Break Point

Two Minnesota Athletes and the Road to Title IX

2022
Author:

Sheri Brenden

How two teenage girls in Minnesota jump-started a revolution in high school athletics

Break Point tells the story of how two Minnesota teenagers took on the unequal system of high school athletics, setting a legal precedent for schools nationwide before the passage of Title IX. This scrupulously reported book is at heart the story of the girls whose pluck and determination—and heartache—led to a victory much greater than any high school championship.

This engaging and meticulously researched book gives readers insight into a crucial milestone in the history of women’s sports: a 1972 federal court decision that changed the lives of two Minnesota high-school girls and paved the way for future generations to fully participate in sports. Those two young women, Peg Brenden and Toni St. Pierre, believed they shouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines, and they challenged the naysayers and courageously fought for gender equity across the sports world. We are forever in their debt.

Mary Jo Kane, director emerita, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, University of Minnesota

Peggy Brenden, a senior, played tennis. Toni St. Pierre, a junior, was a cross country runner and skier. All these two talented teenagers wanted was a chance to compete on their high school sports teams. But in Minnesota in 1972 the only way on the field with the boys ran through a federal court—so that was where the girls went. Break Point tells the story, for the first time, of how two teenagers took on the unequal system of high school athletics, setting a legal precedent for schools nationwide before the passage of Title IX.

As Peggy’s younger sister, author Sheri Brenden is uniquely positioned to convey the human drama of the case, the stakes, and the consequences for two young women facing the legal machinery of the state, in court and in school. In an account that begins with Peggy painstakingly typing her appeal to the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union and concludes with a long view of what Brenden v. Independent School District 742 set in motion, Sheri Brenden summons the salient details of this landmark case as it makes its way through the courts. Peggy and Toni, coaches, administrators, and experts testify before Judge Miles Lord, whose decision, upheld in a precedent-setting appeal, would change these girls’ lives and open up athletic opportunities for innumerable others.

Grounded in newspaper coverage, court records, and interviews, Brenden’s deeply researched, scrupulously reported book is at heart the story of two talented teenage girls whose pluck and determination—and, often, heartache—led to a victory much greater than any high school championship.

Cover image description: White title on dark background; a column on the left displays two stacked photos: Peggy Brenden playing tennis and Toni St. Pierre running track.

Sheri Brenden is a former research librarian who worked for two of Minnesota’s largest law firms and, as a reporter, for the St. Cloud Daily Times. To support her writing of this book, her sister entrusted her with the now-fragile scrapbook she compiled of news articles, letters, and her light-hearted narrative How to Play High School Tennis—An Instructional Manual.

This engaging and meticulously researched book gives readers insight into a crucial milestone in the history of women’s sports: a 1972 federal court decision that changed the lives of two Minnesota high-school girls and paved the way for future generations to fully participate in sports. Those two young women, Peg Brenden and Toni St. Pierre, believed they shouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines, and they challenged the naysayers and courageously fought for gender equity across the sports world. We are forever in their debt.

Mary Jo Kane, director emerita, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, University of Minnesota

Wonderfully readable and engaging, Break Point brings Peggy Brenden and Toni St. Pierre to life, showing how personal Brenden v. ISD was. The court’s decision changed lives, and we should never forget the stories of the young women who had the courage to stand and fight for their opportunity to play high school sports.

Sarah K. Fields, author of Game Faces: Sport Celebrity and the Laws of Reputation

Contents

Prologue

1. The Letter

2. Kill ’em with Cool

3. Court Strategy

4. Taking the Stand

5. Educators and Experts

6. In Closing

7. Decision

8. Violation of the Fourteenth Amendment

9. Peggy’s Match

10. Toni’s Race

11. “The Courts Forced This on Us”

12. Stand Up

Acknowledgments

Notes

Further Reading

Purchase

About E-books

Available in December 2022