CLH: Portage County Historical Society

Mar 29, 2023 | News & Events

This month, we discussed the Portage County Historical Society’s 2023-2024 feature exhibit with Nancy Page, Shelly Johnson, and John Harry. We get a glimpse of the struggles and triumphs of female athletes throughout our county’s history. The exhibit, We Just Wanted to Play: The Story of Women’s Athletics in Portage County, also gives a special focus to the societal transformation brought on by Title IX legislation.

Below are some of the insights they shared.

  • Title IX was passed to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Despite being enacted in 1972, it took nearly two decades for change to happen in our local institutions. Nancy Page was part of a group that asked questions, advocated for women, and even threatened a lawsuit. We learned that laws aren’t enough by themselves and that people are vital to ensuring real change.
  • Women athletes at the time were classified as division 3 and, as a result, could not access scholarships. Funds raised from community donations were essential to supporting women’s athletics. Women AND men joined together to support these women athletes.
  • The exhibit will include fascinating pictures of athletic gear from our county’s past–whether it be the sports bra (controversial at the time) or uniforms that were not always suitable for playing a sport. Plus, gear was often passed down, meaning that clothes meant for one sport would be given to women in entirely different sports.
  • By the time Nancy retired, she had only encountered one female athlete of color in the community, one of her students. Women of color at the time were just starting to break through.

We invite you to keep the conversation going and take action with us:

Image: Women’s field hockey with Nancy Sheila in front

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