THE BRA THAT CHANGED THE WORLD… The 1970s saw women coming into their own, working hard to create new roles at home and in sports, culture, politics, and business. It was also the start of the “fitness revolution.” At this unique intersection of feminism and athleticism, Lisa Lindahl’s game-changing entrepreneurial journey began.
She invented the first sports bra, the “Jogbra,” in 1977. It was the right product at the right time, throwing Lisa into a high-stakes world of business and power—a world for which she was not fully prepared. Unleash the Girls is the improbable story of a young artist with a disability who used her powers of creativity to solve a vexing problem and ended up leveling the playing field for girls and women across the globe—literally, unleashing the girls.
Her invention would become a feminist icon and the company she founded would change an industry. But amid the success, Lisa continued to search for meaning and the true nature of power and beauty. This is the untold story of the invention of the sports bra and how it changed the world for girls and women...and, along the way, changed Lisa, too.
Lisa Z. Lindahl is an artist, inventor, women’s health advocate and shamanic practitioner. In 2022 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for inventing the sports bra in 1977, revolutionizing athletic participation for women and girls. She has a BS in Education from the University of Vermont and a Master’s of Arts in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University in California. She splits her time between Charleston, South Carolina and Colchester, Vermont.
Today, June 23, 2022 is the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. You may ask: "So what? What is it?" Title IX is the most commonly used name for the federal CIVIL RIGHTS LAW in the US that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It is important because it prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.
Yet today, 50 years later, girls and women still struggle with and in their pursuit of athleticism. Discrimination and discouragement are still too prevalent.
Unleash the Girls
The deeper irony is that for me to start running at all was completely out of character, Mom’s “encouragement” notwithstanding. While I remember enjoying recess and dodge ball in elementary grades, by middle school at the girls’ academy I attended I was self-conscious and uncomfortable in gym classes. A 2019 study shows many girls still feel awkward in gym class, but back in the early ’60s, all I knew was that my best friend Polly and I definitely were. We hated those locker room moments! There were those “jock” girls who relished gym and understood the rules of field hockey and were eager to get out on the tennis courts. They intimidated me. It seemed to me I was somehow less for not “getting” the whole sporty thing and for being so self-conscious.