Physical Therapy

Company flier advertising disarticulated skeletons
World War One certificate of identity for Constance Greene
Telegram, July 1, 1929
Bouvé-Boston School of Physical Education, classes of 1939 and 1940

Before Accreditation

Medical gymnastics aimed to improve posture and correct bodily deficiencies. These principles informed the physiotherapy curriculum at Bouvé before the discipline coalesced into a formal course of study. During WWI, reconstruction aides – physical education students trained in rehabilitation techniques – served abroad and in domestic Army hospitals. Boston School of Physical Education leaders pledged their educational resources to the national war effort. Sanderson led a unit of reconstruction aides in Europe, and Bouvé raised funds for the United Service Organization (USO). By serving as support staff in rehabilitation units, reconstruction aides created the foundation for physical therapy education in the United States.

The American Physiotherapy Association formed in the wake of WWI to regulate the nascent discipline. APA determined the accreditation status of physical therapy programs and created licensing requirements for new professionals. Approved schools of physical therapy had medical professionals teach biology, anatomy, and physiology as well as courses in current therapies, such as light therapy and hydrotherapy. Bouvé became an APA accredited institution in 1929.


Bouvé-Boston School of Physical Education alumna receives a plaque commemorating her wartime service, ca. 1945.

Tested through Crisis

WWII and widespread polio outbreaks also created a substantial demand for physiotherapists. School leaders created special classes for the rapid training of physical therapists and coordinated with Armed Forces hospitals. Students traveled abroad to serve in military hospitals and across the country to assist the staff of polio sanitariums. As the polio crisis waned, physical therapy studies grew to address new therapies, such as respiratory therapy, and principles of clinical administration. By the 1950s, the number of physical therapy students equaled the number of physical education students at Bouvé.

An Independent Profession

Physical therapy students practiced their skills in a variety of settings. Affiliation with local teaching hospitals and medical schools enabled students to witness the latest applied therapies and administrative practices. While at camp, students used rehabilitation equipment to consider how physical disabilities restrict recreational movement. A reputation of intelligence, skill, and compassion preceded Bouvé physical therapy students. The hospitals and clinics cited the School’s commitment to service and community and its emphasis on practical education when recruiting Bouvé girls.

New physical therapy aides try out their rehabilitation equipment
Curricular recommendations from American Physiotherapy Association
Physical therapy students practice plaster cast techniques
Flier, Bouvé-Boston School of Physical Education physical therapy war course
Letter, July 11, 1950
Physical therapy students learn in class about paraffin treatment
Physical therapy students at camp
Physical therapy students practice archery at camp