DURHAM, N.C. – Rowing played a storied role in establishing equality for women in intercollegiate athletics. In 1976, nearly four years after the enactment of Title IX, legislation that was created, among larger objectives, to provide female student-athletes with equal athletic opportunities to their male counterparts, 19 female rowers from Yale University stood up to protest the deficiency in equipment, facilities and general inequality experienced by the women of the team.
It seems only appropriate then that Duke’s senior rower Grace Cassidy would participate in a summer program that works to create legislation that provides women with equal opportunities for employment in New York, N.Y. Through DukeEngage, Cassidy became involved in the Moxie Project, a program run by Ada Gregory, the director of Duke’s Women’s Center. The Newfairland, Conn. native and two other Duke students were placed in an organization known as Legal Momentum.
“The program includes a few attorneys and additional individuals with similar skillsets who attempt to change laws and legislation to help women in the future,” Cassidy said. “Particularly, I worked with a woman who heads the program called Equality Works. She tries to help women in jobs that aren’t traditionally for women.”
The results of the program go beyond simply providing women with a place of employment, Cassidy said. Through the program, Cassidy found that assisting women in finding jobs that are not traditionally held by a female, such as construction worker, provides a variety of ancillary gains.
“If women can be successful and stay in the ‘men’s fields’ for longer, they are much more financially independent and successful. There’s then a huge ripple effect with female empowerment and helping the kids that the mothers are raising. If women can have an opportunity to make as much money as men do, then it helps children be raised well.”
A number of factors influenced Cassidy’s interest in becoming involved in the Moxie Project. In addition to the influence of her women’s studies courses, Cassidy also entered Duke with a preconceived interest in the subject. Working with the program allowed Cassidy to personally observe the applicability of female activism in today’s society, as well as better understand how the knowledge she obtained through her women’s studies course could be utilized in the real world.
“The program just seemed like it was right up my alley. Looking at all of these feminist aspects and the whole program about how to advance women’s rights really interested me. This helped me see a way that I can work with women’s right in the real world. It allowed me to realize and understand how feminism works in the real world.”
Cassidy’s time with the program also provided an opportunity for the rower to experience the diversity of students that Duke has to offer. With time spent studying, attending classes, training, traveling and competing, the average student-athlete finds little time for a social circle outside of the team. Cassidy’s experience through DukeEngage afforded her the chance to meet and work alongside her peers from Duke University.
“The groups for DukeEngage are composed of people from so many different parts of Duke’s world, which helps me see so many different perspectives of Duke,” Cassidy said. “This summer really helped me understand that everyone at Duke lives a different life, so I think it’s cool to get so many different perspectives about Duke life in general.”
Cassidy’s involvement in the DukeEngage program provided her with a perspective that allows her to follow in the footsteps of her rowing predecessors, not only competing for her teammates and her school, but also fighting for the rights of women throughout the nation.
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