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June 16, 2012

Leigh Saufley: When Saufley was in school, ‘girls’ sports were not big’

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

As the first female chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Leigh Saufley wears distinguished black robes in the courtroom – a far cry from the hideous “unitard” she recalls wearing for physical education as a girl in the South Portland school system.

click image to enlarge

Leigh Saufley, Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, talks about Title IX. Photo by Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

Photo by Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

TITLE XI VIGNETTES

Julia Pitney
Brush with bias shapes life of advocacy
Read her story

Joyce Wheeler
An early taste of inequities, then a chance to change them
Read her story

Lynn Welch
Once Title IX began, she saw fairness, respect
Read her story

Leigh Saufley
When Saufley was in school, ‘girls’ sports were not big’
Read her story

Dr. Dora Anne Mills
Sports in school became a lifetime passion
Read her story

Gary Fifield
USM was strong advocate of women’s programs, coach says
Read his story

Joanne P. McCallie
“Title IX gave me a sense of belonging”
Read her story

Emily Ellis
“I knew I could play with those guys’’
Read her story

Kristen (Briggs) Carmichael
Star athlete grateful for better scholarship opportunities
Read her story

Janet Judge
Opportunities fuel pride, and a desire to give back
Read her story

Coach William “Tige’’ Curran
As opportunities improved, so did the athletes
Read his story

Sarah (Marshall) Ryan
Reaping the benefits of ‘the people who came before me’
Read her story

“They were these one-piece gym suits intended to make you never want to do anything physical again in your life,” Saufley said. “They snapped up the front, and they didn’t fit anyone. Mostly we just huddled against the fence and waited for gym class to be over.”

Saufley graduated from South Portland High School a month before Title IX legislation became the law of the land. She grew up with two younger brothers who were encouraged to participate in all manner of sports, and to this day they continue to play basketball and golf.

“When I was in high school, girls’ sports were not big,” she said. “If you were an athlete and a girl, you were most likely part of the cheerleading squad. And that did not include me in any way.”

What Saufley could do better and faster than her brothers was read and process information. She remains a fast reader to this day. But when it comes to exercise, she has to push herself to stay active, whereas her brothers seamlessly incorporate physical fitness into their lifestyles.

Each brother has two daughters, and Saufley marvels at the athletic interests of her four nieces.

“They are encouraged to be involved with sports in a way we never were,” she said. “They are able to keep up with anything that the guys are doing, and the schools support them, the system supports them. I assume that Title IX has had a very positive effect in that arena."

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