First Recipient of the Women Who Dared
Linda R. Moffitt, from Palmer, Alaska, was a journalism student and loved to play basketball. When Linda arrived at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), the women’s basketball program was at a club status with virtually no budget, limited gym time, and no intercollegiate schedule. The women raised funds by selling tickets and concessions at the men’s intercollegiate basketball games. The women scrounged up a game with whomever they could, including girls high school teams and men’s city league teams.
In 1973 Linda read a three-part series on Women in Sport published in the Sports Illustrated Magazine. Part 1 Women in Sport – SI May 28 1973 Part 2 Women in Sport – SI June 4 1973 Part 3 Women in Sport – SI June 11 1973 By the time she reached Part 3 she had found the address of the Civil Rights Office in Washington, DC to report discrimination. Unable to accept the status quo any longer, she wrote a one-page letter listing the inequities at the UAF Athletic Department. Linda Moffitt Letter to Office of Civil Rights The status quo in the Athletic Department discriminated against women’s basketball, skiing, rifle, pistol, swimming, and hockey in favor of men’s basketball. Civil Rights aricle Sept 28 1973
The Civil Rights procedure at the time allowed for Linda’s name to be anonymous. Linda not only waived this right but was upfront about her actions from the beginning by also writing the UAF Athletic Director informing him of her letter to the Office of Civil Rights. For a young women of 19 years old, this action speaks volumes of her personal integrity.
The Office of Civil Rights followed up with a letter to UAF, and regular monitoring for many years. In addition, Title IX had just become law in 1972. UAF was now under the national spotlight, which put their federal funding at risk. The attention from the federal government provided much-needed incentive for UAF to improve women’s athletic opportunities.
In 1972 UAF women’s basketball program had a budget of $800. By fall of 1973, after Linda’s letter, the women’s basketball budget had risen to $3,000. By 1974 the women’s budget jumped to $20,000 and some intercollegiate games were scheduled intermixed with high school and city league opponents. On November 22 and 23, 1974 the UAF women were victorious in back-to-back wins against University of Alaska, Anchorage in the first intercollegiate home games in the Patty Gym. November 22 1974 News Miner Article
In 1975 the first female coach, Diann Darnall, was hired part-time for the women’s basketball program. 1975-76, Linda Moffitt’s senior year, was also the first year the women were able to play an intercollegiate schedule both home and away. More practice time in the gym and uniform money became available. While the overall women’s program was still not equal, it made immediate strides thanks to Linda Moffitt’s 1973 letter.
Not only did Linda Moffitt’s letter kick-start the UAF intercollegiate women’s athletic program in Alaska, it also helped boost the University of Alaska, Anchorage intercollegiate women’s athletic program. Once the University of Alaska was offering scholarships to women, the Alaska high school girls’ sports programs also improved.
After sharing the story with Ellen Hannan (UAF Hall of Fame 2012 Inductee), Diann sought out information about Linda Moffitt. Linda was in Anchorage, Alaska.
On July 21, 2014 Diann had a phone conversation with Linda to thank her for having the courage to write and send the letter in 1973. It had been almost 40 years since they had spoken, however the bridge was easily gapped in an instant when Linda answered, “Hi, Coach.”
Perhaps the passing of years had put some perspective on an action taken over 40 years ago. After speaking to Linda, Diann felt that a simple phone conversation from one person was not sufficient for such a daring act that benefited so many women. Linda’s daring action certainly benefited UAF women, but also helped women’s programs at UAA, Alaska High Schools, and many colleges and universities in the Northwest.
Women’s history, not only in athletics, but also in many other areas where the barriers of equal opportunity had been challenged, was slipping under the radar. After some reflection, Diann came upon the idea to start a non-profit organization to recognize and honor daring actions taken by women. The organization would recognize women directly and have a page dedicated to them on a website to remember their stories.
Linda Moffitt is the first woman to receive the Women Who Dared Gratitude Certificate. She was to be presented this award in September 2014. Unfortunately, Linda passed away August 20, 2014 from cancer complications. Her Gratitude Certificate was presented to her family at her memorial on September 10, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska.
Thanks to the support of the current Athletic Director, Dr. Gary Gray, a plaque with Linda’s story will have a place of honor in the Hall of Honor at the UAF Patty Gym in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Below is the link to the Fairbanks Daily News Miner Articles about the Tribute.
April 27, 2018 Update
Another moment in history was marked today at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks All-Sports Awards Ceremony. The Linda Moffitt Leadership in Courage Award was awarded to cross country runner, Cheyenne Greenside by Vice Chancellor Keith Champagne at the Schaible Auditorium.
After his arrival on UAF’s campus four months ago, Dr. Champagne noticed the Women Who Dared plaque dedicated to Linda Moffitt near the gym at the Patty Center. After reading the letter which Linda wrote to the Office of Civil Rights in 1973, he reflected on the courage it must have taken for Linda to write that letter, which described the inequalities at the UAF athletic department. He felt that UAF should have an award in her honor, so that others will remember the courageous leadership Linda demonstrated by following her heart to “do the right thing.” Because of Dr. Champagne’s commitment to providing equal opportunity to all students, the Linda Moffitt Leadership in Courage Award was created for a female student-athlete whose actions have demonstrated leadership to promote social justice, equality, diversity, and equal opportunity for women. Nominated by women coaches, staff, and athletes. Selected by the UAF Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity.
At the presentation of the first Linda Moffitt Leadership in Courage Award, Dr. Champagne expressed his gratitude for Linda’s vision to make the situation better for others, for fighting for women athletes when campus administrators didn’t care, and for building a sturdy bridge for the future of women athletes.
As Dr. Champagne presented the award to Cheyenne Greenside, a senior majoring in Natural Resource Management from Ravensdale, Washington, he shared Cheyenne’s involvement on the UAF Title IX Committee. “Serving as a student athlete she has provided excellent insight from the student athlete perspective. She has been provocative and outspoken in the Committee and has added significantly value through her involvement. Cheyenne is a courageous leader.”
Women Who Dared is excited to share this good news, which is reflective of how one action by one person can have a positive rippling effect in future.
“Today’s (2/14/14) celebration of Linda and her teammates was wonderful. As a proud Lady Nanook, I thank them all!” Sue (Murphy) Stanton (UAF Alumnae 1986-1990)
“Linda Moffitt’s story is a great example of how one person, taking one action, can changed History. An epic moment in women’s history was so simple, so quiet, yet so brave, with lasting impact. Thank you Linda Moffitt! You made a positive difference.” Diann Darnall
If you have a comment about Linda Moffitt or her Tribute, please send us an email at [email protected]