Notre Dame Officially Includes Women in Fight Song

The announcement was made at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic university admitting undergraduate women.
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  • Notre Dame began admitting undergraduate women in 1972, the same year Title IX became law.
  • The lyrics of the school's fight song will now include women in the chorus.
  • The university will also honor women by redesigning its Main Circle in the coming months.

For years, some Notre Dame students have included women in the lyrics when singing the chorus to "Notre Dame Victory March," the school's cherished fight song.

Now, as the Catholic university celebrates the 50th anniversary of admitting undergraduate women, it's making the inclusive lyric official.

Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, made the announcement at a June 2 gala celebration of the anniversary. It was followed by the first public performance with the new lyrics.

The original song lyrics read:

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame.
Wake up the echoes cheering her name.
Send a volley cheer on high.
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small,
Old Notre Dame will win over all.
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory.

Now, "Notre Dame Victory March" will include the following lyrics:

While her loyal sons and daughters
March on to victory.

While the announcement came with much fanfare — during the gala, the school also announced it will honor women by redesigning its Main Circle in the coming months — some Notre Dame students had adopted the inclusive lyrics years ago.

Notre Dame alum Grace McDermott reported in sports blog Deadspin that during her undergraduate years from 2017-2021, the "daughters" version of the song was sung "loud and proud."

McDermott reported that the earliest recorded suggestion of changes to the song came in 1976 — four years after the school admitted its first women undergraduates. In a letter to the school newspaper, a woman student wrote: "Is it too much to rewrite a simple but very traditional fight song and admit that women are here to stay, or would this be the straw that broke the alumnus' back?"

Some members of the Notre Dame community who have been singing the inclusive lyrics for decades also celebrated on Twitter in the comments of the university's Tweet announcing the change.

Notre Dame began admitting undergraduate women in 1972, the same year Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program, became law.

"The success Notre Dame enjoys has been shaped by the extraordinary leadership and contributions of the women who have been and are a part of the Notre Dame community — beginning with the four Holy Cross sisters who arrived in the Indiana wilderness in 1843, to those who lead, teach, learn, minister and work here today," Jenkins said in a statement celebrating the anniversary.

"Notre Dame Victory March" first debuted on campus on Dec. 1, 1908, and by 1918, the school's band was performing the tune at athletics events, according to the university.

"It's probably the most recognized and performed of collegiate songs. Its inspirational rhythm and tempo create an energy that encourages fans to clap along and enjoy the music," Kenneth Dye, director of bands and professor of music at Notre Dame, said in a statement.

William Studwell ranked "Notre Dame Victory March" as the No. 1 fight song in his 1990 book "College Fight Songs: An Annotated Anthology." The song has been borrowed by high school teams throughout the country, some Canadian schools, and the Sydney Swans Australian Football League team.