Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Margaret Dunkle
MSA SC 3520-15858


Margaret Dunkle has served as a vocal and effective leader for equal opportunity for women throughout her life. She was one of the main forces behind the implementation of Title IX, and has since worked in a variety of ways to help women and girls achieve their goals.  

Margaret Claire Dunkle is a native Marylander, and the daughter of Maurice and Hannah Dunkle.1,2  After recieving her B.A. from Syracuse University in 1969, Dunkle took a position as a research assitant at Tufts University and a research associate at Bio-Dynamics Inc.3  From 1972 to 1977, she served as the associate director of the Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges.  From 1977 to 1979, Dunkle was the special assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.4   It was in these positions that she would take on her role as advocate for Title IX.

Title IX, part of the Education Amendements of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act, says that "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..."   While the law applies to all aspects of education, it is most well-known in association with intercollegiate athletics because, as Dunkle says, "Sports just happens to be the most emotional area."5  In the 1974 landmark report "What Constitutes Equality for Women in Sports? Federal Law Puts Women in the Running,"  Dunkle described the state of women's sports and how it could be improved. She identified the great disparities between the amount of attention and money spent on men's sports versus that spent on women’s sports. One large midwestern university “spent more than $2,600,000 on men's intercollegiate athletics, but no money whatsoever, on women's intercollegiate athletics." 6  At an elite eastern college, "The women's swim team had to practice after dinner on week nights because the college allocated the more desirable times to the men's swim team."7  Dunkle’s report offered the first written documentation of such discrimination. Dunkle was also the author of "Competitive Athletics: In Search of Equal Opportunity," an informational guide which would be used by colleges to address inequities and to work toward compliance with Title IX.

Many people were unreceptive to Title IX.  One major impediment, Dunkle noted, was the widespread acceptance of the traditional role of women and the supposed contradiction of that role in sports.  Sports encouraged "achievement, self-confidence, aggressiveness, leadership, strength, swiftness,"8 none of which corresponded with the accepted female role of wife and mother. “Myths die slowly,” Dunkle said.9  Dunkle was particularly concerned that women, out of either apathy or fear, might settle for less than they deserve. She said, "The inequities have been so great, women have gotten so little in the past, that many women will fear a backlash from the men if they push too hard. Once they [women] get crumbs, they'll feel like they're gorging themselves."10  Dunkle wanted women to feel that equal opportunity was justified.
Another impediment was that the attitude among athletic directors continued to be that if women's sports were going to start using university money, then their competitions should raise enough revenue to ensure that men's sports could continue. Dunkle pointed out the duplicity in this: “It takes a while to get rid of double standards."11  In 1981, when U.S. District Judge Charles W. Joiner ruled "that federal laws against sex discrimination do not apply to interscholastic and intercollegiate sports programs that do not receive direct federal aid,"12  Dunkle argued against the ruling: "This decision has to be appealed, not just from a legal point of view but from a practical point of view. There are thousands of people in this country who do not want to see the clock turned back on athletic opportunities for their daughters."13  When Dunkle delivered the keynote address at a convention of the Intercollegiate Association for Women Students, she focused on the issue of the difference in treatment between genders in education: "Differential treatment of men and women exists in almost every segment and aspect of our society. Perhaps the most damaging is when it appears in and is transmitted by the educational institutions which are supposed to provide all citizens with the tools to live in a democracy."14

Despite these obstacles, in the years after the passage of Title IX, progress was made in moving toward equity in women's athletics in colleges and universities.  At the University of California, Los Angeles, the budget for women's sports increased from $190,000 to $260,000 in 1976.  At the University of Oklahoma, women's sports, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Women's Recreation Association, were moved into the university's official department of athletics. However, Dunkle was not content. Her vision now extended beyond college. "So far there has been [Title IX] activity at the college level. The question of sex discrimination has been long recognized there as an issue. It's just starting at the elementary and secondary level."15

Margaret Dunkle did not confine her work for the rights of women and girls to her advocacy for Title IX. She founded the non-profit Equality Center where she pursued legislative work with Congress on issues concerning women and girls.  Dunkle also started the Interagency Committee on Teen Pregancy, which dealt with teenage pregnancy and the support that teenage mothers and their children receive.16  In some cases, Dunkle says, the roots of teenage pregnancy can be traced back to the schools: "Teachers and administrators are well-meaning; they want to help students. But most of them don't realize that when they give the message to young girls that the only role or their major role is to be a wife and mother, they are encouraging teen-age pregnancy." 17  Once their students are pregnant, the schools are inadequately equipped to deal with them. "Few schools have clear policies about how to treat pregnant and parenting students," Dunkle said. Add to this the idea that many teachers "think pregnant or parenting students are morally or intellectually inferior," 18 and the 1989 report  that over 40,000 students drop out of school each year because of pregnancy is understandable.19   The solution to this problem will not be easy. Dunkle said, "The problems cross disciplinary lines. Any efforts to solve them must do the same thing...We must reweave the safety net that so many now fall through."20

In 1992, Dunkle was selected to be the Director of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) Policy Exchange, which works with private and public institutions to set in place programs and policies which wiill help youth and children become successful adults.  Currently, she is a Senior Research Scientist at George Washington University in the Department of Health Policy as well as the Director of the Early Identification and Intervention Collaborative for Los Angles County.21  Serving in this capacity has enabled Dunkle to try to address a controversial issue--vaccines for children.  As the relative of someone who was injured by vaccines, Dunkle is working to educate parents and encourage more research and study in the field.22

Margaret Dunkle’s advocacy for equality for women in education and support for young women has had a positive effect on the lives of women across the United States. Title IX's role in the lives of young women has been of immense significance, as was Margaret Dunkle's role in promoting it.


1. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Package. Return to text.
2. Dunkle, Margaret.  Papers, 1957-1993: A Finding Aid.  Acessed 3 July 2012. Return to text.
3. Ibid. Return to text.
4. Ibid. Return to text.
5. "Michigan Congressmen Are Split Over Sex Discrimination Issue," Ironwood Daily Globe, 18 July 1975. Return to text.
6. "What Constitutes Equality for Women in Sport?  Federal Law Puts Women in the Running," Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges, April 1974. Return to text.
7. Ibid. Return to text.
8. "Report denies myths of women in sports," Scottsdale Daily Progress, 23 July 1977. Return to text.
9. "Foe of Men's Myth Braces for Battle," New York Times, 14 July 1974. Return to text.
10. Ibid. Return to text.
11. Ibid. Return to text.
12. "Women's Groups Contend Title IX Ruling As 'Wrong'," The Washington Post, 27 February 1981. Return to text.
13. Ibid. Return to text.
14. "Title IX is tool against sex bias," The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 March 1975. Return to text.
15. "Girls on the Athletic Field: Small Gains, Long Way to the Goal," The New York Times, 12 January 1976. Return to text.
16. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Package. Return to text.
17. "Schools 'encourage' teen pregnancies," The Capital, 23 November 1984. Return to text.
18. "Not easy at all," USA Weekend, 9-11 June 1989. Return to text.
19. "Teen-age mothers find schools not very friendly," Kokomo Tribune, 14 May 1989. Return to text.
20. "Help sought for teenage mothers," The Baltimore Sun, 21 November 1984. Return to text.
21. 2012 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Nomination Package. Return to text.
22. Ibid. Return to text.

Biography written by 2012 summer intern Anne Powell.

Return to Margaret Dunkle's Introductory Page

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