The physical education requirement was not formally stated in college publications until 1899, at which time there were to be four hours of exercise weekly, one of which was to be spent in the gymnasium. Student compliance, sometimes left until the end of the semester, was required for graduation. Both the coursework and the students' attitudes toward it were frequent subjects of articles and cartoons in student publications.

The methods used for the required courses were based on those recommended by Dudley Sargent but with the additional influence of other trends in the field. Included were military tactics, fancy steps, free hand work, "Swedish gymnastics," in the style taught by Baron Nils Posse; "German gymnastics," a reference to the countrywide movement of the German Turnverein; the "dramatic expression" approach of Delsarte and Charles Wesley Emerson; and folk dancing. Any form of dance that involved couples touching still had an air of loose morals about it, even at the turn of the century, and was not part of the official coursework.

The College's swimming requirement is not mentioned until the course catalogue of May 1909. Starting in the academic year 1909-1910, "all students who cannot satisfy the swimming test are required to take six lessons in swimming." Although legend has it that the requirement came about in response to the drowning death of a Bryn Mawr student, there is no particular event cited in any of the College's records that makes this story credible.


The opening of the pool precipitated a crisis that Thomas feared would damage the College's reputation as a moral institution. On May 10-11, 1895, Thomas wrote to Mary Garrett that she had been interrupted at dinner

"by the excitement of naked students in the pool. It seems about 20 do it & are fast persuading others to do it. Of course it must be stopped at once as it wd do us more harm than any thing I can think of but there is really no harm in it."

The matter seems to have been resolved (in favor of clothing) through meetings with the Athletic Association and representatives of the student Self-Government Association.

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