Penn Band celebrates 50 years of women on the field

After decades of superstition and pushback, the first group of women stepped onto Franklin Field with the Penn Band 50 years ago.

It was a scorching hot day when Lynne Leopold-Sharp took the field with the Penn Band in late September, 1970. She didn’t know at the time—or maybe she just doesn’t remember—that the game was memorable for more than just the unseasonable heat, or the record 84-yard punt return that highlighted a 24-0 Penn victory. It also marked the first time that women in the Penn Band were allowed to march onto Franklin Field.

Two members of the Penn Band sitting in the stands drinking from straws.
Theresa Powell (left) sits next to Marsha Allen at Franklin Field in 1970. (Image: The Pennsylvania Gazette)

“I don’t think I knew until they told us that there hadn’t been women in the marching band before,” says Leopold-Sharp, then a freshman flutist who would go on to build her social circle around the Penn Band.

Fifty years later, the Penn Band is honoring this overlooked slice of University history. In a project supported by a grant from the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, students and alumni from the Penn Band have dug through newspaper archives and interviewed dozens of alumni to celebrate 50 years as a fully co-ed organization.

“It’s an important chapter in student life here at Penn, at a time when people were becoming very aware of issues of equality and diversity in our community,” says Penn Band assistant director Kushol Gupta, noting the band’s co-ed transition mirrored the timing of that of other campus groups, including the Kite and Key Society and the cheerleaders. “And it hasn’t been celebrated yet. It’s long overdue.”

Read more at The Pennsylvania Gazette.