When Title IX was enacted on June 23, 1972, the federal law changed athletic life for American women, as TIME explained in a 1978 cover story about women and sports:
Only a tiny minority of girls appear to want to play contact sports against boys. But there is no doubt that the girls want and indeed are insisting upon a fair chance to develop their athletic abilities. Their cause is being substantially helped, albeit unevenly so far, by a section of the Education Amendments Act passed by Congress in 1972: the passage known as Title IX. In essence, Title IX forbids sex discrimination in any educational institution receiving federal funds. The prohibition applies on the athletic fields as well as in classrooms.
Of course, there were plenty of great female athletes before Title IX—and its passage didn't mean that women stopped breaking new ground. Those who wanted to play found a way, despite limited options and sometimes-violent opposition. Here are just a few of those pioneering women.
Read the full 1978 story here, in the TIME Vault: Comes the Revolution