Mawson's Mission

Launching Women's Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Kansas

Lora Marlene Mawson

Before 1968, women’s athletics in higher education meant playdays and sports days. That spring, when the Division of Girls and Women in Sports announced that national collegiate sports championships for women would begin in 1969, Marlene Mawson, a new hire on the physical education faculty at the University of Kansas, was charged with establishing a women’s athletics program. “I was on my own,” Mawson recalls, “because there was no precedent for creating a women’s athletics program with a meager budget.” That meant planning sports competition schedules, staffing coaches, organizing policies and procedures for coaches and athletes, coordinating practice schedules, budgeting, and directing the new KU intercollegiate sports program for women without intervention or guidance. In their first decade, KU women’s teams competed in national championships in volleyball, basketball, softball, and gymnastics.

In this book, Mawson, who was inducted into the KU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009, describes her remarkable career, from her early years in Missouri to her retirement. With behind-the-scenes views and insights that reflect a lifetime’s experience, her memoir weaves together the history of the development of women’s athletics at the University of Kansas and the story of the birth of womens intercollegiate athletics across the United States—from the Olympic Development Committee to Title IX to the NCAA. It is an engaging account of groundbreaking personal achievement by a woman in the world of college sports, and a stirring record of an extraordinary but little-documented decade in the evolution of women’s athletics.

“Dr. Mawson’s book is required reading for Kansas Jayhawks. Before Title IX, many coaches built women’s sports programs on a shoestring budget and little recognition. However, their work built the framework for the growth of women’s athletics after the passage of Title IX. Dr. Mawson was a national leader of those determined coaches. Her book documents those years, and I highly recommend it.”

—Kala M. Stroup, PhD, emerita dean and former university president, University of Kansas

“I have long admired Marlene Mawson for the role she played, as the first director of KU women’s athletics, in bringing women’s intercollegiate sports to the university in the 1960s and 1970s. Much is known about the importance of Title IX to women in higher education, including athletics, but little has been written about the status of women’s sports before Title IX was enacted in 1972. For this reason, Mawson’s Mission: Launching Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Kansas is must-reading not only for KU fans but also for those interested in understanding women’s lives in a changing world.”

—Bill Tuttle, author of Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 and “Daddy’s Gone to War”: The Second World War in the Lives of America’s Children

About the Author

At KU between 1968 and 1990, Marlene Mawson was coordinator of the undergraduate and graduate programs and assistant chair in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. She is professor emerita and was chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at Illinois State University from 1990 to 2000.