Helen N. Smith

From Ohio History Central

Before the twentieth century, most college professors were men. Very few women had been able to attend college before this period, and even fewer women had the opportunity to teach at this academic level. Most women who attended or taught college did so at women-only institutions. During the first fifty years of the twentieth century, many colleges and universities became coeducational. As this occurred, women increasingly faced difficulty finding college teaching positions. Most higher education institutions continued to hire principally men, and women's positions decreased in number as fewer women-only schools remained open. Despite this apparent setback, women who attended college began increasingly to receive educations similar to those of the male students and women found more opportunity to instruct college as they proved themselves to be capable students in the classrooms.

One woman who was able to teach college during the first portion of the twentieth century was Helen Norman Smith. She was a professor of health and physical education at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. The university initially hired Smith to teach women's health and women's physical education, but she became a national leader in both men's and women's health and physical education. In 1928, Smith published a book, titled Natural Dance Studies, on dance and physical education. Smith also succeeded in having physical education courses at the University of Cincinnati become coeducational during the 1930s. Like many women professors during this era, Smith, as a woman, was to provide instruction to women. Smith, however, eventually taught students of both sexes and became a nationally renowned expert on health and physical education. Her colleagues at the University of Cincinnati eventually made her the chair of the university's Department of Physical Education.

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