Skip to Main Content

Sport, Sex, and Society [DRAFT]

Her choice. 1897. Illus. from Puck. 


This lesson is both an introduction to and an extension of a unit on Social Reform in United States Sports. The lesson introduces students to the connections between sports and social reform (specifically the rational dress movement and women’s suffrage/feminism), ideologies around women’s participation in early sport, as well as the importance of the material aspects of sports (cost, location, equipment, etc.). The unit extended past this historical investigation of Gilded Age/Progressive Era cycling into the present day and ended by looking at a variety of examples of “gear” and materiality of sports – including sports bras, gendered footwear, plus sized gear and body image, and even media coverage of women’s sports. 

Learning Objectives

By engaging in this lesson, students will: 

  1. Critically read primary sources (especially images)
  2. Make connections between sports and social reform movements – specifically dress reform and feminism
  3. Consider the role materials (gear) play in the liberation and/or oppression of bodies at play

About this Lesson Plan


US History; Gender and Women’s Studies; Sports Studies

Time Needed

1 full 75 min class period and part of a second class plus essay writing time

Original Course

GWS 150B5 Sport, Sex, and Society

Lesson Plan Created By

Dr. Michelle K. Berry, Department of Gender & Women's Studies, University of Arizona

Additional information

This lesson plan was created for college-aged students in a 100-level General Education course.  There is a lot to do in this lesson so it may take a less experienced discussion-based educator longer than 1.5 -2 75 min class periods. Similarly, the younger the learners the more time this would take, but if adapted to a higher level course (or a major-specific course) it might take less time.