In the early decades of the twentieth century, exercise was a school requirement for the men and women who attended the University of Washington. Every student was expected to take gymnasium classes or participate in a sport each term. For women, choices included basketball, handball, tennis, field hockey, track and field, baseball – and rowing.
In addition to sports, the women who attended the University of Washington in those early years were involved in many extracurricular activities and were serious about their endeavors. Women held class offices, were on the staff of the Pacific Wave (the precursor to the UW Daily newspaper), and were members of Sororities and clubs ranging from the Pharmaceutical Club to the Athena Debate Club. They were passionate about campus life and fought for equal treatment and consideration when necessary, steadfast and firm in their convictions that women should be treated equally, and voicing their opinion consistently via the Pacific Wave.
The women who participated in athletics at the University of Washington in the early 1900’s were called “gym girls”, and were honored by this anonymous poem published in the 1900 Tyee yearbook.
The pensive girl with the dreamy eyes
May sit in the corner and pose,
But give me the girl that plays basket-ball,
With her cheeks the hue of the rose.
Her step is light, and her eyes are bright,
She studies and works with a vim.
And all is due to the exercise
She takes in the dear old gym.
Then here’s to the girl in the navy blue!
With her steps so light and free:
With the golden wealth of her matchless health –
Oh! She is the girl for me.