The Virginia Journal Social Policy & the Law has published Prof. Doug Abrams’ latest article, “The Twelve-Year-Old Girl’s Lawsuit That Changed America: The Continuing Impact of NOW v. Little League Baseball, Inc. at 40.”
In 1972, Little League’s national office forced 12-year-old Maria Pepe off her Hoboken (NJ) team because “[g]irls are not eligible.” The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights sustained her gender discrimination claim in 1973, and the state courts upheld the administrative decision a year later. Rather than resist further, Little League enrolled girls beginning in 1975, and more than 10 million girls have played in the program since then (including the granddaughter of the Little League executive who testified as the lead witness against Pepe at the 1973 trial). Millions of other girls have played a variety of other sports with boys, particularly in the pre-teen years.
Prof. Abrams explains how national reaction to Maria Pepe’s insistence on gender equity helped sustain the evolution in gender roles that had accelerated since the Women’s Movement of the 1960s. Her landmark legal action also likely influenced the Supreme Court’s gradual movement toward intermediate scrutiny of gender discrimination claims; the 1975 federal regulations that assured Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 a prominent role in elementary, secondary and higher education; and children’s socialization concerning gender roles in our society.