Almost every retelling of Constance Applebee’s story that I have found includes Mount Holyoke with Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Radcliffe and Wellesley as part of her original circuit when introducing field hockey to American women’s colleges in 1901. But I thought it was odd that I hadn’t been able to find any contemporary accounts of her visit there while the other schools had proved relatively easy to confirm. Among the only references I’d found regarding hockey at Holyoke in that era was a less-than-promising nugget from the November 1904 issue of The Mount Holyoke, which read: “Field hockey seems to have died out here; in many other schools it is played regularly.”Eventually I was also able to find mention of Holyoke and hockey in the December 4, 1901, edition of Nobody’s Business, the student paper at the YMCA Training School (now known as Springfield College). Students at the training school had been playing hockey for five years at that point, and after mentioning the more recent popularity of the sport at Smith College, it was reported that “Holyoke contemplates introducing the game there next spring.”
So in 1901 they were contemplating playing field hockey, but by 1904 the sport had died out. What happened in between? Even scouring the archives of The Springfield Republican yielded nothing at first, until finally last night I came across this piece in regards to Mount Holyoke in the April 28, 1902 issue of that newspaper: “Miss Appleby [sic], the instructor in lawn hockey, arrived at the college Saturday and will remain until Thursday giving lessons in the game during her stay. The interest in the hockey has noticeable [sic] increased since the lessons have commenced.”
Interesting grammar aside, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Applebee does seem to have visited Mount Holyoke after all. I can see now some of the reasons it took me a while to find this particular clip: Applebee’s name is misspelled “Appleby,” the sport is referred to as “lawn hockey,” and the visit occurred in the spring of 1902 rather than the autumn of 1901.
I don’t know yet why the students of Mount Holyoke lost interest in the sport two and a half years later, but at least now I have a place to start.