Jogbra developers say invention promotes women's empowerment

Published: Jan. 22, 2020 at 8:08 AM EST
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The Jogbra was the 1977 brainchild of Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller and Polly Smith. The three Vermont women recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame say their invention is supporting more than just women's health, it has promoted female empowerment.

Two jockstraps sewn together were the first attempt at what we now call the sports bra.

"We lived it. We were running, so we were actually living it," Miller said.

Living in a world where it could be challenging to workout in a woman's body, they got creative.

"Every woman, no matter what their age, size or shape is entitled to the benefits of exercise and fitness," said Miller.

Miller says that was the company's original vision in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But she says the athletic piece of equipment is supporting more than just women's health, it has promoted female empowerment.

"If we don't speak up, then we don't do well by the younger generation. We have, in all industries, shown that when we participate, that we're very smart, that we can get the sales, we can manage people. So, we're able to go into the world and ask people what we don't know, and that's a very important trait," said Miller.

Tiffany Bluemle is director of Change the Story, a local organization working to fast track women's economic well-being globally. She says the Jogbra was about speaking up about the ongoing fight for equal rights.

"It has enabled women a kind of physical freedom that is, I think, symbolic of freedom in general. The ability to make choices for yourself about what you want to do with your body," she said.

"Any time we can have these advances that help different bodies adapt to what people want to do, whether it's better fitting firefighter uniforms so that smaller people can become firefighters, or sports bras so that people can run longer without discomfort, that's progress for us," said Aly Johnson-Kurts with Change the Story.

Bluemle and Kurts helped the Burlington High School Girls Soccer Team make a statement last October. The message was equal pay and the inspiration was the World Cup-winning U.S. Women's Soccer Team putting a spotlight on the gender wage gap.

Bluemle and Kurts say many famous female athletes have used their platforms to advance change because sports are conducive to creating that conversation.

"These have been pioneers, these women, and they have, you know, their fight has not been an individual one. It has been on behalf of women," said Bluemle.

And they say none of it would be possible without one critical invention.

"It's kind of like a dream. I feel like we were chosen," said Miller.

Change the Story is hosting a roller derby event on Saturday, February 1 at the Champlain Valley Expo called the #EqualPay Game.