Sarah Cahalan '14 | August 1, 2018
When the University of Notre Dame went coed in 1972, it did so on the crest of a wave that seemed poised to change everything for American women.
The Equal Rights Amendment had passed the U.S. Congress, leaving the nation just a ratification tour away from the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on sex. Ms. magazine had recently hit newsstands for the first time. On the airwaves, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” was the song of the summer (and a Billboard No. 1 hit) with its era-defining opening salvo: “I am woman, hear me roar.”
Feminists — a decreasingly dirty word — were on the cusp of achieving their goal: The freedom for all women to determine their own futures, whether that future entailed motherhood, education, a career or all of the above.
Nearly half a century later, things have unquestionably gotten even better — a shift exemplified at Notre Dame.
From the 325 women who entered that fall as freshmen or transfer students, the University has grown into a place where men and women perform on equal ground. In 2019, women were chosen to serve as student body president, valedictorian and salutatorian, and, for the first time, a woman earned a spot as one of the three leprechaun mascots. The most famous athletic persona on campus, one could argue, is Muffet McGraw, the women’s basketball coach who made her seventh national championship appearance earlier this year.
Yet as McGraw herself pointed out during a Final Four press conference this past April, the strides women have made do not yet mean equality.
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