UW-Madison’s first director of girls’s athletics turns 80 right now.
A outstanding story about ladies’ highschool sports activities in Teaneck, New Jersey was revealed in the New York Times on Sept. 23, two days earlier than the eightieth birthday of a Madison lady who got here out of Teaneck and helped modified the panorama of girls’s athletics in the USA.
The Occasions’ story particulars how, in 1972, a Teaneck Excessive Faculty sophomore named Abbe Seldin, a gifted tennis participant, needed to check out for the boys’ workforce as a result of Teaneck had no ladies’ tennis workforce.
Seldin was not allowed to check out.
Her mom, by the ACLU, employed a lawyer who filed a lawsuit in opposition to faculty officers and state businesses in New Jersey. The lawyer was a younger Rutgers College regulation professor and ACLU volunteer named Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Immediately, in Madison, Equipment Saunders-Nordeen turned 80 years previous. She is ailing with Alzheimer’s and dwelling Oakwood Village, a Madison retirement neighborhood. A member of the family was planning to deliver cupcakes and decorations to Oakwood to mark the event.
I’ve been engaged on a e book about Equipment, who in 1974 turned the primary director of girls’s athletics at UW-Madison.
The Occasions’ story about Abbe Seldin and Ruth Bader Ginsburg resonated with me as a result of Equipment grew up in Teaneck, additionally desperately eager to play sports activities. There was nearly no alternative.
Equipment graduated from Teaneck Excessive Faculty in 1958 – a number of years earlier than Seldin attended. The college’s yearbook, The Hello-Manner, described the 12 months in ladies’ sports activities with this: “There have been quite a few inter-school play days.”
Teaneck did have a ladies’ discipline hockey workforce, and on “sports activities days” participated with different faculties – although they combined gamers from totally different faculties collectively to fill out workforce rosters.
In an interview, Equipment mentioned, “I keep in mind in highschool being so upset after we practiced to seek out out we needed to break up our workforce as a result of we weren’t alleged to have that aggressive faculty spirit.”
Equipment got here to UW-Madison in 1964 to check for a grasp’s diploma. She ultimately earned a doctorate. I wrote earlier this 12 months about the numerous women at UW-Madison within the Sixties who went on to distinguished careers in athletics administration, together with Judith Candy, the primary feminine president of the NCAA.
Equipment’s personal profession included being named UW-Madison’s first director of girls’s athletics in 1974 and constructing, with the assistance of colleagues equivalent to Paula Bonner and Tamara Flarup, a first-rate program. Equipment was additionally nationwide vice-president of the Affiliation for Intercollegiate Athletics for Ladies – the preeminent girls’s school sports activities group within the Nineteen Seventies.
Many individuals wrongly assume that with the passage of Title IX laws in 1972, girls’s athletics attained equal footing on school campuses. It didn’t. There have been courtroom challenges and male directors by turns obstinate and dismissive.
When Equipment retired in 1990 – the identical 12 months the Badgers’ girls volleyball workforce packed the Fieldhouse for a match – some have been stunned. She was younger, simply 50. However as her highly-successful observe and cross-country coach, Peter Tegen, advised me lately, “She fought some battles.”
Equipment needed to spend time along with her new husband, Dale “Buzz” Nordeen, who was her largest fan and approached me about doing the e book. Buzz died last year. I so want he’d lived to see the e book revealed, however he did benefit from the chapters I shared.
The Sept. 23 Occasions story famous that Ginsburg’s lawsuit on behalf of the younger tennis participant Abbe Seldin was dropped “after the state reversed course and agreed to permit ladies to check out for the boys’ groups.”
Seldin was injured throughout observe, so she didn’t play for Teaneck. However in response to the Occasions, she turned the primary lady to obtain an athletic scholarship at Syracuse College.
Seldin additionally, for the remainder of her life, was in a position so as to add a singular kicker line to any dialogue of Supreme Court docket Justice and cultural phenomenon Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Hey, she was my lawyer.”
In 2009, Teaneck Excessive Faculty established an Athletic Corridor of Fame. Equipment Saunders-Nordeen isn’t in it. How may she be? She was not allowed to play.
However Teaneck Excessive additionally has an exhibit highlighting distinguished alumni of that college. In 2018, a plaque honoring Equipment was added. The textual content cites her management function in advancing alternatives in athletics for women and girls.
Doug Moe is a Madison author. Learn his month-to-month column, Particular person of Curiosity, in Madison Journal.
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