Photograph Album of a Female Student at Sargent School for Physical Education.
[Cambridge, Massachusetts]: 1922-1925?. 23.5 x 27 cm. 144 b&w photographs on 23ff, with two additional photos (possibly unrelated) laid in. Photos range in size, although most are either 1.5 x 2.5 inches or 4.5 x 2.5; tally includes four very small cut-outs. Some photos trimmed and shaped by compiler, often to isolate a particular person or group of people, or for aesthetic effect. All images clearly captioned by Ms. Thomas on the album leaves in white ink, with places, persons and dates noted. In a recently rebound album of half-cloth and marbled paper-covered boards with marbled endpapers. Very Good.
An exceptional photograph album that almost entirely shows the activities of female students at the Sargent School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which trained both women and men to become teachers of physical education. Included are numerous photographs of women students performing various acrobatics and gymnastic exercises, such as forming human pyramids, doing the “crab walk,” back bends, head stands and somersaults, and in general performing physical activities with enthusiasm, usually while wearing bloomers. In later photographs some of the women, having now become teachers, are shown instructing 3rd grade students in physical exercises. Also included are images of the students in their dorms, playing music, going on excursions, etc.
The Sargent School for Physical Education was founded by Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent in 1881, and was remarkable for its emphasis on training both women and men, as well as weak and disabled students (not just athletes), thus “largely creat[ing] the discipline of physical education” (https://www.bu.edu/sargent/about-us/our-history/). It also challenged the notion that women were weak, prone to fainting, etc., and gave them the skills to not only demonstrate strength and agility to the children they would go on to teach, but to develop themselves intellectually, as well. According to a 1914 newspaper article, “[t]he work at the Sargent School is designed not only to give instruction in the theory and practice of physical training but to develop the individual power of the pupils mentally, morally and physically so that they may go out as teachers not only familiar with the human machine upon which they are to work but in the best condition to render most effective service and accomplish most beneficent results” (Cambridge Tribune, 30 May 1914).
An uncommon record of women’s physical education training during the 1920s, and a unique record of life at the Sargent School before it became part of Boston University, in 1929.