The Sylvia Braunstein Belle Story
My grandmother, Sylvia Braunstein Belle went to Taylor Alderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1958. What many people close to her, including her mother and her boyfriend, didn’t know at the time, was that she was an athlete and good one at that.
14 years before the passing of Title 9, title 9 prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government, but despite this lack of inclusiveness, Sylvia Belle participated in girls’ varsity sports. Participating in intramural basketball,
baseball, soccer, field hockey and volleyball throughout her time in high school. Keep in mind at this time, it was rare for women to play sports let alone five different ones.
She spent all her free and homeroom periods playing sports. She never told her mother nor her boyfriend where she spent these large blocks of her time, afraid that, boys would never like a girl who played sports. “It was satisfying enough to play the games, even without my parents and friends coming to games,”
Sylvia says. She continues, “But I didn’t want to take the chance about a boy not liking me.” Sylvia met her boyfriend and future husband Norman the same year she began playing sports. Unknowingly to either her mother or her boyfriend, she excelled at her hidden extracurricular talents. She even received a varsity
letter in her senior year.
In 1972, Title 9 created a seismic shift in high school sports by mandating that equal funding be provided to girls’ and boys’ sports programs at American High Schools, which massively expanded the athletic opportunities offered to female students in the United States. Despite this new law, Sylvia never told her
mother about her high school athletic career and only revealed the secret to her husband in 2009 when she discovered her letter stashed away in a long-forgotten box of high school souvenirs.
Though her youthful participation in sports left an indelible mark on her life, she wishes she could have told her friends and family about it at the time. “It’s hard to believe that no one would mention it like today, “Girls just didn’t do that then” She exclaims.
In 2009, with her husband, she moved down to Florida permanently and brought her souvenirs including that secret box. She and her husband were unpacking the boxes, but her husband was the one to find the secret box. He pulled out the varsity letter and as a way to show his support and dedication to his wife,
Sylvia, he purchased a cardigan sweater and had the varsity letter sewn on the sweater. She has worn the sweater for the last 60 years.
From I Don’t Do Easy:
This story is presented to you to tell you that no matter what your purpose is, no matter what you have an affinity for, no matter what others may think of you, DON’T DO WHATS EASY. Do what moves you. We aren’t here to motivate you; we are here to bring the community of I Don’t Easy together; on story at a time.