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Records of the Radcliffe College Department of Physical Education, 1901-1973


Includes records of the Department of Physical Education, such as student athletic and financial records; Athletic Association treasurer’s reports and account books, minutes and constitutions; and material about the Outing Club, other sports clubs and recreational teams.


  • Creation: 1901-1973


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Radcliffe College Department of Physical Education is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


7.25 linear feet ((4 cartons, 2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes, 1 card file box) plus 2 folio folders)

The collection consists of material concerning athletics and similar activities at Radcliffe, including papers of the Physical Education Department, the Athletic Association, the Outing Club, the Office of Sports, Dance and Recreation, and various teams and sports clubs. Among the papers are clippings, correspondence, lists and schedules, transmit books, the constitution and some minutes of the Athletic Association, and printed material. The only official records among the papers are some records of student participation and a few financial records.


In the early years of Radcliffe College there was no formal provision for physical education although many students attended classes at the Gymnasium established by Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, Director of Hemenway Gymnasium. The first gymnasium on the grounds of Radcliffe was the Brown and Nichols Gymnasium, where Margaret S. Wallace arrived to teach Swedish gymnastics in January, 1893. A new gymnasium, donated by Harriet (Lawrence) Hemenway, was opened in 1898, the "first of the permanent college structures." In the same year Wallace was succeeded by Elizabeth A. Wright, who continued as Director of the Gymnasium until 1922. Physical education was not compulsory at Radcliffe until 1915, when requirements were introduced that all first year students undergo medical examinations, attend a course of lectures on physical hygiene, and participate in athletic activities three times a week throughout the year. In 1920-1921 the swimming test was introduced. In 1936, however, the requirement was restated. Each student was now required to "reach her optimum in body mechanics and health" as determined by the Department, participation to continue for four years if necessary. The physical education requirement was abolished in 1961.

At first the Director of Physical Education also exercised supervision over student health. In 1924, however, a Health Consultant was appointed to make examinations, teach hygiene and advise on physical education programs for individual students. Gradually physical education became a sub-department of the Department of Health Education. As physical education became optional, athletics came under the supervision of the Office of Sports, Dance and Recreation, of which Mary Paget was appointed director in 1960. With the agreement of 1971, only "nonathletic recreational programs" such as crafts, dance and drama continued to be administered directly by Radcliffe. Sports became the responsibility of Harvard.

The Athletic Association was founded in 1901 and soon began to sponsor intramural competition in gymnastics and basketball. In cooperation with the Physical Education Department it came to sponsor an extensive program of intramural as well as intercollegiate competition. The Outing Club was formed in 1935, its activities including mountain and canoe trips and winter sports.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in folders #1.1-3.11 and 8F+B.1v were discovered by Cecily Morse in the Gymnasium in November 1980.

Processing Information

Processed: July 1981

By: Isabelle Bland Dry '35, Jane S. Knowles and Eric N. Lindquist

Radcliffe College. Department of Physical Education. Records of the Radcliffe College Department of Physical Education, 1901-1973: A Finding Aid
Radcliffe College Archives, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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