Physical Education and the Genesis of Women's Collegiate Sport
The previous chapters examined the cultural and social conditions that had transformed college sport into a form of mass commercial entertainment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They also traced the evolution of amateurism into an exploitative ideology. These developments, while important, were only a part of the overall story of college sport.
At the same time that men in academe were creating a model of sport that bore little relationship to the stated goals of higher education, women faced the more fundamental challenge of establishing a place for themselves within colleges and universities. Excluded on the basis of perceived female physical and intellectual inferiority, women found it necessary to explain why they should even be allowed to attend college, let alone participate in sport. Physical education, a precursor to present-day women's college sport, would eventually become a centerpiece for the arguments used to create a presence for women on college and university campuses. Physical education also provided the philosophical foundation for intercollegiate athletics for women.
During the late 1800s, American society evolved from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Social and economic centers relocated from family-owned farms and small rural communities to more populated urban settings. As the distance between workplace and home became more pronounced, so too did the requirement for a division of labor between public wage earning and private homemaking. These separate spheres, as they were called, became the respective