The Way Back: We Can Do It!

The Way Back: We Can Do It!

When bombs fell on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the world changed forever—and so did life at UT. The university underwent a drastic transformation as it restructured its curriculum to prepare students for war. Classes were added in engineering, physics, medicine, and chemistry, and campus leaders emphasized physical conditioning for all students.


More than 100 women enrolled in a fall 1942 war conditioning class, which met three times a week behind the Women’s Gymnasium. Nicknamed “commandettes,” the women were put through their paces on an obstacle course with log hurdles, parallel bars, a six-foot climbing wall, and a rope swing. A UT news release notes the course was “guaranteed to make the heftiest co-ed sylphlike and the slightest equal to any emergency.”

“Both men and women in Germany were trained for physical fitness for a number of years before Hitler struck,” Frances Seybolt, assistant director of intramurals for women, told the Daily Texan in 1942. “The physical burdens of war will fall on women as well as men. It is the women at home as well as the men in combat who will win this war.” 

Photos courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. 


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