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Sports & Recreation

One all-consuming question amongst Victorian men and women was -- what recreations are "suitable" for a Victorian woman? (Meaning, of course, a lady or gentlewoman.) When a group of young ladies contemplated a walking tour in 1880, they deplored the fact that young men are "entitled" to undertake such a thing, while young women must be chaperoned. The ladies who formed a cricket club in 1889 agreed that this is a suitable sport for women provided they "behaved quietly." When cycling became popular, the sport ignited a flurry of controversy over whether it was appropriate or "healthy" for women -- who cheerfully ignored the naysayers and even (gasp) adopted the fashion of bloomers to cycle more easily.


An Afternoon "Book Party" (GOP 1899)
Each guest represents a book, and the other guests must attempt to guess the titles represented by their companions.
Autograph Collecting for Girls (GOP 1891)
This does not refer to collecting signatures, but of handwritten documents, letters and manuscripts.
Autographs, and Their Use, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1897)
"Amongst our fads or crazes of today must be put down the modern use of the autograph as a decoration for furniture, as well as all kinds of materials which are used for bedspreads, tablecloths and other things." These include autograph tables; the American autograph quilt; autograph tablecloths in which the original signatures are then embroidered over; and the use of facsimile autographs to create a themed piece (e.g., a tablecloth with autographs of famous women writers).
Bell-Ringing for Girls (GOP 1896)
We're not talking hand-bells here...
Collections, Hobbies and Fads, by Sophia F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1893)
Five Girls and a Camera (GOP 1892)
A Game of Memory (GOP 1899)
How to Keep a Commonplace Book, by James Mason (GOP 1882)
What is a commonplace book? A place to "put in exactly what suits us -- just those things we wish to remember and want to refer to again... A commonplace book is an index to our intellectual life..."
How to Keep a Journal, by James Mason (GOP 1881)
How We Did Our Living Pictures for 4/8-1/2 (GOP 1895)
"In several leading charitable institutions of the town where...concerts, readings, and even sales of work had been nearly played out, 'living pictures' had been tried as the latest novelty."
Invalid Amusements (GOP 1891)
Sofa-gardening: how to create a miniature garden or landscape in a basket or tea-tray.
A New Game, or "How Does Your Garden Grow?" (GOP 1899)
One quote: "I buried a special dog, and it came up a... Cauliflower."
A New Way of Entertaining Friends (GOP 1892)
Entertainments and games based on English literature (e.g., a mock trial of an admirer of Dickens...)
The Picture Postcard Craze: Hints to Collectors, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1900)
The Silver Spoon Craze, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1897)
On the fad for collecting souvenir spoons in the US and Canada.
Stay-at-Home Girls, by Dora Hope (GOP 1886)
How the "stay-at-home" girls managed their winter evening entertainments, including a Christmas exhibition and a bazaar.
Verbarium: An Indoor Game for People of All Ages (GOP 1886)
The early form of Boggle: a competition to form as many words as possible out of one long word.
What To Do on Holiday Afternoons (GOP 1880)
Indoor word games -- rhyming, guessing, etc. -- to play on a holiday afternoon.


On Recreations for Girls, by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson MD (GOP 1894)
"Except under special circumstances women are just as able as men to take part in recreative pursuits; they are as much benefitted by such pursuits; and... [if] they moderate their zeal so as not to show too competitive a spirit in any contests in which they may be engaged, they add greatly and gracefully to the science of health and to the usefulness of life..."
Outdoor Games from Over the Sea (GOP 1892)
This multi-part article has a host of fascinating details about variations on counting games, tag, game songs and such from around the world.
Useful Pastimes for Health and Pleasure, by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1895)
On cycling, golf, cricket, lawn tennis, walking, boating, fishing and gardening.


Boating for Girls (GOP 1902)

A Girls' Cricket Club, by Its Secretary (GOP 1889)
"I know many people regard cricket as a most unladylike and improper game for girls to play at; but it has always seemed to me that if the girls behave quietly, and only have friends for spectators, there can be no serious objection."
Stool-Ball, and How to Play It (GOP 1891)
This seems to be a game somewhat similar to cricket.

The New Game of Croquet (GOP 1899)
Nicely illustrated article, including a diagram of how to lay out a croquet court.

Golf for Girls, by Garden G. Smith (GOP 1894)
Ladies' Golf (GOP 1890)
"It is...only of late years that ladies have -- with much more becoming and feminine taste than inspires them to compete in the more masculine sports of cricket and football -- taken up [the] game..."

