Student Athletic Culture: The Athletic Association and Competition
While gymnastics was under the careful control of the Directresses, a student-driven program of athletics developed, which centered on inter-class competition. In 1891, the students established an Athletic Association which had sole responsibility until 1904 for organizing all sports teams and competitions, recording wins, scores, and best times, and awarding prizes. After 1904, the Athletic Association continued to have a strong leadership role. The Athletic Association also financed the upkeep of athletic infrastructure, such as tennis courts, and led fundraising efforts for new athletic infrastructure.
Also in 1891, the Athletic Assocation made an effort to kindle an intercollegiate athletic association.
The general interest in athletics, which has been very much quickened by our own Association, we hope to make still more general and permanent by the formation of an intercollegiate athletic association, for both tennis and gymnasium work. With the cordial interest and co-operation of our college authorities we last June proposed the formation of such a league to the leading women's colleges of the East. Discouraging replies have been received from them all, but we have not lost hope for next year. We are more than anxious that such a league should be formed, not only for the sake of encouraging athletics among us, but quite as much for the sake of that intercollegiate intercourse which is practically unknown among women's colleges and which constitutes such a large part of the value of men's intercollegiate leagues1.
Although the dream of regular intercollegiate competition would not be realized for decades to come, there was an invitation tennis tournament held at Bryn Mawr College in the fall of 1893 between students from Girton College, Cambridge, England (the first Oxbridge women's college), the Harvard Annex (later Radcliffe College), and Bryn Mawr.
On those two sunny days when it took place, we put aside our books and college gowns and crowded round the tennis courts ready to applaud and to grow as excited as possible ... the blue and crimson and yellow and white ribbons floated amiably together from every shoulder. And when at last the victors were declared, the happy spectators had the pleasure of escorting them off the field, feting and congratulating them to their hearts' content2.