Women's Running speaks with Holly Kearl, the founder of 501(c)(3) nonprofit Stop Street Harassment and one of our 2017 Game Changers.
These 21 awesome women made Team WR’s 2017 Game Changers list. Read on to discover how each is changing the world through running.
Elite runner, cancer survivor | Minneapolis, MN
When Gabe Grunewald crossed the finish line at the U.S. outdoor championships this past June, the other 1,500-meter runners circled around her and said a little prayer of well wishes. The 31-year-old middle-distance runner was undergoing chemotherapy at the time to treat adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer that was recurring for the fourth time. The national meet fell during one of her off weeks of treatment, and the emotions on Grunewald’s face as she plowed down the homestretch were met with enormous crowd cheers. The running community was lifting up one of its own as she ran across the line, about to face another round of aggressive infusions.
That was on June 22. On July 12, Grunewald announced via Instagram that her body did not respond—“at all”—to chemotherapy. The cancer survivor was now looking at immunotherapy as her next option to beat the disease again. She explained how she would be working with one of the best doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York while undergoing the alternative to chemo.
However, it wasn’t just the devastating update that pulled at the heartstrings and grabbed headlines. It was also the way Grunewald chose and continues to choose to share her own story—with optimism, unwavering strength and an uplifting message about fighting for your best life. Instead of skipping the national championships, Grunewald finished her season and competed, and she has big plans to continue in 2018. She still runs regularly—sometimes right after spending hours at the hospital for her infusion. Despite being dealt a terrible hand—for the fourth time—Grunewald is making the most of it.
“I am in a tough situation with my health—there’s no doubt about that—but I want my story to be as positive as it can be. I’m not in control of my cancer, but I’m in control of my attitude and how I live my life,” she says. “That’s the message that I share that I think is important—our circumstances don’t define us; we can keep living our lives even in the face of something as scary and life-disrupting as a cancer diagnosis.”
Grunewald’s public display of her fight on social media has rippled through the running community, and financial support flooded in after one website started a fundraiser to offset medical costs. As of Aug. 28, six weeks since the #BraveLikeGabe campaign opened, donations exceeded $70,000. Grunewald has plans to pay it forward by “spreading my message of life and hope and positivity, while funding cancer research through running events and partnering with such events.” She’s already started giving back by becoming a voice for the “Together: Nothing Is Impossible” campaign through the American Cancer Society and USATF, which asked fans to pledge money toward cancer research for each medal won by Team USA at the world championships in August. (The U.S. took home 30 total medals, with nearly $200 pledged per medal.)
Across her abdomen, Grunewald bears a scar, the aftermath of a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her liver in August 2016. The prominent reminder of the hell she’s been through is one she wears proudly, saying it’s promoting “scar positivity” for others who have scars due to treatment. But the 13-inch strike across her middle isn’t just a physical symbol of what she’s been through, but how she goes through it—with strength, vulnerability and bravery.
Runner and assault survivor | Seattle, WA
On a Sunday afternoon during a marathon training run, Kelly Herron went to use the restroom in a public park in Seattle. What happened next was horrific: A man, who was hiding in one of the stalls, attacked her while she was at the hand dryer. Herron fought back hard—and survived. Her employer had offered a self-defense class just three weeks prior, and Herron says the skills learned there are partly what saved her life. Her story rippled through the running community, with thousands of people from around the world reaching out to tell her she was a hero for surviving.
“The moment I realized I was being assaulted and what was happening was real, I screamed at my attacker, ‘Not today, motherf@#!er!’ I have never been so pissed off in my entire life; there was no room for fear in the moment,” Herron remembers. “I was trying to make him realize that he messed with the wrong girl…there was no way I was going to let him rape me, and I was willing to die to stop it from happening.”
Those four words have landed on T-shirts to benefit Face Forward LA, an organization that provides surgical care for assault survivors. “The shirt design is of my GPS lines from the attack, and on the back are the four self-defense tips I learned in class: Trust your intuition, respond immediately, be loud and fight hard, and hard bones to soft spots.”
It has taken Herron five months of therapy and physical therapy to get back to feeling like herself. By coming forward, her hope is that her openness “has empowered women to find that savage part of themselves that fights back—whether that is against a violent attack, or even against someone who is underestimating them.”
