Persistence paid off, whether for a group of girls wanting equal treatment on the baseball field or for a sports enthusiast and journalist wanting to chronicle the history of women’s sports in public schools.

Karen Blumenthal, the senior editor of the Wall Street Journal’s Journal Reports, spoke to junior high and high school classes in Lindsay Wednesday about her career as an author.

Blumenthal, a former Dallas bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, signed copies and discussed the work she did on compiling research for her most recent book, “Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America.” But her most important challenge, she said, was making the content both informative and entertaining.

“I always thought that stories should have a little humor — to break things up, rather than have it be terribly boring,” Blumenthal said.

With the aid of a computer slide show presentation, she showed pictures of women involved in the women’s rights movement and occasionally showed photos of her dog, Jefferson, for comic relief. One photo was of Jefferson swimming, which she said reminded her of the value of persistence.

A native of Dallas, Blumenthal said when she was a child there were few opportunities for girls who wished to play sports. Those who wanted to play had to be persistent in lobbying school administration to provide a women’s team or to let the girls play with the boys (which was indeed rare).

“In the time I was a teen-ager, I remember that schools had quotas ... that there were not nearly as many sports opportunities,” she said.

The 1972 Title IX law affected schools from the biggest cities to even Lindsay, Texas:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Those 37 words, effective as they were, did not receive the same amount of press coverage as the controversial Equal Rights Amendment, which passed both houses of Congress in 1972 but was not ratified by enough states during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Finding information on Title IX was a challenge, she said, leading her on a quest for information and even an interview with former Reagan administration defense secretary Caspar Weinberger.

“Apparently, he was in favor of the law, as conservative as he was,” she said. “He wasn’t the sports type when he was in school.”

One of the framers of Title IX, the late Edith Green, was somewhat of an enigmatic figure. Former U.S. Rep. Patsy T. Mink is usually attributed as the author of Title IX.

“They had completely forgotten about Edith Green, obviously,” Blumenthal said, of the Congressional sources she consulted.

The quest for information on Green’s life was made into a lesson for the Lindsay students. Blumenthal asked how the students would go about finding information on Green’s life.

Most students who answered seemed very aware that Internet information can be deceiving, such as open source “wiki” sites such as Wikipedia where information can be altered by anyone.

Periodicals (such as magazines, newspapers, etc.) did not chronicle much of Green’s work, and the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature did not list Title IX as a subject heading until well into the 1980s.

Blumenthal encouraged students to consult their librarian, as well as the school library’s Web site, which links to various search engines and archives.

Blumenthal said personal interviews were her best source of information. Green had divorced, though Blumenthal found a child of hers to interview.

The result of the interviews, she said, was a “missing piece of the puzzle” for her book on Title IX.

Later in her presentation, Blumenthal discussed other notable women’s sports celebrities, including Billie Jean King, a tennis player from the 1970s, golfer Michelle Wie, WNBA basketball player Lisa Leslie and soccer star Mia Hamm.

Hamm, Blumenthal said, was difficult to get on the phone.

“Turns out, Mia Hamm doesn’t like to be interviewed,” she said.

When Blumenthal did get her on the phone, Hamm was in the mountains around Asheville, N.C., and was cut-off.

“Persistence paid off,” Blumenthal said, and she got her interview.

Blumenthal also discussed the importance of verifying sources when writing and in attributing one’s own information in footnotes and bibliographies to assist other researchers.

In addition to “Let Me Play,” Blumenthal also authored “Six Days In October,” another book aimed at young adults which discusses the stock market crash of 1929. It was named a Sibert Honor Book in 2003.

She lives in Dallas with her husband and two children, and she plans to leave Journal Reports soon to pursue other literary interests.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]ntin.net

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