It’s been 50 years since the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law which passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. The landmark decision prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government. In recognition of the ongoing fight for equity in sports, we here at YWCA St. Paul are honoring Title IX and its importance on this National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb. 2nd).
Peg Brenden, one of our Health & Fitness Center members, helped pave the way for girls who wanted to play sports in school. Brenden fell in love with tennis when she was in fifth grade while on an outing with her older sister and her boyfriend. After hitting the ball just once, Brenden knew it was going to be a life-long affair.
Wanting to eventually participate at an interscholastic level, she tried to get a spot on the boys’ team at Tech High School in St. Cloud. Unfortunately, at the time, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) had a rule in place that didn’t allow girls to join boys’ sports. So, the summer leading into her senior year, she wrote a letter to the ACLU of Minnesota, hoping that they would help her fight for the right to compete.
That letter eventually led to Brenden winning a federal lawsuit against the school district with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, and she went on to become the first girl in the state to earn a varsity letter in a boys’ high school sport, reports the St. Cloud Times (Peg Brenden sues St. Cloud school district in 1972 (sctimes.com)) She ended her senior year with a record of 3 wins and 2 losses.
“My part in the lawsuit, my experience jumpstarted the fact that school administrations couldn’t respond to inclusion at a snail’s pace any longer. I lit a fire under what was happening in girls’ sports,” says Brenden.
Not long after that, on June 23rd, 1972, the U.S. Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendment Act, which prohibited sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
Brenden went on to play four years of tennis at Luther College as the team’s top player in both singles and doubles competitions. And her love for playing tennis turned into coaching tennis while studying law at the University of Minnesota. She still plays twice a week, with a mix of biking, walking, and swimming.
When asked why she’s a member of our Health & Fitness Center, Brenden says “YWCA St. Paul is a lovely neighborhood location with a great feel. You don’t have to show up in spandex, or the latest athletic wear to fit in.”
Speaking of making history, we wish all the Minnesota athletes heading to the 2022 Winter Olympics the best of luck!
Paula Moltzan – Alpine Skiing
Tabitha Peterson – Curling
Tara Peterson – Curling
Aileen Geving – Curling alternate
Jessie Diggins – Cross Country Skiing
Megan Bozek – Women’s Hockey
Hannah Brandt – Women’s Hockey
Dani Cameranesi – Women’s Hockey
Amanda Kessel – Women’s Hockey
Abbey Murphy – Women’s Hockey
Kelly Pannek – Women’s Hockey
Maddie Rooney – Women’s Hockey
Lee Stecklein – Women’s Hockey
Grace Zumwinkle – Women’s Hockey
Let’s go Team USA!
Photographs of Peg Brenden from Peg’s personal collection and used with permission