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50 years after Title IX: Meet Minnesota's trailblazers in women in sports

Minnesota was already ahead of the curve on girls sports participation, but Title IX led to the state's first sanctioned state tournaments for girls.

Randy Shaver

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Published: 10:16 PM CDT May 2, 2022
Updated: 7:37 PM CDT May 6, 2022

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, federal legislation passed in June of 1972 which, among other things, required sports opportunities for girls be equal with the boys.

Some of those first "trailblazers" from the 1970s are now close to 70 years old.

Minnesota was already ahead of the curve on girls sports participation: There was organized girls swimming up on the Iron Range starting in the 1920s, and girls basketball in Minnesota dates back to the late 1800s. But there were no sanctioned state tournaments for girls until 1972, when Title IX changed everything.

Dorothy McIntyre is regarded as the matriarch of girls sports in Minnesota. Hired by the State High School League in 1970, it was her job to drive the bus for girls sports.

"When we sat down in 1969, in some places we weren't always welcome, but we stayed until they understood we are welcome," McIntyre said.

Lots of meetings, conversations and convincing resulted in the adoption of the girls athletic bylaws by the Minnesota State High School League in 1969. And when Title IX followed in 1972, it was full steam ahead for girls sports.

Change was slow; too slow for Glencoe girls basketball coach Janet Willand, who started the Eagles' program from scratch in the 1960s. She remembers wanting to take her team to the metro for a scrimmage.

"'I need somebody to drive the bus. Oh, you can't go,'" Willand recalls behind told. "I said, 'All the boys go every Saturday. Why can't I go?' 'Well, you just can't go get yourself a bus driver's license.' 'Oh, really, Jerry? That's what I need.' Took me two weeks."

Jerry Style was at the other end of that conversation; he was the Glencoe Athletic Director, and Janet's good friend.

"That was the end of it. Took the bus anytime I wanted to," Willand said.

"You know, it upset the boys. Yeah. Of course, we were stepping in their territory," said Susan Alstrom, a star athlete for International Falls High School in the early 1970s. She won the first-ever gold medal in a sanctioned girls state championship of any kind in Minnesota: state track in 1972.

"It changed my life entirely," Alstrom said. "Well, I was thinking about going pre-med. And after that, I'm like, you know, I've got to do something where as many girls can get this opportunity as possible. So I kind of changed my whole major and my whole focus in life."

She certainly did, Susan recently retired from a 34-year girls coaching career at Buffalo Lake-Hector High School.

When sanctioned girls sports became a reality, so did the idea of competition.

"I think that was particularly important for me as a girl to learn how to compete because there was a part of me that thought it wasn't a polite, you know, that that's not you know, that's not civilized. That's not how girls and women are supposed to be in our society," said Maragret Chutich.

It was a lot to take in, but girls like Chutich from Anoka, who won state tennis in 1975, found that eye of the Tiger. She later turned her athletic focus into a law degree, and is now a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Back to Glencoe, and Janet Willand's team, they won the first-ever girls fall state basketball championship in 1974.

Sue Bautch played for Janet at Glencoe and remembers the feeling. 

"The community really backed us for being girls, you know, athletics," Bautch said. "And so we were just, I mean, I was just experiencing."

"We knew that our young women had the abilities and the interest and they would get better given a chance," McIntyre said. 

Read below for the stories of these trailblazing women in Minnesota sports:

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