archery, c. 1926

Ladd, Foster, McNair, and Smith: the Muscle Behind Bryn Mawr Athletics

To carry out the College's promise to have a Sargent-trained instructor, M. Carey Thomas engaged Carolyn C. Ladd as the first "Directress of the Gymnasium." Ladd and Thomas had met in 1873-1874, their second year at thCarolyn Ladde Howland School, a Quaker academy for girls in Union Springs, New York. Ladd joined the Bryn Mawr staff shortly after graduating from Dudley Sargent's school in Cambridge.

Throughout her years here, Ladd often expressed her dissatisfaction with the College's--and particularly Thomas's--attitude toward the Physical Culture Department. "What you say about acting in a manner that is best for years to come is one of my strongest reasons for asking now that Physical Training be represented as a department in the faculty," she wrote Bertha Fosterin [date]. In the same letter, she suggests that academic excellence, one of Thomas' most cherished goals for the College, is not the only reason why students were coming to Bryn Mawr. The physical culture department was "one of the greatest attractions to many people in making a choice of institutions for their sons and daughters."

Ladd's successors were Bertha Foster, Alice McNair, and Louisa Smith, all of whom had trained with Sargent or one of the experts in physical education pedagogy, William Gilbert Anderson, a Yale instructor and one of the founders of the American Association for the Advancement of Physical Education. Like Ladd, they had to address the growing needs of the department and Thomas's ambiguous attitude toward the importance of the physical culture program. In a December 13, 1901 letter, Smith wrote:

Dear Miss Thomas:
I have learned through the students that announcement was made in Chapel on Thursday morning, December twelve, that if they would attend the concert to be given that afternoon they would be excised from gymnasium drill…. That this announcement should have been made I consider most unfortunate, and that I should be obliged to learn of it through the students very humiliating.


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