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Tradition and Transformation: A History of Educating Girls at Hathaway Brown School, 1876-2006
By Virginia P. Dawson and Mark D. Bowles
In 1912 Hathaway Brown began a new athletic tradition at the school—ice hockey. To the enthusiastic students this represented what they believed was one of the greatest reforms in the entire Progressive era. One student described the awesome sight of the girls skating about with their sticks in hand looking like “Some newly organized club of militant suffragettes intending to terrify mere man into submission.” With something akin to a Jekyll and Hide transformation, the often demure and reserved girls assumed “Amazon” expressions as they became “warriors” wielding their “dangerous wooden instruments.” These girls were not simply playing a new sport, they were testing and exercising their freedoms as young women in a new era. Before the right to vote was won, these young women viewed the athletic contest as a symbolic measure of their effort to win gender equality. Emulating their elder counterparts in the suffrage movement, the students took to the ice rink with fervor, intensity, and a mission to prove their abilities in a realm previously reserved for men.
But this transition was not an easy one to make as the sometimes conflicting societal roles for women competed against each other. One student wrote, “This rink was the battle field also, for more than one conflict between the god of fashion, and the call of the twinkling skates. One stylish young lady dressed decidedly á la mode, stood for ten minutes one day, gazing pensively first at the tempting expanse of ice, and then at her jealous skirt, which seemed to say, ‘Thou shalt not.’” This undecided girl was emblematic of the decisions confronting women of this era: how could they maintain their femininity and also fight for their rights of equality? The challenges of balancing these dual roles would become a continuing struggle for both the girls of Hathaway Brown and a nation of women’s leaders throughout the 20th century.
The history of athletics (as well as science, the humanities, and leadership) at Hathaway Brown School parallels the larger personal and political story of gender equality and exemplifies the struggle on the part of students and enlightened educators to instill these changes in both their curriculum and society. Tradition and Transformation, a History Enterprises project, is a personal story, told often in the impassioned words of the girls themselves, who have always sought, and have now attained the dream and privilege of running free.
--William Christ, Head of School.