Think about women who are quintessential athletes in your mind. Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and other female sports stars are likely on your list. Until recently, however, women and girls were not encouraged to play sports or equipped to reach their true athletic potential.
In 1972, Title IX established equal access to any federally funded program, which included public school and professional sports. Though many strong and talented women had played sports beforehand, Title IX was the established law that officially criminalized the discrimination of women in sports. Before Title IX, 1 out of 27 women were participating in sports. Today the number has grown to 2 out of 5.
Another watershed moment for female athletes came soon after Title IX. Though women have been in sports for over 70 years, the equipment necessary for women to reach their full athletic potential was still absent. That was until 1977, when two women, Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith, took their own uncomfortable experiences playing sports and used them to think of a solution. They created the jockbra, which consisted of sewing two jockstraps together in order to support the movement of breasts during physical activity. In 2020, Lisa Lindahl, Polly Smith, and Smith’s assistant Hinda Miller were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
And while more girls and women participate in sports now more than ever before, we are still far from complete equality in athletics and sufficient sports equipment for female athletes.