The Female Tradition in Physical Education: Women First reconsidered, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Female Tradition in Physical Education

Women First reconsidered, 1st Edition

Edited by David Kirk, Patricia Vertinsky


226 pages

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The Female Tradition in Physical Education re-examines a key question in the history of modern education: why did the remarkably successful leaders of female physical education, who pioneered the development of the subject in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, lose control in the years following the Second World War? Despite the later resurgence of second wave feminism they never regained a voice, with the result that male leadership was able to shift the curriculum in ways that neglected the needs and interests of girls and young women.

Drawing on new sources and a range of historiographical approaches, and touching on related fields such as therapeutic exercise and dance, the book examines the development of physical education for girls in a number of countries to offer an alternative explanation to the dominant narrative of the ‘demise’ of the female tradition.

Providing an important contextualization for the state of contemporary female physical education, this is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in the development of sport and physical education, women’s and gender history, and physical culture more generally.


"Though all chapters align with the theme and aim, there is real variety in the content. This is a welcome contribution to the ?eld and does well to complement Fletcher’s original work, whilst also showing how the development of theoretical frameworks and standardised approaches (for example in oral history) have helped to improve our production and analysis of source materials to re?ne our understanding of the past."

'Eilidh Macrae, University of the West of Scotland'

Table of Contents

1. Re-Examining Women First: Re-Writing the History of the ‘End of an Era’

[Patricia Vertinsky]

2. The Displacement of Ling for Laban: A Growing Alliance of Dance with the Arts

[Patricia Vertinsky]

3. Dancing in New Directions: Transatlantic Connections

[Patricia Vertinsky]

4. Under the Critical Eye: An Insider’s Experience of the Female Tradition

[Margaret Whitehead]

5. Behind and Beyond Women First: Hidden Histories and Silences in the Female Tradition [Stephanie Daniels and Anita Tedder]

6. Moving to the ‘Midway Model’: The Longer Term Development of Dance Education

[Maggie Killingbeck]

7. ‘Masculinisation’, ‘Sportification’ and ‘Academicisation’ in the Men’s Colleges: A Case Study of the Carnegie Curriculum

[David Kirk]

8. Transformation or Accommodation? The Entry of Women Students into Carnegie

[Anne Flintoff]

9. Refuge: The Female Tradition, Gender, Class, Sex, and Sport in Northern England, 1960s–1970s

[Catriona M. Parratt]

10. Gender Dynamics in the Making and Breaking of a Female PETE Culture in Sweden [Suzanne Lundvall]

11. The Rediscovery of a Female Tradition in the Physical Activity Field: The Case of Therapeutic Exercise

[Alison M. Wrynn]

12. Women First Revisited: Recent Historical Research and Perspectives on U.S. Physical Education

[Martha H. Verbrugge]

13. Troubling the Progress and Loss Narratives: Insiders and Outsiders, Silences and Omissions, Signs and Route-Markers

[David Kirk and Patricia Vertinsky]

About the Editors

David Kirk is Professor and Head of the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde, UK, and formerly held the Alexander Chair in Physical Education and Sport at the University of Bedfordshire. He is author of studies of two curriculum histories in physical education, Defining Physical Education (Routledge, 1992) and Schooling Bodies (Cassell, 1998). His most recent books are Physical Education Futures (Routledge, 2010) and Girls, Gender and Physical Education: An Activist Approach (with Kimberly L. Oliver, Routledge, 2015).

Patricia Vertinsky is Professor of Kinesiology and Distinguished University Scholar at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She is author of The Eternally Wounded Woman: Doctors, Women and Exercise in the Late 19th Century ( University of Illinois Press, 1990); Sites of Sport: Space, Place and Experience (with John Bale, Routledge, 2004); Disciplining Bodies in the Gymnasium: Memory, Monument and Modernism (with Sherry McKay, Routledge, 2004), and Physical Culture, Power and the Body (with Jennifer Hargreaves, Routledge, 2007).

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Physical Education and Youth Sport

The Routledge Studies in Physical Education and Youth Sport series is a forum for the discussion of the latest and most important ideas and issues in physical education, sport, and active leisure for young people across school, club and recreational settings. The series presents the work of the best well-established and emerging scholars from around the world, offering a truly international perspective on policy and practice. It aims to enhance our understanding of key challenges, to inform academic debate, and to have a high impact on both policy and practice, and is thus an essential resource for all serious students of physical education and youth sport.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Physical Education
SPORTS & RECREATION / Sociology of Sports