Delphine Hanna (d. 1941)

(Oberlin Alumni Magazine, July 1957, p 23)

A pioneer in organized physical education, Dr. Delphine Hanna became the first instructor in Physical Education at Oberlin College in 1885. In her first year at Oberlin, Hanna had the future male faculty in Physical Education as her students. Hanna retained many positions at Oberlin -- she was the director of the Women's Gymnasium (1887-1955) from 1887 to 1897 and again from 1903 to 1920; the director of the Department of Physical Training for Women (1887-1903) from 1887-1903; and the director of a teacher's course in physical education for women from 1904 to 1920. Hanna received her medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1890, a strong supplement to the scientific basis of her physical programs. Hanna established the first four-year curriculum for a Bachelor's degree in physical education for women -- the first woman to receive such a degree graduated in 1902. In 1903, Hanna was made Professor of Physical Education at Oberlin, the first professorship in physical education in the United States.

Delphine Hanna died in 1941. At the news of her death, the Oberlin Alumni Magazine published an article in its May issue tracing Hanna's pioneering efforts, and their continuing effects. "Delphine Hanna: Pioneer" is an invaluable historical resource, documenting not only Hanna's life and her contemporary history, but also revealing a 1940's Oberlin perspective on physical education.

The Women's Gynasium (of which Hanna was director from 1887 to 1903, and again from 1903 to 1920) fell out of existence in 1955, at which time the Department of Physical Education for Women was created. The latter department would last officially until 1970, although in 1969, the women and men's physical education departments merged. In 1957, another article was written about Hanna in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine . "Portrait of a Pioneer" helped to usher in a new era of physical education for women and simultaneously contributed to a celebration of its past.

An administrative history of Oberlin College's Physical Education Department, including more information about Delphine Hanna, can be found in Oberlin College Archives.

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