Women’s History Month: Women’s Athletics at Elon in the 1940s-1950s

Julia Mueller
March 8, 2013

Women's Tennis Team in 1949

Women’s Tennis Team in 1949

“Archery for skill, volleyball for coordination, and riding for the figure is Elon’s way of turning out healthy, ‘well-rounded’ girls.” – Phi Psi Cli, 1953

World War II caused lasting impacts at Elon College, especially the changed role of sports for both men and women.  In 1942, men’s intercollegiate activities were temporarily abolished, and the soldiers stationed on campus used the gymnasium for training.  It was not until 1944 that sports became a part of Elon activities once again.  Due to the effects of the war, fitness became a more crucial factor in individuals’ lifestyles on local and national levels.  It was soon acceptable for women too to physically train to improve overall health and strength. 

More sports became available to women during the 1940s, including softball, gymnastics, military drill, and bowling for $.05 per game.  The physical education major was introduced in 1946 and became prominent during this time as well, especially among athletes.  This led to more courses concerning athletics, which further increased physical opportunities.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Elon offered field hockey, marching, and horseback riding.  The first tennis tournament occurred in the spring of 1949.

In February 1950, the Women’s Athletic Association (WAA) adopted a new constitution.  President Leon Edgar Smith used athletics to increase prospective students’ interest in Elon, so sports were one of the primary forms of advertisement.  Still, funding was consistently an issue for women’s athletics.  The WAA raised money by selling football programs and used that sole source of funds for postage, socials, entertainment, convention expenses, conferences, Play Days, and awards.


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