clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Minnesota Gophers: Necessity of Girls Sports--From 1897 #TBT

International Women's Day or #IDW2016 for you Twitter kids was earlier in the week, March is Women's History (Herstory), and the Gopher Women's Hockey team is getting ready to repeat as NCAA champs. So I thought this was a great occasion to reprint an article that showed up in the The Ariel (the student newspaper before The Minnesota Daily) by Dr. Louis Cooke, then the Men's Basketball Coach at the U of M and the Director of the Department of Physical Education for Men (at the time this position was similar to today's Athletic Director role).

U of M female students swimming at Lake Calhoun, 1899.
U of M female students swimming at Lake Calhoun, 1899.

The Ariel

October 30, 1897

Necessity of Girl's Sports: They Should Take Advantage of Gymnasium.

The question of woman's rights is irrepressible; put it down in one way and out it comes in another. Somehow, too, woman's rights have almost come to be synonymous with woman's grievances. So the young women of the University feel that since it should be a right of theirs to have a gymnasium, it is a grievance that they haven't it. Their cry is that which is always associated with woman's rights: "The men have something which we haven't." In this case it is not the right to sit on juries, nor vote, but to have a good gymnasium.

While physical culture is doubtless meant to fill the need of a gymnasium, it is impossible for it to do this under existing conditions. It is impossible for girls, hampered as they must be by their clothing no matter how sensibly dressed, to receive the greatest benefit from exercises. Surely it is quite as necessary that the girls should take their exercise under good conditions as the boys, if not more so, for they are less likely to take exercise outside the gymnasium. Almost all colleges with which the University of Minnesota compares well in all other respects, have a well-equipped gymnasium for the girls. The girls of these schools have basket ball, tennis, rowing (if practicalble) and track and field athletics. There is no reason why as hearty an interest should not be manifested here. Indeed, many of the girls are anxious to have the usual athletics of college girls, but feel that they can make little or no progress without a trainer. Besides this, there is danger of their injuring themselves by injudicious exercise unless there is an experienced person to prevent.

Last year the basket ball teams had Dr. Cooke to train them, but this year all his time will be required for the boys. It is a case of "From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."

Not only is there real physical benefit to the girls, but there is no better way of promoting a spirit of camaraderie among students than by an interest in school athletics.

Note: I'd be very curious to see which other schools had women's gyms before 1897, I cant imagine it was as many as this article makes out. Also female students did finally get their own gymnasium in 1914, Norris Field House and Gymnasium (which has since been torn down).

Dr. Louis Cooke in 1897.