Lore: "The Apple"

How field hockey came to America—and Bryn Mawr.

Constance Applebee holding a field hockey stick
Constance Applebee, Bryn Mawr’s athletic director from 1904 to 1929

Constance Applebee (1873–1981) is credited with single-handedly introducing field hockey to America. The British native also played an outsize role in Bryn Mawr’s history, serving as athletic director from 1904 to1929.

A graduate of the British College of Physical Education, Applebee first came to America in 1901 to take a women’s physical education course at Harvard University. Explaining the British sport of field hockey one day to her classmates, she demonstrated the game to them in a courtyard behind the Harvard gymnasium.

That fall, Applebee toured the Northeast and introduced the sport to several women’s colleges including Vassar, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, and Wheaton Female Seminary. She took the time at each stop to coach both faculty and students on the finer points of the game.

At Bryn Mawr, where Applebee remained a visiting coach until 1971 (when she was 97), she also introduced water polo, cricket, archery, and lacrosse, and she established the rule that all students must be able to swim before they graduate.

1920 Field Hockey Team
Bryn Mawr’s field hockey team, c. 1920.

A stern coach who was loved by her students, Applebee was known affectionately as “The Apple.”

Applebee was a founding member of the American Field Hockey Association and published The Sportswoman, the first magazine dedicated to women athletes. She was instrumental in making the Philadelphia area a center for women’s field hockey and for many years ran a renowned field hockey camp in the Poconos.

A specially designed stick was made for her by Spalding and was soon copied in England, where the model was known as the Applebee hockey stick.

Applebee died in 1981 at the age of 107 in an English nursing home. She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.