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Women in Sport: An Iowa Women's Archives Resource Guide: College Sports & Intercollegiate Athletics

A guide to the collections housed at the Iowa Women's Archives from and about girls and women in sports, athletics, and gender equity.

From the Mildred Wirt Benson papers

Mildred Wirt Benson in mid-dive, Iowa City, Iowa, 1925.

From the N. Peggy Burke papers

"Want to File a Title IX Complaint? Pros & Cons," In The Running, SPRINT newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall, 1978.

From the Christine Grant papers

Photograph of Christine Grant, Box 42.

From the UI Department of Physical Education for Women records

Badminton class, The University of Iowa, 1930s.


Benson, Mildred Wirt. Papers. 1915-2002. 7 linear feet. Journalist for the Toledo Blade and writer of the first Nancy Drew mysteries and other children’s series books.  Member of the State University of Iowa swim club, 1920s. The digital collection includes photographs of her in the swim club.

Beran, Janice A. Papers. 1975-1998. 2 linear feet. Professor in the College of Education at Iowa State University until her retirement in 1994. Manuscripts, reprints, speeches regarding the history of sports, and particularly the participation of women and African Americans in Iowa sports. Her research on the history of Iowa girls' high school basketball culminated in a book published in 1993, From Six-on-Six to Full Court Press: A Century of Iowa Girls' Basketball (Ames: Iowa State University Press) [available through the Main Library, or in Special Collections].

Burke, N. Peggy. Papers. 1965-1980 (bulk 1975-1977). 9.2 linear feet. Physical education professor and past president of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, 1976-1977. The bulk of this collection documents the activities of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) from 1970 to 1995 and chronicles its relationship with the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) during this period. Included is a selection of official records of the AIAW from the years 1975 through 1982. Under her leadership, AIAW influenced issues relating to six-player girls’ basketball, Title IX policy interpretation and NCAA decisions regarding women's college championships.

Fox, Margaret. Papers. 1930-2005. 2.2 linear feet. Faculty member, Department of Physical Education for Women at the State University of Iowa from 1949 to 1980. Fox joined the University of Iowa staff as an associate professor in 1949. She taught anatomy and later kinesiology, correctives or adapted physical education, swimming, and relaxation courses until her retirement in 1980.

Grant, Christine. Papers. 1952-2005 (bulk 1970-2005). 17.3 linear feet.  Faculty member, sports administrator, professor, and gender equity activist.  Grant began her tenure as the first and only athletic director of the Department of Women's Athletics at the University of Iowa in 1973, holding the position until her retirement in 2000. Grant has spoken and published widely and has held numerous leadership positions as an advocate of gender equity in sports. She served as the president of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) from 1980 to 1981 and testified as an expert witness and advisor in Title IX lawsuits.

Greenlee, Geraldine.  Papers. 1945-2004.  7.5 linear inches.  Received her master’s degree from the Department of Physical Education for Women at the State University of Iowa in 1952. The papers consist of teaching folders compiled by physical education majors during their senior year, departmental and professional conference brochures, and photographs depicting physical education students. Also included is a biographical information sheet submitted by Greenlee to the University of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women's 100-year anniversary reunion.

Johnson, Ruth Ashton. Papers. 1971-1994 (bulk 1971-1978). 10 linear inches and audiovisual material. Physical education teacher. Includes papers of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and fifteen audiocassette tapes of National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NWISC) and AIAW meetings, 1975-76. The papers document Johnson's interest and professional involvement in promoting equal opportunity for female athletes within schools at all levels.

Rouse, Mary. Papers. 1947-1992. 7 linear feet. Journalist who worked for the Office of Public Information at the University of Iowa.  Papers include files on the University’s Department of Physical Education for Women.

Spencer, C. Pauline. Papers. 1920-1985. 2.5 linear inches. Spencer excelled in athletics and was very active in the Women's Athletic Association (WAA). She served as president of the WAA for two years and was also elected as a delegate to the national convention. Spencer was the first female to win an athletic letter as a sophomore (an "I" sweater) and established another record by winning a second "I" before she graduated. After a particularly outstanding performance at a track meet, one newspaper characterized her as "probably the most perfect girl at the State University of Iowa" and noted that her athletic record was one many men might envy. She graduated in 1923. She later became a teacher and director of physical education for women at Omaha Technical School.

Stringer, C. Vivian.  Oral history interview [AC373-374]. 1997. Women’s basketball coach who brought the University of Iowa team to national prominence during her tenure as head coach from 1983 to 1995. Transcript available in IWA as part of the Giving Voice to their Memories: Oral Histories of African American Women in Iowa project.

University of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women. Records. 1910-2010 and audiovisual materials. 75 linear feet. 988 photographs and materials have been digitized and are available as the UI Physical Education for Women digital collection. The department was established in 1924 and was a pioneer in the development of graduate study and professional training. The department existed until 2010 under a variety of names and organizations. Department chairpersons included: Elizabeth Halsey (1924-1955), M. Gladys Scott (1955-1974), Margaret Fox (1978-1987), N. Peggy Burke (1987-2000), Yvonne (Bonnie) Slatton (2000-2008), and Susan Birrell (2008-2010).

University Of Iowa Department of Physical Education for Women: Women’s Recreation Association (WRA). Records. 1920-1975. 8.5 linear feet. These records consist primarily of newspaper clippings, annual files and sport club files, which document and describe the organization's wide variety of social, athletic, and administrative activities. The Women's Athletic Association (WAA), an intramural organization with both an athletic and social focus, was organized in 1911 to "promote a spirit of fair play and sportsmanship among girls." In 1941, the name of the organization changed to the Women's Recreation Association (WRA). The WAA/WRA provided college women opportunities to participate in sports, either intramural or as a member of a sport club, as there were no varsity sport teams available for women at The University of Iowa. Intercollegiate competition was not seen to be in the best interest of women, a sentiment held strongly by the women physical educators at Iowa and around the country, and generally supported by a male-centered and male-dominated sport culture. This philosophy held until the late 1960s, an important period of growth and transition for women's sports. Starting in the 1968-1969 season, many of the WRA sport clubs began participating in more formally recognized intercollegiate competition-a change which reflected a shift in the philosophy of the leaders in physical education for women toward athletic competition. In some cases, the WRA recreational club team and the intercollegiate team were distinct entities, but in most cases, the WRA team was the intercollegiate team. By the 1971-1972 season, certain sport teams were specifically identified as "intercollegiate," although they were still affiliated with the WRA.