Girls at Hockey (GOP 1891)
Hockey: A Splendid Game for Girls, by E.M. Robson (GOP 1900)
A winter sport -- but not on ice!
How We Started Our Hockey Club (GOP 1900)

How I Learned to Play Lawn Tennis (GOP 1883)
Lawn Tennis, by H.M. Pillans (GOP 1900)
"The question has often been asked in the tennis world, 'Why is the standard of the average girl's play so far below a man's?' Not implying, of course, that one ever expects to see 'equality of the sexes' in this respect, but in the case of a game requiring skill rather than brute force the weaker sex should certainly be able to show to better advantage than at present." The answers are guaranteed to fascinate...

How I Managed My Picnic, by Dora Hope (GOP 1880)
Sunday School Treats (GOP 1880, 1881)
How to arrange a Sunday School picnic in the country.

A Girls' Walking Tour, by Dora Hope (GOP 1880)
"We were, on this particular occasion, mourning over the various pleasures that girls are debarred from, just because they are girls... We all united in denouncing the arbitrary laws of Society, which forbid us these and other delights, including walking-tours, unless accompanied by a gentleman... when one of our party... electrified us by saying... 'I believe we could make a glorious tour together, without a single gentleman or chaperones to interfere with us.'"


As cycling was a sport that evolved over time, and as attitudes towards women as cyclists also evolved, this section is arranged chronologically.

Advice to Girl-Cyclists, by Lillias Campbell Davidson (GOP 1896)
"She should not dress in a style to excite undue notice, or make her pastime unattractive in the eyes of outsiders... If... she looks loud, fast, and simply a fright, she is doing [the sport] infinite harm, and prejudicing all sensible people against it."
Cycling: As a Pastime and for Health, by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1896)
The Cycling Craze, by A.T. Schofield, MD (GOP 1896)
"The tricycle is obviously a safe and useful machine for the exercise of ladies; but with regard to the bicycle, there are as many objections as spokes in its wheels."
The Dress for Bicycling, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1896)
How I Learned to Bicycle, by Constance Hastings (GOP 1896)
A delightful tale of one young lady's efforts to acquire a bicycle.
To Cyclists: Amenities of the Road, by Ernest Bowden (GOP 1896)
"Give warning at considerable distance before overtaking passengers; and if your warning is not heeded, repeat it. People are sometimes deaf, or dreaming, or making love."
The Cycle: How to Keep and Clean It (GOP 1897)
Includes a lovely diagram of the parts of the bicycle.
Our Girls A-Wheel, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1897)
"We are filled with respect and wonder concerning the grand old pioneers, who so bravely fought the way towards cycledom."
Bicycling to Health and Fortune, by Lawrence Liston, MD (GOP 1898)
A Charity Gymkhana: How to Arrange and Manage It (GOP 1898)
Forget horses; this is a gymkhana for bicycles!
How to Form a Girls' Cycling Club (GOP 1898)
Methods of Mounting for Girl Cyclists, by Mrs. Egbert Norton (GOP 1899)
Our Mutual Friend the "Bike," by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1899)
American v. British Cycles, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1900)
Cycle Gymkhanas: How to Prepare and Practice for Them, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1900)
Cycle Polo, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1900)
Fancy Cycling, by Isabel Marks (GOP 1900)
"Trick-riding is a form of cycling which only requires to be known to be appreciated." Tricks include hands-free riding, double-riding, "skating," skipping through a hoop and more.
Free-Wheel Cycles, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1900)
This appears to be the development of bicycles that are able to coast without one having to constantly propel the pedals.
Bicycle Worries and How to Cope with Them, by L. Lawrence Liston, MD (GOP 1901)


How to Drive, by Evelyn (GOP 1891)
An article on harnessing and unharnessing one's horse, for "the numerous girls who are in the habit of driving themselves about the country unattended by a groom."
How to Ride (GOP 1882)
Well-illustrated piece on riding for ladies.
Motors and Motoring, by N.G. Bacon (GOP 1900)
"The pioneers of motoring have shown little discretion in advancing the popularity of their favourite mode of locomotion." And one of the most feared hazards to women, whether motoring or cycling, seems to be "vibration"!


Healthy Recreations: Skating (GOP 1880)
How to Make an Ice Sledge (GOP 1896)
Skating, by Christine Handley (GOP 1900)
Swiss Children's Winter Sports (GOP 1901)
Tobogans and Toboganing, by Alfred Harmsworth (GOP 1883)
Tobogganing, by Richard Patterson (GOP 1890)

Copyright © 2018 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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