This week at The Stark Center, I’ve been thinking a lot about the history of women’s fitness and physical activity here on The Forty Acres. On Wednesday night, we were fortunate to host the University’s distinguished Tower Fellows. After our director, Jan Todd, addressed the visitors and told them about how the Stark Center was founded and what our mission is, she turned the floor over to Tower Fellow Amy Porter, a University of Texas alumnus, highly successful businesswoman, and a former Texas Cheerleader (1990-1994) who spoke movingly about the role of cheerleading in the lives of American women and its broad cultural impact. She also told the group about the history of cheer at Texas and the rewards and challenges she experienced while being a team member. It was a fascinating presentation that connected beautifully with some curatorial decisions I’d made about what to show the Tower Fellows during their tour of The Stark Center.
In preparation for the Tower Fellows’ visit, I decided to showcase items from our collections that helped to show the history of women’s sport participation at the University of Texas. One of the collections I looked through for relevant artifacts was the Anna Hiss Collection. Anna Hiss was a physical education instructor and the head of the women’s physical activity program at The University of Texas from 1918 until her retirement in 1957. Although Hiss did not believe women should participate in varsity sports—she fought for the right of women to have great facilities and time to participate in sport clubs, intramurals, play days, and regular physical education. The Anna Hiss Collection is our largest women’s sport archive and contains correspondence, photographs of athletic groups, scrapbooks, agendas of club meetings, pamphlets, posters, newspaper clippings, and other printed materials. As I looked through the boxes of photographs, sorted the memorabilia and turned the pages of the scrapbooks, I was delighted to find scores of action shots of women participating in the various club sports offered at The University of Texas in the era before the passage of Title IX. I created a photo display of some of these materials for the Tower Fellows to see. I scanned the photos from that display and have shared them here in the “Collections in Focus” blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.