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Women Athletes Of The 1920s Essay

1720 words - 7 pages

The 1920s was a time for many new opportunities for women in America, including participating in sports and becoming athletes.
Prior to the Roaring Twenties, only upper-class women had participated in sports. These wealthy women had joined sports clubs, social clubs, and country clubs. They engaged in sports at institutions, as well as playing sports while vacationing in Europe (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2/21/2011). An example of a woman like this would be Jordan Baker, a character from the novel The Great Gatsby. Jordan is a competitive golfer in the novel. Baker comes from the wealthy, upper-class, and is ‘old money’.
Consumerism of the 1920s caused the amount of clubs and sports teams for women to multiply. This materialistic attitude of Americans caused the economy to boom, thus providing more money for leisure activities. Institutions, churches, and saloons sponsored sports teams for women, and provided facilities. Declining prices of sporting goods and increasing popularity of sports as entertainment encouraged the formation of leagues. Both amateur and semi-pro leagues were organized, providing opportunities for middle-class athletes (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2/21/2011)
Industries and companies supported sports teams for women. They did this to promote personal health and worker efficiency. These teams brought advertising opportunities for the companies who supported them. This offered competitive opportunities for women and occasional income for the athletes (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2/21/2011).
To satisfy the competitive urge of their students, physical educators held “Play Days” and “Sport Days” for their female students. In a play day, teams from institutions did not play each other, but were combined and players were assigned to mixed-school teams. The play day brought together women from a variety of schools, and students participated in a variety sports, such as basketball, volleyball, field hockey, swimming, hopscotch, dodgeball, relays, and folk dancing. Officials tried to emphasize the social side of play days by encouraging breaks in play for reading and refreshments. Sport days were developed to satisfy the desire of students to compete. These sport days permitted teams to represent their schools and compete against other institutions. To make sure the games did not become too competitive, officials modified the rules. The games were shortened and less challenging. Sports days became the most popular form of competition for women promoted by physical educators (Woolum, 1992).
There was opposition to women participating in sports in the 1920s. It was believed that women could not handle the stress of the competition of playing sports. A very popular stereotype of the time was that women were too fragile to play strenuous sports. Some people believed that competitive sports did not promote feminine values, and participation in sports made a woman less-feminine. However, “by the 1920s a certain...

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