Alison Désir’s Run 4 All Women Team
Social activism through running | New York City, NY
“Running as a vehicle for social change” is the mantra of Alison Désir’s Run 4 All Women team. Created earlier this year in response to America’s vitriolic political atmosphere, Run 4 All Women began as a single running event from Harlem, N.Y., to Washington, D.C., in the days before the presidential inauguration. That first team effort raised more than $100,000 for Planned Parenthood and has since expanded into a global movement that empowers women to demand equality, respect and recognition.
Désir, who also founded the running group Harlem Run in 2013, is a blogger for Women’s Running and writes openly about the importance of community and mental-health awareness. These themes resonate in her coverage of Run 4 All Women’s growth as she interviews the group’s American ambassadors and those who have adapted the program overseas. By late summer, the team had five official state chapters in the U.S., each of which hosted an event in mid-August. “Don’t let life happen to you,” Désir advised as she spoke to the Run 4 All Women team at the Capitol Building in January. “Stand up for what you believe in with whatever you have available to you. Be willing to sweat for it. Even better, inspire others to do the same.”
Emma Coburn And Courtney Frerichs
2017 gold, silver world medalists | Boulder, CO, and Portland, OR
Team USA cleaned up at this year’s world championships, racking up 30 total medals across all events. There were many performances that left people shocked in great ways—and topping that list was the unbelievable women’s steeplechase final, where 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn captured the gold against a deep field that “had run much faster than me all year.” And Courtney Frerichs, who ran a massive 16-second personal best, captured silver, holding off the Olympic bronze medalist by less than one second.
The stack of historic marks made in that single 1–2 performance was staggering. Coburn’s world win was the first ever for American women in the steeplechase, as well as the first for any American, man or woman, since 1952. She set a championship meet record and broke her own American record by five seconds. And getting gold and silver together hadn’t been done by Team USA in a distance event—at the Olympics or here—since 1912. The duo fell to the ground in a heap of sweat and emotional tears at the finish, hugging on the track for long enough to make America cheer and cry right along with them. Coburn said, “[Courtney] was so tired, she kind of started to fall down, and I wasn’t strong enough to hold her up, so we both went down to the ground. But I wasn’t finished hugging so I ended up kind of tackling her and we ended up lying there for a few moments and just both feeling really grateful.” That image of pure elation quickly became the image of the meet, reminiscent of Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg at the line of the Olympic Trials Marathon last year.
Mom-to-be recovering from amenorrhea | Lexington, KY
When elite runner Tina Muir announced she was quitting competitive running to start a family, there was more to the story. Muir hadn’t had her period in nine years, a condition known as amenorrhea. “[It] is far more widespread than I think anyone realized, and it is something that many female runners are concerned about but often feel embarrassed to say anything,” Muir says. At the time, she had no idea how impactful her announcement, which she shared via video on her blog, would be on the female running community. Her story was shared around thousands of times, with other runners coming forward with their questions about missing periods and applauding her for making the hard choice to quit the sport.
Following the only medical solution she was given—stop running—Muir shared that she will be working on building a “five-star baby hotel” with her husband. Anticipating that her period could take months to return, then getting pregnant months after that, Muir was pleasantly surprised when she found out she was pregnant just two months after she stopped running, giving those following her story reassurance that a loss of a period does not mean losing the ability to conceive. And Muir hopes her story, which she will continue to share, inspires women and their doctors to explore other amenorrhea treatment options more thoroughly so others do not have to give up the sport.
“I would love to help this message get to the point where saying you have amenorrhea is the same as saying you have an ear infection; your body is in repair, but you are working on it, and life will be back to normal soon,” Muir says. “It will take a lot more women speaking out about it, and hopefully more research will come out of this too, meaning we can have the science to explain why this is happening.”
CEO of Virgin Sport | New York City
Mary Wittenberg has a history of shaking up the running world. This former competitive runner was the transformative force behind the New York Road Runners for a decade. She was responsible for making the NYC Marathon and many other area races more successful than ever, as well as securing major sponsorships for a variety of NYRR races. Her success was noticed by innovative billionaire Richard Branson, who tapped her to be the CEO of his newest venture, Virgin Sport.
