Wilma Rudolph, Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King: these iconic women athletes excelled in professional sports before 1972, when Title IX was passed into law, protecting people from being excluded from federal education programs on the basis of sex. Before Title IX, opportunities for women to play sports at school were limited. Since then, participation in sports has grown exponentially. Today there are several major women’s sports leagues in North America, including the Women’s National Basketball Association, the National Women’s Hockey League, and the National Women’s Soccer League.

Mia Hamm helped popularize soccer in the U.S. and inspired a new generation of athletes. Kamau, a student, speaks with Eric Jentsch, curator at our National Museum of American History, about Hamm's legacy.

Collection Objects

Historic photographs and objects reveal the stories of incredible women athletes in our collections. 

Conversation Kit

Let's Talk! Cindy Whitehead’s Skateboard Conversation Kit

Grades 6–12. Time: Variable (1–3 class periods). Aligned to CCSS and C3 standards.

In this lesson plan, students will learn how Cindy Whitehead, a skateboarding pioneer, changed the culture of skateboarding and fought for girls to have greater access to all sports. Students will examine the question: Why does gender equality in sports matter?