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An Overview of Women's Athletics at Coe

In the 1910 Rabbit is an intriguing essay by George Bryant that defends the practice of intercollegiate athletics at Coe.  Bryant argues that Coe teams may not always win, but the teams are always creditable contenders.  Bryant notes that producing competitive teams in five sports (football, basketball, tennis, baseball, and track) is a difficult because the college only has about 60 men who are eligible, according to Iowa Conference rules, to compete in intercollegiate competition.  Since the three spring sports (baseball, track, and tennis) require about 40 team members, this means that "two out of every three men in the upper classes must be candidates for the teams."

As for women, Bryant says nothing.  The reason is quite simple.  On November 2, 190e, the faculty resolved "that there be no inter collegiate athletics for young women in the College."  In some respects, this ban did not significantly change the athletic landscape at Coe.  In 1901 some female students had organized an Athletic Club and organized a basketball team that played several intercollegiate games for two years.  But it was always the case that it was primarily the men who were involved in the intercollegiate competitive events.

It appears that the first efforts to serve the athletic needs of female students occurred in the fall of 1894 when Mrs. Kilbourne organized the first classes in physical education.  Whatever physical education courses offered were optional, in part because of lack of facilities.  But with the construction of the new gymnasium in 1904, it became possible to require all women to enroll in physical training courses.  Charlotte Poyneer (a 1900 Coe graduate who had studied gymnastics at the Boston Normal School) was appointed Physical Director for Women.  Her program stressed Swedish gymnastics, aesthetic dancing, and other forms of gymnasium work, but female students also had opportunities for intramural sports in field hockey, volley ball, tennis, basket ball, and "baseball."

Writing in the 1906 Rabbit, Poyneer the college's curriculum for exercising "every part of the body."  To complement the floor work, "heave exercises are given at the boom, peak, and vertical ladder, span bending at the barstalls, vaulting over double boom, buck, horse, and jumping standards."  Each lesson in the gym also includes "military and fancy marching, artistic work, and a run." Each spring an indoor meet will be held with competitions in apparatus work, vaulting, high jump, broad jump, and relay races.  Poyneer also notes the large numbers of women playing tennis and the creation of Pedestrian Clubs for walking.

With the completion of the west wing of Voorhees Hall in 19 , the college also could offer swimming lessons to all female students.

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