Wittenberg has created the new Virgin Sport festivals, which launched this year with four events. Three events were in England, and the fourth and final 2017 event will be in San Francisco Oct. 14–15. These sport festivals are designed to attract people with all different fitness interests and abilities, much like Wittenberg did during her time at NYRR when she added shorter-distance races to the NYRR roster. Her work with Virgin Sport goes even further, incorporating a variety of race lengths and multiple fitness disciplines into one event, including yoga and boot-camp classes. Wittenberg has always worked to bring running to as many people as possible, and her plans with Virgin Sport show that is still her focus. So creating a series of sporting events that brings together as many people as possible seems like the natural next step. As Wittenberg said earlier this year in an interview with Fortune, “The reality of our life is that we’re surrounded by a variety of friends and family who have different interests and abilities.”
First registered woman to run the Boston Marathon | Hudson Valley, NY
Kathrine Switzer became a pioneer in the running world 50 years ago—and remains one to this day. In 1967, Switzer became the first woman to register for the Boston Marathon by using her first initial instead of her first name to sign up. Five years before Title IX became law, it was uncommon for female athletes to participate in marathons. But that didn’t stop Switzer. Despite the infamous race director who tried to force her off the course, Switzer finished running Boston, becoming the first officially registered woman to do so.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of Switzer’s victorious run. When participants lined up at the starting line on April 17, Switzer, now 70 years old, was among them, proudly wearing the same bib number she’d worn in 1967. Surrounded by the 261 Fearless team (named for her now retired bib number), Switzer finished the race in a time of 4:44:31.
“As I look back at those 50 years, it’s been a social revolution,” Switzer told Women’s Running earlier this year. “I was a girl who simply wanted to run, and something happened to me. It’s what you do with things that happen to you.”
Elite runner | Berkeley, CA
This summer, Alysia Montaño showed up to run the 800 meters at the USATF Outdoor Championships—pregnant. Again. The 2012 Olympian and seven-time U.S. champion sported a Wonder Woman top, colorful flowers in her hair and an adorable five-month baby bump when she raced in Sacramento, Calif. The scene was almost a replay of 2014, when she ran the same race eight months pregnant with her daughter, Linnea—a race that arguably gained her more fame than any of her championships.
“It was such an amazing experience,” Montaño told Team USA in reference to the 2014 race. “There is something about coming out to any venue not really expecting to win but going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it.”
The real-life Wonder Woman clocked a 2:21.40 finish, which was 30th overall (and not good enough to advance past the first round), but it was almost 11 seconds faster than her 2014 time. Montaño said that she hopes her effort empowers and inspires women who might feel pressured to follow a specific trajectory in life (whether or not that involves pregnancy). Despite the serious statement she was making, she approached the race with some levity, posting a race photo afterward on her Instagram with a lighthearted caption: “I have some pretty awesome maternity photos from both pregnancies.”
Pinkathon head coach, ambassador for women runners | Bangalore, India
Bhumika Patel didn’t discover running until 2009. The IBM program manager had been focused on things like getting married, having a daughter, earning her MBA and climbing the corporate ladder before her husband signed her up for a 4K race through his work, hoping it would give her a mental break from everything she was juggling (including losing her father and watching her mother battle breast cancer). She ended up winning the race, and that day gave Patel a purpose beyond herself, her family and her career.
“In India, marriage is of great importance—women are married off early and they are taught to serve their husbands, in-laws and children,” she says. “They often lose their identity, trying to keep all of them happy. Running gives them an opportunity to nurture themselves, to get out there and try new things outside of their norms.”
When the Bangalore native heard that Pinkathon, a series of women-only running races across India, was coming to her city in 2013, she signed up—and helped recruit about 1,000 women from her IBM office to join her. Patel is now head coach of Pinkathon’s training program in Bangalore, and went on to coach and help visually impaired women from her community who were interested in running.
“After leading a healthy lifestyle myself, I wanted to pay it forward,” Patel says. “[Pinkathon] has triggered a growth in the community of empowered women across India.”
In addition to encouraging women to run, Pinkathon also serves as a platform for breast cancer awareness, a cause that is close to Patel’s heart. “Lakhs [a hundred thousand] of women have become breast cancer aware because of Pinkathon,” she says. “They are now comfortable at least talking about breasts and cancer, while they were earlier very shy.”
In the future, Patel envisions women being able to find a support network within Pinkathon: “Women, especially cancer survivors, find a supportive system among other women to open up about their struggles. I see this as a good-will network, as an unbreakable support system, creating fit, smart and confident women,” she says. “This community has helped my transformation, and there is a fundamental mindset change happening in women and their families.”
