Sport and recreation in the United States — страница 17

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traditional sports and other displays of physical prowess. During the first half of the nineteenth century, perceptions and real experiences suggested to some people that the health of middle- and upper-class women in urbanizing areas was declining. Educators, doctors, and writers of popular magazine articles responded with analyses and prescriptions for improving women's health, including calls for renewed physical exertion via exercises and games. The logic of the health literature was simple and straightforward: if women were to fulfill their roles as caretakers of families and national virtue, they needed to maintain their physical and mental health. People such as Catharine Beecher, Mary Lyons, and Diocletian Lewis thus argued for the physical education of women, started

schools, and laid out regimens of calisthenics, domestic exercises (e.g., sweeping), and traditional activities such as walking and riding. The movement to return women to physically active pursuits had begun, albeit in their private, domestic sphere. This would not, however, occur overnight. The urban areas that were home to many of the women targeted by the likes of Beecher and Lewis, as well as the economic activities that powered such areas, had reduced the social power of traditional sports and engendered an emerging new form, modern sports. Constructed by men for men, games such as baseball were becoming popular in eastern urban centers at mid-century. Other activities such as skating, croquet, and rowing were also modernizing acquiring rules, specialized playing spaces,

and an organizational base in clubs. Only gradually did women gain access to such forms. In the 1850s they did so primarily as spectators and moral guardians. Especially at baseball games, male promoters hoped that women would bring their perceived moral superiority to bear on the crowds and ensure social order [13, ]. Challenging gendered boundaries Not all the middle- and upper-class women were content to remain on the periphery of the action, sporting or otherwise. As of 1848, a feminist movement had formalized at Seneca Falls, New York, and especially in the North, other movements such as abolitionism both encouraged women to be social agents and demonstrated that their reappearance in the public domain endangered neither their health nor that

of the nation. Moreover, the dynamic events of mid-century, including the War between the States (1861-65) challenged the gender boundaries and expectations that had confined women to the domestic sphere for more than three generations. Challenge is the appropriate word here, for middle- and upper-class urban women both found and made opportunities in public society during and after the Civil War that drew from their long-defined practices in their domestic sphere. Nursing and teaching were precisely such activities, but they were also ones that required additional training as well as sound constitutions. Not surprisingly, then, some women demanded and received access to colleges, where they did as their brothers did: they began to participate in some of the emerging modern

sports whose social power was increasing in the aftermath of the Civil War and the technological and communication changes of the 1860s and 1870s. At private colleges such as Vassar in New York and Smith and Wellesley in Massachusetts, women students formed clubs to play baseball and, quickly, tennis, croquet, and archery. College administrators and faculty responded, initially to the influx of women and their own fears about the negative impact of intellectual work on women students, with requirements for medical examinations, exercise and gymnastics regimens, and the gradual absorption of women's sport clubs. Outside of the colleges, post-war middle- and upper-class women were also moving to take advantage of the increasing array of modern sports. Local gymnasiums, armories

turned into playing areas, and a host of clubs that formed as men and women sought new forms of community provided urban and townswomen with opportunities for a range of sports, from skating and rowing to trap shooting and tennis. Such activities continued to stretch the bounds of activity acceptable for and to women. They also quieted some of the fears held especially by the male-dominated medical profession about the negative effects that physical movement in sports might have on women's biology and reproductive functions. An even more significant challenge to the nearly century-old ideology that placed women in the home and in subservience to men came in the form of a machine, the bicycle. Invented in Europe in the early 19th century, early versions of the bicycle had appeared