ST. JOSEPH -- An annual event kicked off what will be a three-year celebration of central Minnesota women who were trailblazers in sports, education, and the workforce.

The Stearns County History Museum held their 8th annual History Maker Gala Thursday night at the Gorecki Center at the College of St. Benedict.

Hutchinson native, former Minnesota Lynx player, and current women’s basketball head coach at the University of Minnesota, Lindsay Whalen was the event’s keynote speaker. She talked about the importance of hard work, and creating and taking opportunities.

Carie Essig, the museum’s Executive Director, says the gala kicks off a three-year celebration leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

When we started this whole process we were really excited about celebrating women in sports, we were really excited about learning more about Title IX because Title IX isn’t all about sports. It’s about equality, equal access in education, equal access in a number of different places, and for us we started with sports one because it’s visible, two because there’s a lot of women athletes in Stearns County who were the first at something.

At the event, the annual Zapp Historian Award, named for a family that was instrumental in the founding of the museum, was given to former Tech High School athlete Peggy Brenden. Essig says she was a local sports pioneer in the 1970s.

She wanted to play tennis. She couldn’t play tennis because there was only a boy’s team. They wouldn’t let her play with the boys even though they were supposed to. So basically she took it to court with a couple of other women in the state that were fighting the same battle at other high schools. They won, it was upheld in the appeals court, and she eventually went on to letter in high school athletics in tennis at Tech.

 

 

Among those firsts are marathon runners, basketball players, softball players, tennis players, and world champion horseshoe players.

The event also serves as the museum’s biggest fundraiser, with all the money going to fund museum operations. This year's turnout set a record for the number of tickets sold and the number of sponsors.