Mom of three, 2017 world team member, real estate agent | Boulder, CO
On an exceptionally hot evening in Sacramento, Calif., at the USATF Outdoor Championships, 31-year-old mom of three Sara Vaughn wrapped herself in the American flag and cried happy tears. She had just qualified for her first world team in the 1,500 meters, finishing third. She represented the U.S. at the world championships in London this past August, qualifying for the semifinals in her event. However, Vaughn is not a full-time runner like most others who run at such a high level; she also holds a full-time job as a real estate agent to help support her family. After years of hard work and missing the 2016 Olympic team—she finished seventh at the trials—Vaughn felt it was finally “my turn” to step up and make the world team.
“I’ve been around the sport for a long time, and I don’t know how many national championships I’ve run in—basically all of them since 2009, minus years I had kids. It’s a lot of work and just really gratifying and satisfying, and all of those things rolled into one,” Vaughn told Women’s Running later. “Just happy tears—definitely nothing sad about it—but it was so cathartic. This is literally 10 or 15 years of work. Finally worth it, finally.”
Founder of 40 Bibs | Seattle, WA
Jenna Powers is an ordinary woman with a full-time job and a passion for running. Oh, and she’s also running 40 races this year—including several marathons and ultramarathons. The reason for this project, called “40 Bibs,” is Jenna’s 40th birthday, which she celebrated on Aug. 23. By that date, Powers had finished her 29th race, a half marathon in Orting, Wash.
There’s more to 40 Bibs than Powers’ own racing schedule: She’s also paying for 40 other runners to participate in one race of their choice. Her blog documents the runners she chooses to support, sharing their stories and photos from their race days. Some of these runners strive to set new personal bests or confront courses that caused problems for them on previous attempts. Others aspire to complete distances that signify deeper, more personal victories.
“People have been so willing to share their stories—everything from a woman saving for IVF treatment to a 16-year-old nonverbal autistic boy running his first half marathon,” Powers says. “Racing has taught me to take risks, to believe in myself and to be unafraid of failure. I get so excited for others to have the same kinds of transformational experiences through racing.”
Founder of Girls Run NYC | New York City
An influencer in the New York City running scene since 2005, Jessie Zapo is dedicated to championing the community building aspects of running. Through various organizations and collaborations, Zapo has been creating space for women and new runners in the urban running community for years. Her current project, Girls Run NYC, is a unique run experience in the city. The women-only weekly meet-up is open to runners from all backgrounds and of all abilities, and focuses on track workouts. Zapo is the coach and organizer for these sessions, which are connecting women from all walks of life together into a supportive community of fellow runners.
Brooks Inspiring Coach of the Year | Issaquah, WA
Those who participated in high school or college athletics will remember how one coach can make or break your experience. If you have a son or daughter who runs on their high school’s track or cross-country teams—or if you are that son or daughter—you’ve probably heard about Gwen Robertson, a coach at Issaquah High School in Issaquah, Wash. This spring, Robertson was named a Brooks Inspiring Coach of the Year after 33 years of coaching the Issaquah Eagles. Robertson was also named the Washington State Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the 2016 season. But Robertson isn’t new to this level of recognition–she’s also a member of the Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches halls of fame.
Brooks recognized Robertson because of her decades of dedication to coaching and the simple fact that her dedication has inspired so many of her student-athletes to become coaches themselves (more than 20 at last count!). With high school track and field teams ballooning like never before, coaches like Robertson have the opportunity to impact a lot of kids—and we all could use more of the inspiration and positivity she brings to the track.
Founder of Sarah Marie Design Studio | Oceanside, NY
Sarah Clancy didn’t intend to create a brand when she began throwing a runner twist on catchy phrases and printing them on T-shirts. “Everything is ‘Good Vibes’ this or that…I switched it up and made [‘Positive Vibes, Negative Splits’] applicable to runners,” she says. The four-time marathoner also never expected that her elite marathoner names sweatshirt, one of her original designs which features the first names of some of the biggest names in women’s distance running, would launch the brand in March 2016. But when Kara Goucher posted a photo wearing the names, one of them being her own, just two months later, everything changed.
