athletic lass

Health and Hygiene

In addition to the prescribed workouts, students were sometimes encouraged and sometimes required to learn about anatomy and hygiene. Anna E. Brphysical culture articleoomall, M.D, the College's first consulting physician, was a Lecturer on Personal Hygiene. Additional courses on hygiene and human physiology were taught by Anna M. Fullerton, M.D. aspart of a Philosophy Department minor. Records do not indicate what was taught in Broomall's beginning of the year classes, or the hygiene aspect of Fullerton's courses, but literature of the day suggests that the topics included bathing, sleep and eating habits, and menstruation.

The coursework in physiology and hygiene offered by thePhilosophy Department was short-lived. By 1887 both the clmedical meauring instrumentsasses and Dr. Fullerton disappeared from the program listings, and no hygiene classes were mentioned until 1899. That fall, incoming students were required to attend ten lectures on hygiene. No additional mention is made of hygiene until 1908, when Constance Applebee, in her role as the director of both athletics and gymnastics, was to "endeavor by lectures, interviews, personal advice, exercise, and general hygiene to maintain and improve the health of the students."

The health of women college students continued to be a topic of concern and curiosity well into the first half of the twentieth century. By keeping detailed health records and progress reports - a standard procedure at American colleges, whether single sex or coed - President Thomas and her academic peers had data that reinforced the message: the college experience was not life-threatening.

Their reports received attention in academic circles, mainstream publications, and the popular press. An 1898 story in one of the tabloids of the time, The World, claimed that exact measurements taken of Bryn Mawr students absolutely proved that women were growing taller and therefore, it seemed, healthier.

newspaper article

The statistics cited in The World's article had been collected under fraudulent circumstances. One of the paper's women reporters, pretending to be sent from President Thomas' office, managed to gain access to the records while Dr. Louisa Smith, the gym director, was distracted.

newspaper article, detail

Several trustees brought the article to Carey Thomas' attention. But the problem with the article, said President Thomas, was not that Bryn Mawr was put into the limelight, but that the newspaper named names. The vital statistics of one student, Alice McBurney, received particular attention even though she had attended Bryn Mawr for only one year. "Her father [a well-known New York physician] withdrew her because he did not like the effect of college life on women, and I suppose he will never forgive the college for having allowed to be printed the physical measurements of his daughter," wrote Thomas. Although distressing to board members and staff, the article seems to have done little harm to the College's reputatfirst infirmaryion. Alice McBurney's reputation in New York social circles doesn't seem to have been completely ruined, either; The New York Times reported her marriage to psychiatrist Dr. Austen Fox Riggs in April 1904.

As part of its original promise to oversee the health of the students, the College made available the part-time services of physicians. Following Anna E. Broomall, only female physicsecond infirmaryians were affiliated with the College until 1899, when the College hired its first male doctor, George S. Gerhard. Gerhard appears to have been responsible for, among other things, vaccinations (held in the gym) and for the logistics and paperwork of taking care of sick students. By the beginning of academic year 1909, the students' health program included an additional six consulting physicians in the fields of gynecology, general practice, eye care, surgery, hearing, and orthopedics.

The doctors kept their part-time hours in Merion Hall, even though the college's first infirmary, a small cottage, opened in 1893. The second infirmary, also designed by Lockwood de Forrest and Winsor Soule and opened in 1913, was a gift of the Class of 1905.

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