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Physical Education and Athletics

Identifier: BC13-41

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Physical Education Department records include materials from the Barnard College Athletics Association and Physical Education department. Materials include uniforms from old physical education classes, early reports and minutes of meetings of the Athletics Association, scrapbooks, course listings and curricula, and annual reports and inventories. Additionally, the collections contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photographs, and other materials that outline Barnard College’s participation in sports-related events.

Highlights of the Physical Education records include details about the hygiene classes offered in the 1920s and 1930s, which speak to perceptions of women’s bodies and physical health at the time. Related are materials on teaching Body Mechanics, a facet of physical education that emphasized proper posture for optimal women’s health, clippings about posture contests held at Barnard, and the Mythical Freshman statistics (Miss 1944 - Miss 1948), which were a composite of health statistics from all Barnard women each year used to show the “typical” physical characteristics of Barnard College women.

Other components of the collection include clippings and other materials that highlight the accomplishments of women athletes at Barnard College, information about the annual Celebration of Women in Sports event, and information about the Seven Sisters Invitational sporting event. Also of note are materials that highlight bygone sports such as quoits.


  • Creation: 1900 - 2006



Some items in boxes 36 and 44 - 46, are restricted as they pertain to private student, faculty, and staff information.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproductions Restrictions

Photocopies or scans may be made for research purposes.

Historical Background

The Athletics Association was founded by students at Barnard in 1900 as a branch of the student government. The intent of the Athletics Association was to manage all athletics at Barnard during a time when the College had no physical education program. Membership with the Athletics Association bought a student access to games, tournaments, and the College’s recreational spaces, such as the tennis court.

The Physical Education Department of Barnard was created in 1904 at the suggestion of the Committee on Undergraduate Athletics of the Alumnae Association. The first class was a mandatory lecture in personal hygiene for students, as well as two hours of mandatory exercise in the gym each week. Physical education classes took place at Teachers College until 1917, when Barnard Gymnasium was opened.

In the 1910s, after struggling with the Physical Education Department for control of sports at Barnard, the Athletic Association was integrated into the Physical Education Department, functioning as a branch that worked with team sports.

Physical Education classes offered by the College focused on team sports, and popular classes were golf, tennis, and basketball. Sports unaffiliated with the courses of physical education offered by Barnard took the form of intramural competition, with members of different classes competing against each other. In 1983, the Columbia/Barnard Athletic Consortium was established (when women were admitted to Columbia) so that students at Barnard could compete against other schools at the Division I level through participation in the Columbia athletics program.

Predecessors of the Physical Education Department and the Athletics Association included the bicycle club, which was founded by students in 1896, and a dancing class started in 1898.

Presently, Barnard’s Physical Education Department organizes intramural sports and fitness classes for Barnard students, and the Columbia/Barnard Athletic Consortium is responsible for Division I Varsity athletics for Barnard and Columbia students.


24.69 Linear Feet (39 full sized boxes, 16 half size boxes, 2 oversized boxes, 2 document drawers)




This collection consists of materials relating to both the Physical Education Department and the extracurricular Athletics Association organization. Materials include reports, calendars of events, class lists, physical exam results, Athletic Association handbooks and minutes, rules, team lists, and gym costumes.

Collection Arrangement

The records are arranged in two series, contents are arranged in original order within boxes. The series arrangement of the records is as follows:

Series 1, Athletic Association materials

Series 2, Physical Education Department records

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Items transferred from the Physical Education department in 1987, 2000, 2011, and 2013.


Additions are expected.

Processing History

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Dinah Handel, February 2015. The finding aid was updated by Dinah Handel, June 2015.

  • Cross Country and Track team lists, 1980
Guide to Physical Education and Athletics
In Progress
Dinah Handel
© 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States