Now Sarah Marie Design Studio, which has more than 32,000 followers on Instagram and offers everything from clothing to accessories like phone cases, jewelry and pins perfect for gear bags, is gearing up for its first busy holiday season. Clancy says, “I love Instagram. Seeing people wearing my designs always makes me smile; it’s also a great indicator for success when you see people wearing the items you sell.”
One notable draw to why her brand stands out is the fact that it incorporates the competitive side of running; it brings hard training goals, like “negative splits,” to the average runner and makes it attainable. Same with crafting swag inspired by elite runners, like the late Steve Prefontaine or top marathoners in the country. “Like Shalane and Amy at the end of the Olympic Marathon Trials, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to understand that feeling,” says Clancy, who sells a fashion pin of the duo’s iconic finish line embrace. “It’s easy to respect and understand the ‘authentic’ running moments.”
In 2018, Clancy hopes to expand her presence in retail stores, as well as launch some new designs. Because believe it or not, she’s still working out of her house!
Special-needs runner | Austin, TX
In February, then-26-year-old Kayleigh Williamson crossed the finish line of the Austin Half Marathon in 6:22:57—long after the aid stations had closed up, the roads had reopened and the spectators had headed home. She had a small entourage with her when she earned the distinction of being the first woman with Down syndrome to run in—and complete—the Texas race. Her decision not to get in the sweep van at the race (which happened around mile 4) and instead continue her race on the sidewalk revealed her unwavering spirit to do something few people with her condition have done—run.
Since her February finish, articles about Williamson have appeared on ESPNW and Today.com, and a group called Kayleigh’s Club was formed to help disabled runners reach their running dreams with the help of volunteers. “We hope to grow the Austin special-needs running community through Kayleigh’s Club,” says Kim Davis, D.C., the founder and CEO of RunLab in Austin who oversaw Williamson’s training. Through the group, volunteers from RunLab are paired with disabled runners to help them learn to run within a safe and fun environment.
Through this model, Williamson and her coach and family hope that she can pave the way for other special-needs runners throughout the country. “I would love to see nonprofit organizations with the ability to help support the [disabled] athletes in training for races,” says Sandy Williamson, Kayleigh’s mom. “Having a program that matches disabled runners with non-disabled runners helps them have a mentor in not only achieving their goal of a finish line, but also in becoming healthier.”
Kayleigh isn’t slowing down anytime soon: She and nine other special-needs runners competed in the Zilker Relay in September, she’ll be the ambassador for a local New Year’s Eve 10-miler and she’s already signed up for next February’s Austin Half Marathon.
Director of product marketing at Strava | San Francisco, CA
Reports of women being attacked during training runs or even during races (did you hear about that Ragnar runner in May?) highlight an important issue for which sports brands are trying to find solutions: safety on outdoor runs.
One such brand is Strava, a mobile app and website that serves as a “social network” for runners and cyclists by helping you track your training, analyze your workouts and connect with other athletes. In 2016, the brand launched its Beacon feature for Premium users, which allows them to send three safety contacts a link to track the athlete’s workouts in real time. “Beacon allows people to feel a little more carefree and relaxed while running and riding,” says Rayleen Hsu, Strava’s director of product marketing and one of the brains behind Beacon. “We knew that Beacon was something every athlete could use,” she says. “Once we started interviewing athletes, we confirmed our assumptions—our athletes were leaving notes and drawn-out maps for loved ones to let them know where they were going, when they’d be home.”
The feature gives not only runners peace of mind, but perhaps more importantly, their loved ones—Hsu, 37, is a runner and has used Beacon to keep both her and her husband worry-free when she goes out on solo runs. “If something goes awry, friends and family will know where you are and can send help if needed,” she says.
While safety is an important aspect of the feature, its more fun uses are things like meeting up with friends partway through runs or race tracking. And while the team at Strava will continue evolving to help athletes have the best running or riding experience possible, “safety is and will continue to be a top priority,” Hsu says.
Oldest woman to complete a half marathon | Charlotte, N.C.
When the late Harriette Thompson ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon in June at age 94, her family members had to shield her from other runners—not because they were trying to pass her, but because they were trying to sneak mid-race selfies with her. “It’s great inspiration for me to see how much people think I am an inspiration,” Thompson said after the race. “I am getting more attention because I am so old.” That day, she became the oldest woman to ever complete a half marathon, and that came two years after setting the record for the oldest woman to complete a full marathon.
