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Records of the College of Arts and Sciences (Group 9)
[15] Records of the Department of Physical Education for Women, 1886-1963,11.3 ft.

Historical Note

Oberlin College was a leader in the field of women’s physical education during the first half of the 20th century. Delphine Hanna, M.D. (1854-1941) was instrumental in establishing a physical education department for women at Oberlin. Called the Department of Physical Training for Women from 1887 to 1903, it subsequently was named the Teacher’s Course in Physical Education for Women from 1904 to 1955 and the Department of Physical Education for Women from 1955 to 1970. A progressive advocate and director of the women’s physical education program, Hanna was the first woman in the United States to hold a college professorship in physical education. She conducted classes for women students and faculty members and for public school children.

By 1896 the department had adequate facilities to offer a major in physical education. In 1902, the first woman in the country to graduate from a four-year physical education program enrolled at Oberlin. In 1911 physical education, now constituted as a teacher’s course, became part of the curriculum for all Oberlin women. Another dimension of the program was the physical education camp. Along with the college and the department, faculty members and friends purchased land on Lake Erie to build the Oberlin College Beach Association and the Hanna Camp.

Most notable among the women who continued Hanna’s work was Gertrude Moulton, M.D. (1880-1964), director of the camp and director of physical education for women from 1923 to 1945. Both Hanna and Moulton strove to integrate physical activities with the total well being of students. Moulton succeeded in improving the physical plant of the department. With the development of Galpin Field, the department encouraged outdoor sports—the College built tennis courts, a golf course, and field hockey fields. The completion in 1938 of Hales Gymnasium for Women provided much-needed space and equipment. Although the two-year mandatory program was reorganized on a skill-level basis in 1954, the department continued in the tradition of Hanna and Moulton. Of significance is the large role female instructors played in teaching physical education, because most of their male associates coached sports.

The Oberlin College General Faculty voted in 1970 to consolidate the men and women’s departments of physical education. Oberlin women also began competing in intercollegiate events during the 1970s. In 1985, on the recommendation of the physical education department and the Education Plans and Policy Committee, the General Faculty eliminated the physical education major. In 1989 the General Faculty voted to reorganize the larger program as an administrative department within the College of Arts and Sciences. Renamed the Department of Athletics and Physical Education, it is now administered by a director.

Scope and Content

This subgroup, which contains 13 records series, covers the concerns and interests of the physical education training program department for women. Included are: minutes of staff or department meetings, 1925-1942, 1966-1982; departmental correspondence, 1951-1982; committee files, c. 1966-1981; Director Gertrude Moulton’s files, c. 1927-1964; Delphine Hanna Foundation, n.d., curriculum, 1927-1943, 1969-1973; alumni files of physical education graduates, 1886-1963; anthropometric charts, c.1893-1912; Women’s Athletic Association, 1911-1945, 1949, 1962-63; facilities, 1914-1944 (covers Hales Gymnasium, Hanna Camp, Galpin Field, etc.); general alumni file, 1914-1918, 1955-1957; women’s basketball, 1905-1917 (record book); and printed material, c. 1893-1963, 1966-1981. There is also a photograph group that measures eight inches.

[16] Records of the Women’s Studies Program, 1974-1989, 3ft. 4in.

Administrative History

Initiatives to incorporate women’s studies into the Oberlin curriculum began in the early 1970s. Following a 1971-72 recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women, the College Faculty developed additional courses relating to women’s studies within the respective College departments. Three developmental phases followed: early curricular and governance initiatives, 1973-74; the Women’s Studies Committee, 1974-1982; and the Women’s Studies Program, 1983 to the present.

During the first phase, four women—three wives of faculty members and one part-time faculty member—taught five women’s studies courses: Children’s Literature, Women and the Arts, A History of the 19th-Century American Woman, The Rhetoric of Social Movements, and an Advanced Creative Writing Workshop. The Oberlin Women’s Studies Planning Collective (a subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Women), the Women’s Advisory Council, and a Women’s Studies Planning Committee were responsible for developing a curriculum and gaining financial support for women’s studies. Between 1972 and 1974 these committees worked with three women who were responsible for developing an interdiscip]inary approach to women’s studies—Ellen Langenheim Henle Lawson (b. 1944), an interim special consultant in women’s studies, and associate deans Zara Wilkenfeld (b. 1938) and Paula Goldsmid (b. 1943).

In 1974 the Women’s Studies Committee, now a standing committee of the College Faculty, was made responsible for “coordinating curricular offerings in the area of Women’s Studies, including the possibility of developing guidelines for a major in Women’s Studies.” From 1974 to 1976 the committee membership included four representatives from the College Faculty, four students, the associate dean responsible for women’s concerns, and two other individuals interested in women’s studies. The latter were appointed by the first nine members and approved by the College Faculty. In the spring of 1976 the committee’s composition consisted of seven faculty members (five women and two men) and seven students.

Using external grants the Women’s Studies Committee developed continuing-education opportunities and public programs. For example, the committee interacted with the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) women’s studies programs. Gerda Lerner (b.1920) gave a symposium in 1977 titled “Placing Women in American History,” with a response by William Scott. In 1978 Florence Howe (b. 1929) was appointed visiting scholar in women’s studies. Howe organized the first interdisciplinary faculty seminar on women’s studies and assisted the committee in long-range planning.

The committee achieved a major goal when the Educational Plums and Policy Committee passed a resolution in 1982 making women’s studies a program. By this time a program coordinator had been in place for several years, and the curriculum included 27 core courses (not all taught annually) and 41 related courses. These cross-listed courses were taught mostly by tenured or tenure-track faculty members. The introduction of Women’s Studies 100 in 1981-82 constituted the program’s first class offering. Although this step did not end the financing and staffing problems that plagued the Women’s Studies Program from the beginning, it did establish a niche in the curriculum.

Scope and Content

This record group is organized into two subgroups: an administrative file and an affiliate associations file. The records of the administrative file are divided into 12 series. Included are various drafts of the charter (no dates); minutes of the Women’s Studies Collective, February-April 1974, the Women’s Studies Committee, 1974-1982, and the Women’s Studies Program Committee, 1982-1989; correspondence concerning curriculum, programs, and participation in the National Women’s Studies Association, 1974-1989; and annual reports, 1978,1982-1988. The program review of 1985 provides an overview of the program from its inception. The financial records, 1974-1983, include the budget for a National Endowment for the Humanities consultancy (1981) and the program budget for 1982-83. The other series contain curriculum and advising information, 1973-1988; seminars, conferences, and lectures concerning women’s studies, 1975-1983,1987-88; surveys and questionnaires, 1972 and 1978; program development; publications, 1976-1978,1988; and a historical file, 1976-1978.

The affiliate association subgroup documents Oberlin’s major involvement with other organizations concerned with the development of women’s studies. The Great Lakes Colleges Association, 1976-1983, contains information on Oberlin’s participation in the women’s studies section of the GLCA through correspondence, some of which documents Florence Howe’s 1978 Oberlin appointment; brochures; lists of speakers; consultants; reports; and films. The second series deals with Oberlin and the National Women’s Studies Association. 1976-1983,1985. This series includes correspondence, questionnaires, and newsletters. The third and fourth series addresses Oberlin’s role in the North Central Women’s Studies Association, 1977-1982, and the Northern Ohio Women’s Studies Consortium, 1977-1979, respectively .

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