My name is Dana Marlowe. Business owner, mother, human rights advocate.
People always ask me how I Support the Girls began. Honestly, it was totally serendipitous. I became an accidental activist in this space.
In 2015, I’ve had a year of revised healthy mind/body focus. I dropped a considerable amount of weight by working out with friends, and eating healthy fun meals with my family. I expected some life changes, but not that everything would change in size. They don’t tell you on the packages of steamed vegetables that you should prepare for your bra size to decrease. After some loose straps getting in the way, I went to get fitted properly at a bra store. I asked the store clerk if she had any donation suggestions as to what I could do with my dozen or more used bras that didn’t fit, but were still wearable.
She informed me that women who are homeless are in DESPERATE need of bras. Most people donate clothes, shoes, furniture, which is of course very important. However, rarely donated but frequently requested: bras.
It gave me the idea that I’m probably not the only who wedges their older bras to the back corner of their bra drawer. Right?
I know other women must do this and relegate their older bras to the background to put the newer ones in favor in the front. Then, in the throes of the summer of 2015, I chanced upon an article hearkening a similar topic and mentioning the huge need for bras and menstrual hygiene products for homeless women and girls. Since you never know a person’s situation and most women have menstrual cycles, it’s natural they would need menstrual hygiene products. That was my inspiration. I was humbled and I wanted to make sure no woman could do without menstrual products or a bra at any point of need in her life. Dignity is dignity.
One shouldn’t have to weigh the value of a sandwich over a maxi pad.
They are both important. So how could I help? Why not ask my friends and their friends for used bras and new sealed packages of tampons and maxi pads? Let’s see what this could turn into. That was my thinking. I wasn’t expecting that moment to become a movement, an idea I had to become a passion project. Then again, I should have anticipated the goodness in people’s hearts to give to a cause that helps low income women in their communities in such a relatable way.
An idea was born and I put it out on social media the that evening on July 13th, 2015. I asked friends to go to their top dresser drawer, find bras they never wear and let me donate them. And while you’re at it, I said, next time you’re at the pharmacy or grocery store and see a “buy one get one” for maxi pads – pick up an extra package and toss it in the donation. I asked my friends, who asked their friends, who asked their friends.
And it took off. Personal donations poured in. Bigger collections started rolling in from yoga studios, schools, coffee shops, churches, seminaries, hospitals. Then the Marriott Corporation, the United Stated Department of Agriculture, the FDA, Quicken Loans, the State Department.
Boxes from as far away as France, Hong Kong and the UK, were delivered to my house. Breast cancer survivors who’d endured double mastectomies sent bags of their old bras. We got packages from men whose wives had passed away, women who’d lost their mothers, and so on.
The overall response has been OVERWHELMINGLY positive and amazing. As mentioned in maxipads and bras are a luxury for women experiencing homelessness that month, “A slip of a garment, bras are one of the many small luxuries that most women take for granted. But like underwear, pads, and tampons, they can be nearly impossible for homeless women to get. And if you don’t have these things, you think about it all the time.”
As a staunch human rights advocate, I’m the president of a dynamite company called Accessibility Partners that hires people with disabilities to help make technology like websites and mobile apps more accessible and usable for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are often some of the most invisible, marginalized populations overlooked by mainstream society. Among that demographic, I wanted my workplace advocacy to transcend into a new network: low income women and women experiencing homelessness. Breaking down taboos and stereotypes has been part of what I’ve been doing for 20 years. This is another important population.
With I Support the Girls, we’ve been talking non-stop. It is a conversation that has flourished across the United States and now, even globally. Our vast network of volunteers stands up for women by donating the bras and menstrual hygiene products to promote a more healthy and dignified lifestyle. With the tremendous supply of these products and the high demand, it felt right to marry the two. In just over a year, we’ve built out an infrastructure. I Support the Girls is creating a national clearing house to encourage affiliates to collect locally and distribute locally in their communities.