The sweet, smiling grandma only started running marathons in her mid-70s, initially inspired to use the races as opportunities to raise funds for cancer research, something she continued to do for the rest of her life. “I am just happy that I am making a little difference by having fundraisers for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and raising funds for cancer research,” she said. “That’s my inspiration.”
Over the years, Thompson lost multiple family members to cancer, and she herself battled cancer since setting her marathon world record in 2015. For much of 2016, she underwent multiple surgeries to remove cancer and was put on bed rest for weeks. The medical issues forced her to scale down to 13.1 miles, but the cancer actually drove her: “I still had the same incentive of trying to help, and the cancer just made it stronger. I realized what it was like to have cancer, and that made me want to give back more and help this cause,” she said. “I want to be a good influence on other people. I want to make the last few years of my life worth something.”
Elite runner | Fayetteville, AR
Dominique Scott is determined to help girls in northwest Arkansas know the joy that running has brought her. After competing in the Rio Olympic Games for her native South Africa, Scott returned home to Arkansas to learn that one of her mutual friends had an 11-year-old daughter who was excited to become a runner but had no place to learn. Scott discovered that while the area had soccer clubs and gymnastics teams and lots of other sports clubs, there was no place for girls to learn the fundamentals of running until they reached high school. And at the high school level, runners were expected to be up to speed about drills, form and all of the intricacies of the sport. Scott saw an obvious lack of opportunity for middle school girls in the running community and was inspired to create the Dom Squad, a running club for middle school–aged girls who have no other access to run coaching. Scott coaches a group of 15 girls aged 8–12 once a week to teach them the fundamentals of the sport, working on form and technique, warm-up and cool-down exercises, as well as drills and light runs. She also assigns two “homework” assignments each week to keep them motivated and plugged into the routine of running. Scott’s motivation for the Dom Squad is to get girls excited about running and to make sure that they learn the proper way to run and keep them from picking up any bad habits before they start running cross-country or track in high school. Scott’s commitment to sharing the sport with girls who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to receive run coaching is creating a whole new generation of female runners in northwest Arkansas.
Founder of SELA Fit | Chicago, IL
Jenny Gresla found herself in an unexpected situation a few years ago. Though she was a marathon runner and lifelong athlete, a series of difficult life events knocked Gresla out of her normal routine, and she gained a significant amount of weight. For the first time in her life, she couldn’t find workout gear that she felt comfortable wearing. Determined to help other women with similar apparel struggles, she set out to create comfortable and fashionable workout tops for women at every stage in their fitness journey, despite not having any experience in the fashion or retail industries. The result of two years of research and design was the launch of SELA Fit, a collection of chic and comfortable workout tanks that fit and flare in a flattering silhouette. Gresla believes that making women feel comfortable and stylish while they work out has a big mental impact on starting and maintaining a fitness routine. Gresla says, “Running was never really my thing…that is until I ran the Chicago Marathon. Up until that point, it had always been more of a chore. However, throughout the training process, I gained a whole new appreciation for it. Over time there was a shift, running transitioned from a chore to a ‘tough’ joy…it was hard (and still is), but it ultimately was the catalyst for me when it came to getting back on track.”
But Gresla isn’t satisfied with just creating great workout apparel for women of all sizes; she also wants to give back with her business. Every SELA Fit top purchased results in a $5 donation to the nonprofit Girls in the Game, which is dedicated to giving girls the tools to become confident leaders through access to sports.
Founder of Stop Street Harassment | Washington, DC
Holly Kearl first experienced street harassment while training for a marathon the summer before she started high school. The catcalls, whistling, crude remarks and inappropriate grabbing that she’s faced in the years since are incidents that too many women can relate to. After majoring in women and gender studies in college and writing a thesis on street harassment while completing her master’s degree at George Washington University in 2007, Kearl launched Stop Street Harassment in 2011, a nonprofit geared toward raising awareness about gender-based public displays of aggression. “The goal at that time was to have a place for anyone in the world to share their stories and find resources and advice,” Kearl explains. “I started tracking activism that was happening around the issue and relevant news stories. It’s just grown from there.”
It certainly has. In addition to raising awareness about street harassment statistics, Stop Street Harassment participates in the annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week every spring and unveiled its own national street harassment hotline for U.S. victims in 2016. Kearl regularly appears on panels and in the media to discuss the topic, and has also authored three books on street harrassment in hopes of making a difference.