As described in my most recent post, I now know that men were playing field hockey at Springfield College in the 1890s. But can I at least say with certainty that no women played the sport at a U.S. college before Constance Applebee’s arrival in 1901? Maybe not.
My first clue was in a passage from Roberta J. Park’s “Sports, Gender and Society in a Transatlantic Victorian Perspective.” She writes: “Although it is clear that field hockey was played at Goucher College before 1900, Miss Constance M.K. Applebee is credited with introducing the game to the United States at the 1901 Harvard Summer School for Teachers, using ice hockey sticks and an indoor baseball for equipment.” Goucher College was known as the Woman’s College of Baltimore at the time, so maybe some college women in the United States had experience with field hockey before Constance Applebee’s arrival.
The History of Goucher College confirms Park’s assertion: “In the fall of 1897, with the coming of a graduate of an English athletic school as a gymnasium instructor, hockey and golf were introduced. The call for hockey players brought so many volunteers — over eighty — that instead of one club which had been planned, there were three. The advent in 1899 of Miss Hillyard as the new assistant in ‘physical culture,’ whose special work it was to develop an interest in English out-door games, intensified the zest for hockey.”
In that same yearbook, the woman listed as the field hockey instructor, Hanna Flyborg, is described as a graduate of Kingsfield Physical Training College in England. This most likely would make her the “graduate of an English athletic school” mentioned in The History of Goucher College above.
In any event, judging from an entry in the “Lost and Found” section of the 1900 yearbook, interest seems to have waned quickly: “Lost — a small amount of interest in Hockey. If found, return to W.C.B. before spring.”