The 1940’s were an important time period for Americans, centered on the involvement in World War II. Known as The War years, the 1940s saw men leaving the work force and heading off to fight for America. Since many men had trained to serve in battle, women were obligated to hold all responsibilities, whether in the household, the workforce, or in sport. It was important for women to maintain a culture of athletics while the men were away. Consequently, this movement gave rise to more opportunities for women to compete in a variety of activities with increased intensity. Along with the recent role change for women, however, was the struggle to find the right combination between being feminine and being a strong athlete.
The College of Wooster in the 1940’s experienced a transition from friendly class competition to interclub sports for women. The Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.) was an organization that was run by female students and was in charge of organizing athletics for women. The W.A.A. was primarily responsible for the shift from class competition to interclub competition. Unlike prior decades, the 1940s experienced development from grade level competition into competition between different clubs. Clubs such as the Sphinx, the Peanuts, and the Kez competed against each other in various team sports.
This transition made sports more competitive for women. More specifically, competition between clubs was more competitive than freshman competing against seniors. This new, interclub format also allowed more women to participate in sports. It created many clubs that women could join to have a sense of belonging and then compete against other clubs in various sports. That is why this transition led to sports becoming more competitive and to increase participation of women in sports during the 40’s.
The 1940’s were a time of increased participation in sports for women. The model of the wholesome modest athlete was commonly applied during this time. This model emphasized the maximization of women’s participation in sports, while simultaneously discouraging women from being overly competitive or excelling in sports. This model emphasized that women should participate without getting too competitive so that women could compete in sports for an extended period of time. The philosophy is that there should be a girl for every sport and a sport for every girl.
The wholesome modest athlete model was applied by the W.A.A. in the 40’s. This could be seen in the wide range of athletic opportunities that were offered to women by the W.A.A. Women had access to 11 different sports during the 1940’s. If women were not very inclined to participate in organized sports, they had the opportunity to participate in dance. Orchesis was a type of organized dance that was provided at Wooster as an athletic outlet for women, in addition to traditional sports. Participation of women in sports at The College of Wooster increased drastically throughout this decade, receiving about 50% participation. The emphasis of the time was to get women to use sports as a lifetime activity.
During the 1940s, women were granted many opportunities to show their potential in an athletic setting. However, since the men would not be out of sport for long, women were still encouraged to keep their feminine nature. The Women’s Athletic Association held style and fashion shows to display a sense of beauty for women in sport. Through hairstyles and athletic attire, the women that participated in the style shows would give younger people an idea of the proper appearance for female athletes. Typically, women were expected to wear skirts or tunics to improve freedom of movement during play, in addition to the beauty in the clothing. The proper clothes in the style shows were supposed to represent the acceptable attire in each sport, regardless of the comfort level in competition
Women’s athletics at The College of Wooster developed a lot during the 1940’s. The transition from interclass competition to interclub competition was a step in the right direction for women’s sports becoming more abundant and more serious. Play days, sport days, and all-star teams were also very important for women’s sports at Wooster. Play days occurred throughout the 40’s. During play days, women from Wooster and from a variety of other schools would get bussed to one school and get split randomly into teams and compete casually in various sports.
Sport days were similar to play days. During sport days, women’s clubs would get together and compete against one another in a variety of sports, making sure they stuck with their respective clubs throughout. Although they were not very competitive, both sport days and play days encouraged more women to participate in sports.
There were also several all-star teams that were selected every year at the College. The best women at the College in a particular sport were assembled into an all-star team. The all-star team that was selected would then compete in a game against another college. This was a big step on the path to intercollegiate sports for women and competitive sports for women everywhere.