Narrated by Sean Braswell
Explore history's interlocking lives and events. Turn back the clock, one story at a time. Discover how various strands are woven together to create a historic figure, a big idea or an unthinkable tragedy. From OZY Media. History. Unwound.SUBSCRIBE NOW
When Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women's World Cup Final, her iconic celebration marked the arrival of women’s soccer, both on the global sports stage and in the public imagination. With “The '99ers,” as the team is known, America had assembled a talented group of women and given them an unprecedented opportunity to succeed. But it was an opportunity that did not come easily…or happen overnight.
In the summer of 1985, the first U.S. women’s national soccer team made their debut in Italy. The ragtag group, cobbled together in less than a week and with a shoestring budget, little time to practice, and hand-me-down uniforms, struggled to keep up with their international competition. But their perseverance and their love of the game laid the groundwork for the winning team culture that fueled the championship teams of the 1990s.
More than 23 years before Brandi Chastain took off her jersey, the women of the Yale women's crew team were taking off more than theirs. In March 1976, 19 members of the Yale women's crew team stripped naked in a college athletic director’s office to protest the team’s lack of shower facilities and changed the way that female athletes are treated on college campuses.
After learning she had not been considered for any of teaching openings in her college department and that she came on “too strong for a woman,” Bernice “Bunny” Sandler went home and cried. Then she showed just how strong a woman she was. Sandler’s remarkable behind-the-scenes efforts proved instrumental to the passage of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in higher education.
The Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray was a pioneering civil rights attorney and a co-founder of the National Organization for Women who helped draw attention to the dual costs of racism and sexism and was instrumental to making sure that the push for women’s rights, including Title IX, built on the successes of the civil rights movement.
Thanks to Title IX and the trailblazing women behind it, the U.S. has now dominated women's soccer for almost three decades. The national team has won four Olympic gold medals, and now four World Cups. But, even in 2019, female athletes in America are far from equal to their male counterparts, and the members of the national team are not treated the same as their male peers – not even close. In this episode, we talk to everyone from historians to players, including current team members Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and others, about the national team's history-making role this year.