Thanks, Ted.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 08/26/09 •  2 min read

I’m talking about Ted Kennedy, who died last night from brain cancer at the age of 77.

I’m sure you’ll hear everything you need to know about this distinguished senator from the news media. But I wanted to pay special tribute to Kennedy here for two important reasons:

First, Kennedy was instrumental in the passage of Title IX of the Education Enactments of 1972. Even though Title IX was not initially about athletics, it did a huge amount in establishing gender equality in sports budgets and competitions. Before the law passed in 1972, girls made up only 7 percent of high school sports participants. Now, more than 40 percent of high school athletes are female, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

And second, Kennedy also sponsored the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, which guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year following the birth or adoption of a child, or as result of a serious illness in the immediate family. This made it possible for many women (and men, too!) to address serious family concerns without fear of losing their jobs.

Today, many of us take these pieces of legislation for granted. But these were truly groundbreaking when they were enacted, and have done much to change the way we live our lives.

Kennedy wasn’t perfect, and in the coming days I’m sure we’ll all be subjected to the same sort of canonization we witnessed with the death of Michael Jackson. But he did do an incredible amount of good, and for that, we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

So I’ll say it again, for millions of American women: Thanks, Ted. May you rest in peace.