The Way Back: Chin Up!

Straight spines and ideal physiques led Lavonia Raymond and Ruth Spargo, pictured above, to beat out 18 other finalists in the 1937-38 UT women’s intramural posture competition.

“This contest is emblematic of physical education in the early 20th century,” says Jan Todd, a UT kinesiology professor and co-director of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports. “There was a desire to give the field more of a scientific basis, and part of that was measuring students’ bodies.”

This measurement-centric approach to phys ed was called “physical anthropometry.” Good posture, it was believed, reflected good health. In the basement of UT’s Anna Hiss Gym (then called the Women’s Gymnasium) was a life-size numerical grid where women stood to be measured. The proportions of classic Greek statues were the ideal.

The posture contest has long been obsolete, and today’s UT phys ed offerings range from tennis to hapkido to ballroom dance.

Below, watch an exclusive video version of this story from the Longhorn Network:

Photo courtesy the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports.


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