The Women's Department of Health and Physical Education Records consist of correspondence, reports, brochures, publicity materials, student records, scrapbooks, and photographs. The records are organized into two series: Alphabetical Files and Scrapbooks.
The alphabetical files primarily cover the period from the 1930s to 1975. Of note are photographs of women participating in physical education classes and sports; materials from the Women's Athletic Association and Women's Recreation Association; several surveys and reports from the 1960s and 1970s about women students' feelings and attitudes toward physical education; correspondence, estimates, and reports about the proposed building of a new facility for the department; correspondence and many reports which document the struggle with the administration to maintain the Department as a separate unit from the men's department in the 1970s; materials that discuss the effect of Title IX on women's sports and the growth of women's sports in the 1970s. Major figures include Julia R. Grout and Elizabeth C. Bookhout, both of whom served as Chairman of the department. The Alphabetical Files also include information on students who majored in physical education. In accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as amended, Duke University permits students to inspect their education records and limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.
The Alphabetical Files are arranged by broad subjects: Addresses, Administration, Annual Reports, Budget, Correspondence, Curriculum, Departmental Studies and Reports, Facilities, History, Photographs, Publicity, Recreation, Staff Meetings, Task Force and Curriculum Committee Action, and Women's Athletics. Within each of these subsections, materials are arranged either chronologically or alphabetically. The original arrangement of the materials has been maintained as much as possible.
The Scrapbooks are compilations of photographs, clippings, programs, correspondence, and other memorabilia. There are three books which date from 1932 to 1975.
Women have participated in physical education classes at Duke University since at least 1896. Men's and women's physical education was conducted out of the same department, and female students took classes in gymnastics, marching, and calisthenics. In 1924, Julia "Jerry" R. Grout was named Assistant Director of Physical Education for the department, and she became the Director of the physical education program for women.
Soon after she arrived, Grout began to offer women students a wider variety of elective courses, and she required that students have two exercise sessions a week. During the 1925-1926 school year, the first theory course was added to the curriculum.
Between 1926 and 1929, separate Men's and Women's Physical Education Departments grew out of the original department. This department would be known variously through the years as the Department of Physical Education in the Woman's College, the Department of Physical Education for Women, and the Department of Health and Physical Education for Women. In 1930, the formation of the Woman's College on the East Campus of Duke University meant that women's physical education became primarily located on East Campus, while men's athletics and physical education were concentrated on the West Campus.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, new staff members were added, and Grout's title changed from Director to Chairman. The variety of class offerings increased, with an increase in team sports electives. The advent of World War II led to classes with increased vigor to build stamina and strength. Also, beginning in fall 1942, Physical Education became a major for women who wanted to be certified to teach the discipline at the secondary level.
In the 1950s, the required classes had a greater emphasis on individual sports, rather than team sports. Games like tennis and golf could be played long after the students had graduated, so in the early 1950s the requirement of team sports was dropped for women. Also in the 1950s, the Department became increasingly aware of the need for better facilities for women's athletic and recreational activities. The Angier B. Duke gymnasium (known as the "Ark") needed major renovations and additional buildings were needed.
The need for new facilities persisted into the 1960s, but no new facilities were funded. Throughout the 1960s, the department continually found itself revising its curriculum and responding to demands for change from both students and administrators. In 1964, after a forty-year career at Duke, Jerry Grout retired, and Dr. Betty F. McCue served as Chairman until 1967. In 1967, Dr. Elizabeth C. Bookhout became Chairman. (Although all three directors of the department were women, their official title was "Chairman.")
The Department continued to provide classes, but the requirement for physical education was reduced to just the freshmen year. Fewer women students majored in physical education, although some courses, like modern dance, remained popular. As in previous decades, the Women's Department felt deeply constrained by the lack of facilities for their courses, athletics, and recreation programs. In 1972, the Woman's College merged with Trinity College, Duke's undergraduate college, which had previously consisted of only men. In 1975, the University felt that it was financially unable to support the separate men's and women's Physical Education Departments, and merged the two departments. As of 2005, this department is called the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.
Throughout its fifty-one year life, the Women's Department of Health and Physical Education did more than just administer required courses. It also assisted, sponsored, and helped support other athletic endeavors for women. A number of women's athletic teams, including swimming, golf, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, and volleyball, were developed and supported by the Women's Department until the teams came under the administration of the Athletic Department.
The Department also advised the Duke Women's Athletic Association (WAA). The WAA was formed in 1930, and helped set up athletic competitions for students, often just among Duke students and sometimes against other schools. The WAA also supported the Modern Dance Club and the Nereidians, a synchronized swimming club. In 1959, the WAA changed to the Women's Recreation Association (WRA), and this organization also organized recreational athletic activities.
This note was written based on information in the book Fifty Years of Physical Education for Duke Women, by Elizabeth C. Bookhout.