Girls have always played sports, from all-girls baseball teams in the 1800s through pick-up games that occur in every neighborhood. Yet they faced cultural barriers (the idea that girls were not athletic) and structural barriers that denied them equipment and a place to play. The federal government changed that in 1972 when it added Title IX to the Civil Rights Act and barred discrimination based on sex and race. Adequate resources challenged beliefs that girls could not play.
Dominique Dawes began her Olympic career at age 15, winning four medals in three Olympics. She became famous for her back-to-back tumbling passes on the floor exercise. For girls like Dawes, athleticism opened a door to self-expression. Dawes remembered that gymnastics taught her to dream and to find a way to achieve all that she was capable of.
See Girlhood in 3D! Explore a model of the leotard.