Women in Sports 19th and 20th Century

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Jen Pearlstein
December 2, 2010
Kin 305
Women in Sports 19th and 20th Century
Women’s participation in sports has changed over the centuries. In ancient times, men dominated societies. Women were viewed as the caretaker, a provider for life. Women who did participate were criticized and were thought of as threatening. In 18th century America, women were considered inferior to men because of the belief that women are the weaker sex. A woman’s purpose in life was to take care of the house, children, and husband. When they did want to participate in recreational sport, they need to be able to negotiate with men and with other women because societies did not make it easy for women to participate. For example, there was a woman who wanted to go sailing, but to do so she needed to deal with the owner of the boat, her husband and a neighboring couple, who was to accompany her, to do so. By the 19th century, there was a cultural shift for women.

Women became frustrated with their role in society as house -keepers and caretakers and wanted to experience more with their life. They wanted to pursue educational and athletic opportunities to expand their role outside the home. At that time, however, there was opposition towards women participating in sports and receiving an education because they believed it would cause damage to their reproductive organs. Also, it was believed that sport developed manliness, a trait women should not process. But when women were given an education, it was shown that they could handle the ability to endure rigors of education, which helped them form a sense of independence and help provide athletic opportunities.

Because of these growing opportunities, exercise for women became very popular and gained credibility. Catherine Beecher was one influential person in regards to physical education for women. She and Dioclesian Lewis developed the 1st women physical education programs to promote women’s health. They...
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