Social Life and Activities
Athletics at Simmons
"A sport for every girl and every girl in a sport." (Lee, 158)
During Olive Ruby Henty's (ORH) time at Simmons, sports and physical education programs were relatively new phenomena at women's colleges.
The beginning of the 20th century marked a surge in professional and amateur sports. Baseball became popular at this time; the Boston Red Sox went to the World Series twice during ORH's time at Simmons, first in 1912 and again in 1914. Football also became a favorite pastime at colleges and universities, with the first Rose Bowl played in Pasadena in 1902.
Many current sports organizations were established at the turn of the century, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the American Olympic Association (AOA). Many women's athletic organizations were also established at this time, including the Athletic Conference of American College Women, the National Section on Women's Athletics, and the Women's Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation.
Soon, sports were being promoted in all aspects of life by schools, churches, athletic clubs, the Boy Scouts, and summer camps. Lobbying began for state laws that would require physical education to be taught in schools. "From their beginnings, the women's academies and colleges favored participation of their students in sports and games as well as in gymnastics and dancing" (Lee, 76). However, "it was not until the 1910s that sports were accepted as a part of the all-year school programs by most colleges" (Lee, 179).
In 1909, a small, temporary gymnasium was built on the Simmons campus. This construction was the first step toward a sports program at the college. The next step was the creation of the Simmons Athletic Association (SAA) in 1910.
The idea for an athletic association at Simmons was first put forward by Marjorie C. Elmes, and was approved with a nearly unanimous vote. Any student could be a member of the SAA if she kept her grades up. The purpose of the organization was to bring sports to Simmons as well as to foster a sense of community at the college. ORH was a member of the SAA and served on its cabinet during her sophomore year.
Field Day, or Track, organized by the SAA, began at Simmons College in 1911. Events included shot-put, high jump, javelin throw, standing broad jump, discus throw, hop-step & jump, basketball throw, archery, tennis rounds and, for a time, horseback riding. Award cups were presented to individuals receiving the most points in each event as well as the classes receiving the most points overall (Simmons College Archives, Track Day, 2006).
The push to incorporate athletics into physical education programs for women often began with the incorporation of dance and gymnastics. "By the second decade [of the twentieth century], outdoor dance festivals, May fetes, and May pageants built around the dance became popular" (Lee, 133). The first May Day at Simmons College was celebrated in May 1912 when the sophomores began the day by getting up early in the morning and hanging "May baskets" on the seniors' doors. Later the same morning, the sophomores would parade through the dormitories singing traditional college songs to wake the seniors. They would then entertain the senior class and its president or "Queen of May" by dancing around a maypole before the festivities concluded with a strawberry shortcake breakfast served out on the lawn.
The first types of sports played at Simmons were tennis, track, and basketball. In 1914, baseball was added to the sports curriculum. ORH was on the track team as a sophomore and was the class tennis champion in her freshman, sophomore, and junior years. During her senior year, ORH became college tennis champion, earning her a little "S" and the title, "wearer of the S." These "S's" were only awarded to multi-year record holders and college champions.
The importance of sports at Simmons at the turn of the century was summed up by students from the Class of 1912, who wrote in their yearbook, "Athletics are here to stay. Now that we have them firmly established, it is hard to believe that there was a time when we managed to exist without them" (Microcosm 1912, 107).back to top
Lee, M. (1983). A history of physical education and sports in the U.S.A. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Simmons College. (1911). Microcosm 1911. Andover, MA: Andover Press.
---. (1912). Microcosm 1912. Andover, MA: Andover Press.
---. (1913). Microcosm 1913. Andover, MA: Andover Press.
---. (1914). Microcosm 1914. Andover, MA: Andover Press.
---. (1915). Microcosm 1915. Andover, MA: Andover Press.
Simmons College Archives. (2006). A brief history of Simmons College: the early years, 1899-1919. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from, http://my.simmons.edu/library/collections/college_archives/briefhistory.shtml#Early
Simmons College Archives. (2006). Simmons College traditions?then and now: May Day. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://my.simmons.edu/library/collections/college_archives/traditions/mayday.shtml
Simmons College Archives. (2006). Simmons College traditions?then and now: track day/field day/spring spree/Simmons cup. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://my.simmons.edu/library/collections/college_archives/traditions/track.shtml