The History of Wellesley College Athletics

The timeline below represents the first steps in an attempt to recapture the history of physical education, recreation and athletics at Wellesley College. It is by no means to be considered complete! While certain factual information is available from the college archives and records, Friends of Wellesley College Athletics especially welcomes first-hand accounts and pictures from its alumnae, former administrators and friends of the College which will help complete this timeline and to portray it in the rich human dimension it deserves.

Physical education was a part of the Wellesley curriculum from its inception in 1875 and exercise was required. Founder Henry Fowle Durant's view was considered fairly avant garde at the time. He advised the students "to make the blood bound through your veins; that will stimulate the mind and help to make you good students." Students were encouraged to take brisk walks, to row on the lake, and to exercise in the gymnasium.

1882 – The gymnasium was refitted under the supervision of Dr. D. A. Sargent of Harvard.

In her President's Report to the Board of Trustees in 1890, Helen Shafer presented statistics collected on 26 students which documented their improvements in physical condition from using the gymnasium on a regular basis. On the basis of these findings, President Shafer encouraged "adequate gymnasium" be a continued part of the curriculum.

1893 – The gift of a boathouse was presented to Wellesley as a gift from the students.

1896 – The New Athletic Association was established.

1899 – Field Day was held on May 29, 1899.

1903 – Nehoiden Golf Course opened.

1902 – New Athletic Association is recognized by the Trustees and New Field Day was held on November 3, 1902.

1908 – The Athletic Association was reformed. Under revised bylaws, the President was always a senior, the Vice President was always a junior who also served as Chairman of the Field Day Committee. The treasurer was a Junior. The Secretary and Custodian were Sophomores. An annual contribution of one dollar was solicited from each member of the Association.

In 1908, organized sports at Wellesley included rowing, golf, tennis, basketball, field hockey, running, archery and baseball. Unorganized sports included walking, riding, swimming, fencing, skating and snowshoeing. Each sport had a instructor from the Department of Physical Education. Members were grouped in class squads governed by captains, and each class squad furnished a team whose members were awarded numerals on the basis of records of health, discipline and skill. Honors, blue W's worn on the sweaters, were awarded on a similar basis. Interclass competitions for trophies were held on Field Day. Other special days included the "Indoor Meet" in the spring, Float Day in June, and an ice carnival on Lake Waban in the winter. As of that time, Wellesley did not believe in intercollegiate sports for women, but promoted recreation and healthful exercise to as many students who were fit and willing to take part in them.

1909 – Wellesley College built a new gymnasium with an endowment of $100,000 named after Mary Hemenway, of Boston, to support graduate study in physical education. Amy Morris Homans, director of the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics at the time, was named director of Wellesley's program. This marked the founding of the Department of Hygiene and Physical Education.

By 1915, contributions through the Athletic Association were used to construct new tennis courts, to remodel the golf course and to repair the boathouse.

1962 – The boathouse collapsed, destroying the structure and equipment. Alumnae and students provided support to rebuild the boathouse and reinstate the program.

1970 – Intercollegiate crew was initiated as an official part of the physical education program for the first time.

1985 – Wellesley College opened a new sports center, including a new field house, pool, exercise rooms, locker rooms and administrative offices. The original Mary Hemenway gymnasium was razed to make room for the new field house. Major portions of the Recreation Building were preserved and incorporated into the new center, although the original Davenport Pool became the site of sqash and racquetball courts.

2001 – Golf was added as the 12th Varsity sport and practices commenced at Nehoiden, currently the oldest nine-hole golf course in the country.

2002 – Wellesley dedicated four new playing fields and an outdoor track in October. The fields were built at the west end of campus beyond the Field House on the former Paint Shop Pond site.

2005 – Softball was added as the newest Varsity sport and Keri O’Meara was hired as the first coach. Only three years after the program was established, the 2007 team claimed their first NEWMAC championship title and first NCAA tournament berth.  

2007 – After functioning for several years as a club sport due to Wellesley’s non-regulation courts, squash was officially reinstated as a Varsity sport. This new status is thanks in part to a partnership with the Dana Hall School for use of their newly-built regulation size squash courts, which will allow the Wellesley squash team to practice and compete at this state-of-the-art facility.

2010 – Track becomes the 14th varsity sport in the Wellesley Athletics program.  

 

Sources: Project Gutenberg Etext Story of Wellesley College, by Florence Converse, etext prepared by Stephanie L. Johnson (Wellesley '91), etext #2363; Wellesley College 1875 – 1975: A Century of Women, Jean Glasscock, General Editor, Wellesley College, 1975.