Here at Soma, we love to celebrate uplifting women. Imagine our delight when we heard the story of Dana Marlowe, a Maryland woman who has collected more than 135,000 bras and 785,000 personal hygiene products for women in need around the world—and that it all began with a trip to Soma. Here, Dana tells us about her inspiring work:
Q: How did your visit to Soma inspire you?
A: About a year ago, I visited Soma for some new bras. I’d lost weight, and asked your associate Deneen what to do with my bras that no longer fit. She told me about your Soma Bra Donation and the women in shelters who so often have to go without. It was a light bulb moment. I had always put out bags of clothes to donate, but I’d never thrown in my bras. Deneen offered to take my bras and hold them until the next donation period, but I was too excited to wait.
Q: What did you do?
A: The next day, I reached out to Thrive D.C., a homeless shelter, with bras to donate. I asked what else I could bring. They told me they desperately needed feminine hygiene products, so I donated those, too. Then, I went home and posted on Facebook about what I was doing, and my friends started sharing my post and commenting, saying they didn’t realize they could donate bras or hygiene products. Donations started pouring in.
Q: What a great response! How did you handle all the donations?
A: I started doing porch pick-ups on my lunch breaks. Then, word really got out. People wanted to act as collection sites and to hold events: churches, synagogues, yoga studios, corporations. At this point, my kids’ backpacks were coming home every day with bags of bras and maxi pads. My basement was flooded with hundreds of bras. Then, the Washington Post heard about me and did a story. That Sunday, my inbox was filled with emails from all over the world. I knew I needed a new strategy. I went online and bought the website iSupportTheGirls.org, and my husband helped me put the site up immediately. Now, 20,000 bras later, this grassroots movement is going global.
Q: I Support the Girls recently took bras to Costa Rica. What was that like?
A: When a biologist in Costa Rica reached out to me, I happened to already have a trip planned. I said, “What if I could bring you 100 bras?” The bras were distributed a week later.
Q: What did it feel like to drop off all those bras?
A: Amazing. Any time I donate, I feel this way. To know the bras are going to women and girls who desperately need them—it’s so gratifying. And the stories I’ve heard—women who had to flee domestic violence situations with only the bra on their back, or the woman who said she’s been holding up her breasts with a belt, or people who said they are too embarrassed to ask for a bra—being able to give these bras is a gift. A properly fitting bra can be the key to getting a new job or preventing back pain. It means dignity. It means self-esteem.
Q: What’s your ultimate dream for I Support the Girls?
A: I want to encourage others to do what the Soma Bra Donation does—collect locally and distribute locally. That is what has made I Support the Girls spread like wildfire. We’ve received donations from 48 states, Canada and most recently, Australia. Next up, Mexico and New Zealand. The global component has been remarkable. It’s organically happening on its own.
Q: Other than I Support the Girls, what keeps you going?
A: I love what I do for my day job—making technology accessible for people with disabilities. I’m a human rights advocate at my core. I also love my time with my family and I like to see women succeed in business.
This year, Soma is thrilled to partner with I Support the Girls to donate bras to women in need in our local communities.
See how more than one million donated bras have made a difference.