, it was a serendipitous incident that completed the circle and identified the University's direct link to Title IX. In spring 2010, Parks was in Jerome Library conducting research when she noticed the name "Betty Boyer" in a 1934 "Bee Gee News" story about an upcoming Homecoming alumnae field hockey game. Boyer was listed as one of three Women's Athletic Association members in charge of invitations. Having been aware that a woman named Elizabeth Boyer was the founding president of WEAL and the aunt of current WEAL President Pat Bliss-Egan, Parks contacted Bliss-Egan and asked if her "Aunt Betty" had graduated from BGSU; Bliss-Egan confirmed that her aunt was indeed a Falcon.

Boyer, who grew up in Fremont, Ohio, was a 1937 BGSU graduate. She was active in the Women's Athletic Association on the field hockey team and head of soccer, and as a member of Skol Sorority, Pi Kappa Delta, Sigma Tau Delta, the Debate Team, Emerson Club and Foreign Language Club. She also was on the staff of the WAA newsletter and served as the Sandusky County Sewing Supervisor in the summer of 1934. She was a member of the BGSU Alumni Association Board of Trustees, serving as its first woman president from 1952-54.

Boyer went on to earn a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall School of Law and a master of law degree from the former Western Reserve School of Law. She had a private law and probate practice for many years in the Cleveland area and taught business law at Cuyahoga Community College for many years. Boyer was one of the first women inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame.

As founding president of WEAL, Boyer worked as an ally to the National Organization for Women. She was a common speaker at U.S. Senate and House committees to protest discrimination against women. She served on the White House Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, and she worked on the Hoover Commission for Economy and Efficiency in Government.

Her direct involvement in the birth of Title IX, through WEAL, established her as a significant American hero who made history in extraordinary ways when she created the Women's Equity Action League in 1968. In addition to galvanizing national advocacy to address documented legal, educational and economic inequities facing women in the U.S., WEAL was the main supporting organization for Sandler in her battle for gender equity in education. Without Boyer's leadership and vision, equal access to the fullest possible range of education experiences for girls and women might have remained merely a dream for years to come.

The BGSU Women's Center will honor Boyer and WEAL for their contributions and accomplishments during a special celebration Sept. 24-25.

The celebration starts Monday, Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. with a panel discussion, "WEAL's Legacy: The History and Future of Title IX." In addition to Sandler, the panel will include a high school principal, a high school tennis coach and several BGSU representatives, including coaches, faculty, administrators and a female athlete. The two-hour panel discussion, which is free and open to the public with no registration required, will be in 308 Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

An evening gala to celebrate WEAL starts at 6 p.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom, Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Renowned author, feminist and activist Gloria Steinem will be the keynote speaker for the event and WEAL's accomplishments will be highlighted. Cost of the dinner is $50 per person.

BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey will host a special brunch with Gloria Steinem on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at the University House. The brunch, open to the first 50 people who register, costs $250. Registration is also available at bgsu.edu/weal.

Proceeds from the celebration events will support a special fund named after Boyer. The Elizabeth M. Boyer Fund for Student Mothers provides financial assistance to BGSU undergraduate female students who have primary custodial responsibility for one or more children.

To register online for any of the activities, visit bgsu.edu/weal. To register by phone, call 419-372-8181. For more information about the events, visit bgsu.edu/weal or contact the BGSU Women's Center at 419-372-7227 or womencenter@bgsu.edu.

The Toledo Blade is a media sponsor of the event.