From its earliest days Bryn Mawr College offered its students a rigorous academic program in which they could "have all the advantages of a college education which are so freely offered to young men." But skeptics questioned whether women were both mentally and physically capable of this challenge. To demonstrate to the public that the critics of advanced education for women were wrong, the College officially promised to care for the health of its students and within limits, to encourage physical activity.
Bryn Mawr's methods of fulfilling
its promise reflected the standards of the day, as well as the ongoing
perceived need to publicly demonstrate the results. The "physical
culture" program influenced the layout of the grounds, added variety
to campus life, inspired literary and satirical publications, and connected
the College with other schools. In doing so, it helped present a vibrant
picture of the new college woman: intelligent, active and healthy.