Book Recounts How a Teenage Girl from St. Cloud Broke Barriers
ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- Just over 50 years ago a girl from St. Cloud Tech High School filed a lawsuit that helped change the landscape for female athletes across the country.
Sheri Brenden's book "Break Point: Two Minnesota Athletes and the Road to Title IX" tells the story of her sister Peg Brenden and another high school girl from Hopkins Toni St. Pierre.
Back in 1971, Peg Brenden was a senior at Tech and a pretty good tennis player, but the school didn't have any girls' sports programs at the time. The school's athletic director and the boys' tennis coach both told her she couldn't join the team citing a rule by the Minnesota State High School League that forbids girls on boys' teams.
St. Pierre wanted to join the Hopkins cross-country running and skiing teams.
With the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, Brenden filed a lawsuit against District 742 and the State High School League. Eventually, Federal Judge Miles Lord ruled in favor of the two girls.
It took until the middle of the tennis season. She was able to play five matches on the team that year.
Sheri Brenden says the family treated the ruling very low-key with no public statements or news conferences, she just showed up for practice the next day. As for her new teammates, Brenden says they also didn't make a big deal of it.
The boys on the team were fine with Peg playing with them. They didn't show any particular resistance to having her on the team.
Peg Brenden ended up playing five varsity matches her senior year winning three of them and losing two. She was the #3 singles player for the Tigers and was often matched up against the #2 singles player for the opposing teams.
Brenden has the distinction of being the very first female letter winner in the history of St. Cloud Tech High School, but while the boys on the team received their letters during a public pep fest, she was handed hers quietly between classes.
While that decision involved just the two of them citing the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, during an appeal by the State High School League the appellate court connected it to a separate Title IX case that was heard later that year.
The higher court interpreted education to include high school athletics. It said that if you have athletic programs for boys, you need to have the same kinds of opportunities for girls.
While Brenden was the first and only female athlete at St. Cloud Tech High School in the spring of 1972, by the very next school year the school was already offering a handful of sports programs for girls.
Peg Brenden is now a member of the St. Cloud Tech High School Hall of Fame.
Both Sheri and Peg Brenden will be in St. Cloud on Thursday, September 28th talking about the landmark case and the book. They'll be at St. Cloud City Hall - the former Tech High School - at 5:00 p.m. YOu are asked to register ahead of time.