Celebrating a Century of Women’s Athletics

October, 2008

For the Love of the Game

by Barbra Alan


Women's Swim team

In 1908, Theodore Roosevelt was in office, Henry Ford developed the first Model T automobile, and of the 2,008 athletes who participated in the Games of the IV Olympiad in London, 37 were women.

At New Hampshire State Normal School (NHSNS), students—all of them female—prepared for careers as teachers by taking courses in subjects such as history, mathematics, the sciences, English composition and literature, and pedagogy. They also studied elocution and physical culture. An excerpt from the NHSNS catalog reads, “In physical culture the aim is to give practical, all-around development to the individual. The work is graded and taught with the need of the public school teacher constantly in mind. It includes rhythm work, games, and general instruction in the theory of gymnastics.”

Outside of the classroom, the women of NHSNS played basketball, golf, and tennis—all at a time when the idea of women participating in athletics was still largely frowned upon by society.

Over the past century, the women of NHSNS, Plymouth Normal School, Plymouth Teachers College, Plymouth State College, and Plymouth State University have built upon that foundation. Today, women have their choice of 11 varsity sports and an ever-growing list of intramural and club sports. They prepare for rewarding careers in athletic training, health education, physical education, and adventure education, with options in teacher certification, health promotion, applied health fitness, exercise physiology, and more.

To celebrate the enormous contributions teachers, coaches, administrators, and students—female and male—have made to women’s athletics at PSU over the past century, the University kicked off You Go, Girl! Celebrating A Century of Women’s Athletics on Alumni Weekend last May. The celebration continued through Homecoming and Family Celebration and included exhibits of photographs and memorabilia from women’s athletics as well as presentations by female athletes.

On the pages that follow is a small sampling of the highlights, accomplishments, images, and remarkable women who have made athletics at PSU something to celebrate.


The 1908 New Hampshire State Normal School catalog is the first to mention the existence of sports teams for golf, basketball, and tennis.


An excerpt from the 1916 NHSNS catalog sheds some light on student recreational activities: “Serious life demands its recreations and variety. Outdoor parties in the form of picnics, campfires, and mountain climbing are common in Plymouth. In the winter, snowshoeing is a favorite sport.”


The NHSNS summer session catalog touts the latest sports accommodations: “Two fine tennis courts have been laid out and there will be ample opportunity for outdoor basketball, croquet, quoits [a traditional lawn game similar to horseshoe pitching] and archery.”


A formal basketball program is established; the women’s basketball team is the first to represent the normal school in intercollegiate competition.


According to the NHSNS 1921 catalog, the new Mary Lyon Hall, with its spacious gymnasium, “offers plentiful opportunity for exercise and recreation as well as instruction in games, plays, and folk dancing.”


Soccer and volleyball are played on an intramural basis.

Normal school students compete at
an intercollegiate track and field meet in Tilton.


Baseball is added as an intramural activity.


Beatrice Hodgdon, a 1916 graduate of the normal school and a NHSNS instructor since 1922, begins a 17-year stint as coach of the basketball team.


Speedball [a sport that combines elements of football, basketball, and soccer] and bowling are added as intramural activities.


Cheerleading is introduced as a support for the basketball teams.


Archery is added as an activity.


Plymouth Teachers College era begins.


Field hockey debuts as an intramural sport.


The Women’s Athletic Association, a student organization that governs women’s athletics at PTC, is formed.


The Ski Club is created.


The Outing Club is formed.


With the construction of Silver Hall comes a full-sized college basketball court. Prior to this, Plymouth basketball was played on smaller courts in the basement of Mary Lyon Hall and in Speare Gym.


Women’s field hockey becomes an intercollegiate sport.


Plymouth State College era begins.

Creation of coed gymnastics team.

The course Coaching Team Sports (Women) appears in the Plymouth Teachers College catalog.


Janet Nell arrives at PSC to teach and coach basketball. Over the course of her 21-year career at PSC, Nell coached five sports and founded the women’s lacrosse team.


Women’s and men’s intercollegiate ski teams are formally sponsored by PSC.


Women’s lacrosse is added as a club sport.


The gymnastics team is divided into men’s and women’s teams.


Congress passes Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program or activity at any educational institution that is a recipient of federal funds.


In the same year that Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in the famed “Battle of the Sexes,” PSC student Lynn Miller joins the men’s tennis team and goes on to compile one of the best records
on the team.

Dorothy Diehl becomes head coach of the field hockey program, a post she will hold through the 1989 season.


Softball is elevated from a club sport to a varsity sport.


Women’s soccer is elevated from a club sport to a varsity sport.


Women’s lacrosse competes in Division I and II New England Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association tournaments.

Women’s field hockey qualifies for the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women post-season playoffs—the first tournament ever
for the team.

Deb Hughes—a standout on the basketball, tennis, and softball teams throughout her PSC years—becomes the first 1,000 point scorer for the PSC women’s basketball program during
the ’79–’80 season.


Women’s rugby debuts as a club sport.


Women’s field hockey competes in its first NCAA Division III national tournament game.


Women’s softball, under coach Bonnie Foley, wins the ECAC New England Division III championship.

PNS graduate, instructor, and basketball coach Beatrice Hodgdon is a charter inductee in the PSC Hall of Fame.

Women’s swimming and diving is elevated from a club sport to a
varsity sport.


PSC women’s soccer advances to the NCAA National Division III women’s soccer tournament—the first time a Plymouth State team competes in a national championship game.


Women’s soccer begins a seven year winning streak at the Little East Conference Championship.


Women’s field hockey goes 17–0 in the regular season—the only college field hockey team to go unbeaten and untied during the regular season.


Volleyball is upgraded to varsity status.


Plymouth State University era begins


Women’s ice hockey debuts as a club sport and within two years is elevated to varsity status.


Cheerleading is upgraded to varsity status.


Kim Bownes, PSU’s alpine ski coach since 1987, is named associate athletic director/senior woman administrator – a new position in the Department of Athletics.

Plymouth Magazine gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Spinelli Archives and Special Collections Librarian Alice Staples; Archives Assistant Susan Jaroz; and Archives student workers Sarah Vendt ’08 and William Wood ’08 to this timeline.

Former PSC Sports Information Director Michael I. Moffett’s Panther Pride: A History of Intercollegiate Athletics at Plymouth State College was another primary resource.

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