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Nonfiction, history in particular, gives us a deeper understanding of the foundation upon which our experiences are built. Such is the case with Karen Blumenthal’s 2005, LET ME PLAY.
I finished this book a week ago but it has seeped so deeply into my consciousness that I continue to bring it up whenever possible. While the focus of the book is Title IX and its effects on sports programs for girls and women, it is much, much more. It is a book about how policy and politics matter to all of us.
The book, appropriate for grades five and up, begins with an easy-to-read survey of the early fight for women’s right from Seneca Falls in 1848, to Women’s Suffrage, to a quick summary of the 1930’s and 1940’s, to the effect of war on women and work. This quick historic review sets the stage for the 1963 Equal Pay Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Blumenthal concentrates on Representative Edith Green and Representative Patsy Mink who worked tirelessly drafting, honing, and defending equal educational opportunities for women throughout their long tenures in the US Congress. The original intent of the Education Amendments of 1972 was not to equal the playing fields but the classrooms—educational programs for schools receiving federal money including admissions, scholarships, and teaching salaries. The opening of physical education and athletic programs was an unexpected bonus for all the girls and women who had been turned away from little league, track meets, swimming pools, and more.
LET ME PLAY highlights key political and sports players in sidebars called “Player Profiles.” In “Instant Replays,” we learn about key historical events. Throughout the book “Scorecards,” show statistics comparing the numbers of male and female participants in sports, admissions to undergrad, and admissions to select graduate programs. These statistics show the consistent progress of women in athletics and education. While these “Scorecards” are understated, they are inspiring and empowering to the reader.
There are many current female athletes, girls and women alike, who are ignorant about the fight that got us the freedoms we enjoy today. These athletes might not remember a world where the adults or men in women’s and girl’s lives wouldn’t let them play soccer, basketball, softball, rugby, or field hockey—a day when being feminine and fertile was more important than a woman’s talents and dreams. Those days were not so long ago, and many of the issues from the 1960’s, The Equal Pay Act, are still being challenged and fought in 2014. LET ME PLAY is the book that reminds those who may have forgotten, and teaches those who never knew, that we owe our freedoms to women and men who came before us.