Winifred Tilden

Honored by:George McJimsey, Elizabeth Hake Colbert, Robert McJimsey, Josephine B. Leffler, and Farwell Brown
Brick location:A:14  map

WINIFRED R.TILDEN (1880-1948), an Ames native, played an important role in the development of women's physical education at lowa State University. The daughter of George and Lydia Tilden, Ames area pioneers; she attended Ames schools then entered Mt. Holyoke College, her mother's Alma Mater in Massachusetts, graduating there in 1903.

In 1904 she became the first professionally trained director of physical education for women at Iowa State. Her title then was "Directress of Physical Culture” as it was then known and was a part of the Department of Speech.

She has been described as a no-nonsense person, also a fun loving creative person as well. She once invited several of her eastern college friends to spend Christmas in her home in Ames. In 1901 eastern girls thought that Iowa was still a wild western country. Before coming to Ames with her friends, Winifred wrote to her brothers asking them to meet their train decked out with war paint and feathers prepared to whoop it up when they got off the train. Her brothers complied and tookthe young ladies to the Tilden home in a hay rack to further impress her friends.

Winifred Tilden brought to the Iowa State campus the ideas that she gained through further studies and travels to observe physical education programs in such countries as England and France. She introduced the May Day Pageant and May Pole dances in 1911 that later became a part of Veisha after 1922.

In 1918-1919 she was on leave to direct recreational programs for American soldiers in France. She served on a number of national physical education committees where she was a pioneer in advocating competitive sports.

During her tenure she introduced competitive sports, which in 1915 were organized in a "Girls Athletic Club." She developed a progressive curriculum of developmental and corrective gymnastics. She organized the Women’s Athletic Association and a Women's "A" Club.("I" Club later.) Hockey, basketball, tennis, swimming, archery, and golf were among the activities offered by the department.

Miss Tilden’s competent and enthusiastic instruction combined spontaneous recreation with definite physical benefits. Her students numbered less than a hundred in 1904 and were in the thousands when she retired in 1944.

Until 1938 women's physical education was centered in Margaret Hall, the first women's dormitory on the Iowa State campus. The large dining hall in that building was converted into a well-equipped gymnasium facility and a women’s swimming pool was added in the 1920s.

One of Miss Tilden's dreams came true in 1939 when a long standing request for a well-designed well equipped women’s physical education building became a reality. She had first presented plans for a new women’s building in 1925 during President R. A. Pearson's term. The building, dedicated in 1941, is the south unit of today's much enlarged Physical Education building.

Winifred Tilden died July 4, 1948, having contributed to the lives of ten college generations of Iowa State coeds.

Submitted on 2/29/96