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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1106

Papers of Alice B. Foster, 1888-1930


Personal and professional correspondence of physical education teacher Alice B. Foster.


  • Creation: 1888-1930

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Alice B. Foster as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

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


1.26 linear feet (3 file boxes)

The papers of Alice B. Foster contain Foster's incoming personal and professional correspondence. Most professional correspondence is related to her work teaching physical education for young women, and includes letters from other instructors (including former students who went on to become instructors), with program administrators, with doctors and with companies that manufactured gymnasium apparatus. This correspondence includes requests for rules of the game of basketball and other games, as well as for suggestions of programs of exercises and general curricula for physical education of women. Several correspondents write about anthropometric measurements, a practice of measuring the human body.

Foster was close to her sisters Ida Florence ("Eff") and Edith Frances ("Dee"), and the collection also contains many letters the three of them wrote to each other. Letters discuss their parents' health and financial situation in Malden, Massachusetts, their bicycling adventures, and their various travels and experiences. Alice Foster's letters to her sisters describe her health and give detailed descriptions of her time in Tennessee in 1894, including other physical education teachers, horseback riding, teaching swimming, and her reaction to the American South. Her letters from Oberlin describe football games, her living situation, suitors on campus, and her teaching.

The collection is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.


Alice Bertha Foster was born in 1866 to Bertha (Brown) and James Foster in Peabody, Massachusetts. She had two older sisters, Ida Florence Foster (1861-1901) and Edith Frances Foster (1863-1951). The Foster girls were raised in Wakefield and Malden, Massachusetts, and all were avid cyclists. Ida Foster taught at the Prospect Hill School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Edith Foster was a working artist. She worked for N.S. Day, a Springfield, Massachusetts, "designer & manufacturer of artistic novelties" and illustrated several children's books and a work on women's physical education. Alice Foster worked as a teacher of physical education (often termed "physical culture") for women for many years. In the early 1890s, she was in charge of the women's gymnasium at the pioneering coeducational University of Chicago, working under Dean of Women Alice Freeman Palmer. In 1894, she took a job in Tennessee in order to have more opportunities for rest and fresh air. By 1897, Alice Foster was Director of the Gymnasium at Bryn Mawr College. In the fall of 1899 she took a temporary 2 year position in the same role at Oberlin College. Following that position, she worked at the All Saints School in South Dakota until at least the spring of 1905. By 1930, Alice Foster had returned to Wakefield, Massachusetts, where she lived with her sister Edith. She died in 1937.

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2020-M89

The papers of Alice B. Foster were acquired from Carmen Valentino in September 2020.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2020

By: Jenny Gotwals

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Alice Jeanette Ward Fund

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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