Anita Murphy understood the significance of Title IX’s passage, but her appreciation of the law grew after she recently attended a conference entitled, “Equal Play: Celebrating 50 Years of Title IX,” at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Title IX was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on June 23, 1972 — 50 years ago Thursday.

Murphy welcomed the opportunity to attend the event earlier this month, which featured Billie Jean King as the keynote speaker via digital conferencing and a panel composed of who’s who — including Michele Roberts, former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association; Kristine Lilly, retired United States women’s national soccer team legend; and Kathy Delaney-Smith, longtime head coach of the Harvard women’s basketball program. The panel was moderated by journalist and TV personality Jackie MacMullan.

Anita Murphy, left, offers a tennis ball to her great-granddaughter, Adelyn Chicoine, on May 24 at the Lewiston High School tennis courts prior to a ceremony where the courts were officially dedicated to the longtime tennis coach. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“The reason, too, that I wanted to go so badly was Billie Jean King was going to be there,” Murphy said. “We were going to speak with her. They had a panel of four ladies. They were all legends in their own fields.”

Murphy, who retired earlier this year after coaching the Lewiston High School girls tennis team for 43 years, was one of 10 Mainers to receive an invitation by the Maine Principals’ Association to attend the June 9 event, which was hosted by Kraft Sports + Entertainment (KSE) and Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR).

According to an explanation of Title IX by The Associated Press earlier this week:


“The law forbids discrimination based on sex in education, and despite its age remains a vital piece in the ongoing push for equality, including in the LGBTQ community. …”

“(The law affects athletics) in so many ways, and at the K-12 and powerful collegiate levels. Women’s and men’s teams are to be treated equally under the law, and schools should look to expand the opportunities for women to play sports.”

Murphy remains a strong supporter of Title IX, which she said made all the difference in the world for girls sports.

“I think it is important to me because it opened up a lot of avenues, in particular, I think, in women coaches,” she said. “You didn’t see too many women coaches around. In fact, I think when I was hired, I was trying to think what other women were there. I don’t really remember at the time if there was another woman coach.

“But I just think (Title IX) is just great. It encouraged a lot of young ladies to participate. They would think twice, ‘I can’t play sports — you know, I am a girl … or they will call me be a tomboy,’ for different reasons like that.”

Murphy confessed she wasn’t caught up in the movement of advancing women’s sports five decades ago.


“At the time, I have to be honest with you, back in ’72, I wasn’t thinking that way,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking women’s rights. I wasn’t aware of that. I started coaching in 1979. Even up to that point, I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t realize so much of that was going on.

“But now when I look back and listen to some of these ladies who were on the panel, it was interesting listening to them (explain) what they were paid in comparison to what a male coach was paid. How the men’s coaches had great facilities in the gym. Then the women had a teaching room or whatever. Listening to them is what really opened my eyes. I could have listened to these ladies all night.”

Despite the initial impact of Title IX on women’s sports, Murphy thinks there is more to do for female athletes. She is grateful the law paved the way for her and other female coaches.

“(Title IX) opened the door for me; it made it easier for me,” she said. “When I was in high school (at Lewiston), I was a majorette. I can’t remember having a girls basketball team. I think they had like an intramural type program, but I don’t remember there being a girls team.”


Longtime coach and Telstar athletic director Gail Wight was in high school when the ground-breaking Title IX was passed.


“I remember the differences when I was in school from when I was there to what it is now,” Wight said. 

Telstar High School Athletic Director Gail Wight in 2021. Contributed photo

Wight started seeing the introduction of girls sports to schools after the law was passed.

“It was just the whole thing of opening up for women playing sports,” she said. “It was kind of like it was almost taboo. To be a female athlete was kind of like you were different.” 

As an athletic director, Wight understands why the equality must continue to exist between boys and girls sports. She recalled when boys teams had two or three coaches while the girls squads had one.

“Our coaching stipends don’t matter if you are a male or female,” she said of equal pay in the school’s athletic department. 

Longtime Oxford Hills field hockey and softball coach Cindy Goddard looks at Title IX as something to fall back on when issues might arise.


“That’s why the field should be the same,” she said. “We should get the same amount of money. It is kind of like security because otherwise, probably, like in the past, we didn’t have a foot to stand on.

“The U.S. (women’s) soccer team is finally getting equal pay, and they get more fans. Why is that a conversation? Why doesn’t that just happen? That’s what I don’t get. I think we have come leaps and bounds. Thank God we have it.”

Oxford Hills softball coach Cindy Goddard, right, talks with senior Kiara McLeod on during the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers at the high school in March 2021. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Veteran Leavitt field hockey coach Wanda Ward-McLean said the times have changed in a positive way thanks to Title IX.

“I don’t think the kids nowadays realize what it was like before Title IX, and I think that sometimes that is disappointing because they have a lot of the same benefits that male athletes have now,” she said. “It wasn’t that way before.

“I think overall it has gotten much better. I would hate to see Title IX go away. It is still not where it needs to be. I think that not all schools interpret it the same way.”

The Leavitt field hockey team, including head coach Wanda Ward-MacLean, far left, celebrates winning the Class B state championship against Old Town on Nov. 6, 2021, in Augusta. Dustin Williamson photo

Murphy said she is grateful to Title IX for another reason.

“I love to see a lot of the girls play sports,” Murphy said. “There are good athletes out there.” 

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