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Physical activity

In the early part of the nineteenth century, it was believed that physical activity was dangerous and inappropriate for girls. Girls were taught to reserve their delicate health for the express purpose of birthing healthy children. Furthermore, the physiological difference between the sexes helped to reinforce the societal inequality. An anonymous female writer was able to contend that women were not intended to fill male roles, because "women are, as a rule, physically smaller and weaker than men; their brain is much lighter; and they are in every way unfitted for the same amount of bodily or mental labour that men are able to undertake."[41] Yet by the end of the century, medical understanding of the benefits of exercise created a significant expansion in physical culture for girls. Thus by 1902, The Girl's Empire magazine was able to run a series of articles on "How to Be Strong," proclaiming, "The old-fashioned fallacies regarding health, diet, exercise, dress, &c., have nearly all been exploded, and to-day women are discarding the old ideas and methods, and entering into the new régime with a zest and vigour which bodes well for the future."[42]

Girl's magazines, such as The Girl's Own Paper and The Girl's Empire frequently featured articles encouraging girls to take up daily exercises or learn how to play a sport. Popular sports for girls included hockey, golf, cycling, tennis, fencing, and swimming. Of course, many of these sports were limited to the middle and upper classes who could afford the necessary materials and free time needed to play. Nonetheless, the inclusion of girls in physical culture created a new space for girls to be visible outside of the home and to partake in activities previously only open to boys. Sports became central to the lives of many middle-class girls, to the point where social commentators worried it would overshadow other cultural concerns. For example, a 1902 Girl's Own Paper article on "Athletics...
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