"State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation" by Melissa Isaacson

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Northwestern Medill-McCormick Foundation Center

1870 Campus Drive

Evanston, IL 60208

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Panel Discussion featuring Isaacson, Amy Eshleman and fellow teammate Connie Erickson Brown.

Opening remarks by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.


Book Summary:

Set against a backdrop of social change during the 1970s, State is a compelling first-person account of what it was like to live through both traditional gender discrimination in sports and the joy of the very first days of equality—or at least the closest that one high school girls’ basketball team ever came to it.

In 1975, freshman Melissa Isaacson—along with a group of other girls who’d spent summers with their noses pressed against the fences of Little League ball fields, unable to play—entered Niles West High School in suburban Chicago with one goal: make a team, any team. For Missy, that turned out to be the basketball team.

Title IX had passed just three years earlier, prohibiting gender discrimination in education programs or activities, including athletics. As a result, states like Illinois began implementing varsity competition—and state tournaments—for girls’ high school sports.

At the time, Missy and her teammates didn’t really understand the legislation. All they knew was they finally had opportunities—to play, to learn, to sweat, to lose, to win—and an identity: they were athletes. They were a team.

And in 1979, they became state champions.

With the intimate insights of the girl who lived it, the pacing of a born storyteller, and the painstaking reporting of a veteran sports journalist, Isaacson chronicles one high school team’s journey to the state championship. In doing so, Isaacson shows us how a group of "tomboys" found themselves and each other, and how basketball rescued them from their collective frustrations and troubled homes, and forever altered the course of their lives.

Biographies:

Melissa Isaacson is an award-winning sportswriter, author, and public speaker. In more than thirty years on the job, she has covered every major US sports championship as well as the Olympics. She has written for numerous publications, including long tenures at such institutions as ESPN and the Chicago Tribune. She was the Tribune’s first woman beat writer assigned to cover the Bulls and Bears, and she covered the Michael Jordan–led Bulls over their six NBA titles. She is currently on the faculty of Northwestern Medill School.

Amy Eshleman is the First Lady of the City of Chicago. Her focus, passion and experience is creating interest-driven, out-of-school opportunities for young adults in Chicago and across the country. As a high school freshman, Amy was a member of the first-ever Illinois girls’ basketball state champions, the 1977 Sterling High School “Golden Girls.” Sterling was also in the Elite Eight in ’79, the year Niles West won the state title.

Connie Erickson Brown was a fellow member of the 1979 Niles West state championship team. She went on to a All-BigTen basketball career at Northwestern University and then made a career as a basketball coach and later founded a web-design business.


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Northwestern Medill-McCormick Foundation Center

1870 Campus Drive

Evanston, IL 60208

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