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Active BodiesA History of Women’s Physical Education in Twentieth-Century America$
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Martha H. Verbrugge

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195168792

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195168792.001.0001

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Gym Periods and Monthly Periods, 1900–1940

Gym Periods and Monthly Periods, 1900–1940

(p.63) 3 Gym Periods and Monthly Periods, 1900–1940
Active Bodies

Martha H. Verbrugge

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 examines physical educators’ views and policies regarding students’ participation in gym class during their menstrual periods. Interpreting menstruation in mechanical rather than strictly biochemical terms, teachers worried about the adverse effects of vigorous physical activity before and during menses. Between 1900 and 1920, most collegiate departments excused students from attending regular gym class during their periods. During the 1930s and 1940s, however, they mandated participation in most activities (except for swimming and horse riding). Chapter 3 traces this significant shift through a case study of regulations at Smith College. It relates gym teachers’ changing attitudes and policies to their quest for professional authority in the context of higher education’s increased supervision of undergraduate behavior between the 1920s and 1940s.

Keywords:   exercise, gym class, menstruation, undergraduate behavior, Smith College

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