Bouvé-Boston School students practice posture, ca. 1940s.

Fencing practice at the Bouvé-Boston School, ca. 1945.


Medical, or Swedish, gymnastics formed the foundation of this physical education training for young women in the early twentieth century. The method followed militaristic principles, such as precision in individual and group movements, and incorporated aerial training. In the 1920s, Baron Nils Posse – a friend of Marjorie Bouvé – introduced Danish gymnastics, which retained the emphasis on group practice but softened the formerly regimented movements. Bouvé quickly adopted his method, moving to the forefront of gymnastics education in the United States.

Athletics remained a central component of a Bouvé education. Physical education students learned the rules and principles of over twenty sports so as to meet the recreational interests of their future pupils. Most students participated in “Blue-White” intraschool competitions; interschool field hockey, baseball, and lacrosse competitions were also perennial favorites. For those students less interested in field sports, swimming clubs and dancing provided opportunities for alternative performances of grace and agility. At camp, activities such as archery, canoeing, and sailing required full body strength. While many physical education students eventually taught at elementary and secondary schools, camp prepared them to work at outdoor recreation facilities.

Bouvé students play basketball in gym class
Successful archery practice
Learning the j-stroke
Sailing class
Bouvé student practices jackknife dive in the Tufts University pool
Bouvé varsity hockey team
Two students compete for the same catch in a lacrosse game
Student at bat during a school baseball game
United States Field Hockey Association reference book
Swim club members practice a star formation at the Tufts pool
Dancer in Greek costume, Camp Abena, Maine, June 1915 (view one).