Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“Women at the Gymnasium: OAC Women's Athletics and Physical Education, 1880s-1940,” Ted Cox

November 7, 2018


Ted Cox
Ted Cox

“Women at the Gymnasium: OAC Women's Athletics and Physical Education, 1880s-1940”  Watch Video

Larry Landis, the director of SCARC, kicks off this lecture by introducing Ted Cox and his topic. From there, Cox begins by defining the terms "physical culture," "physical training," and "physical education." He also traces his personal connection to the OSU Physical Education Department, starting in 1973 when he came to OSU for graduate school. Cox then dedicates his lecture to Betty Lynd Thompson, an influential dance instructor in the Physical Education Department, describes their friendship with her and shares some of his memories of her.

Cox next shifts to providing background information about the founding of Oregon Agricultural College's campus in Corvallis, and describes the early sporting activities and athletics facilities at OAC (precursor to present-day OSU). He then traces the founding and development of student athletic associations at OAC, focusing in particular on the Women's Athletic Association. He details prevailing views of the time that discouraged women's competitive sports and describes the relationship that existed between the OAC Physical Education Department and the student athletic organizations. Cox then focuses on the OAC women's basketball team and the games it played against teams from other colleges as well as local high schools. He also describes other women's sports at OAC, including field hockey and track and field.

Next, Cox describes the development of the physical education program at OAC, starting with Mr. Lea, the first physical culture instructor. He then profiles Helen Crawford, the head of the Speech Department, who learned physical culture instruction from Mr. Lea, and became the first physical culture educator at OAC. Cox continues this narrative with a history of the women who were the heads of the Physical Education Department. He also describes the evolution and expansion of the OAC gymnasium, and the corrective posture program run by the Department of Physical Education. Notable women mentioned include Miriam Thayer and Mabel Lee. The talk also highlights Edna Cocks, who oversaw the design and construction of the Women's Building, as well as Ruth Glassow, who published an influential physical education book titled Fundamentals of Physical Education.

In the question and answer segment of the talk, Cox explains that all the posture pictures of OAC students were destroyed. He finishes the lecture by summarizing how physical education became a requirement at OSU.