"Verbrugge's definitive history of women's physical education in the United States documents the development of a discipline that changed dramatically during the twentieth century...What may seem like a dry read, however, provides a foundation for understanding the contemporary challenges faced by girls and women in their pursuits to engage in all forms of physical activity, including competitive sport." - Maureen M. Smith, Journal of Women's History
"Active Bodies is an extensive and authoritative survey of women's physical education in America....This is an accessible, careful, fascinating book."-Vanessa Heggie, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences "
"Verbrugge provides a rich, insightful review of physical activity and physical education for women across the 20th century. Including a wealth of information about pioneers in the field, this is a critical resource for those interested in physical education, sports, and women's studies. Highly recommended." - CHOICE
"Meticulously researched over a ten-year period, Martha H. Verbrugge's Active Bodies deftly demonstrates the ways that women physical educators consistently have had to navigate a hostile environment, one that has found physical education at best a 'light' subject not worthy of respect and at worst a field fundamentally threatening to dominant ideas about gender, femininity, and whiteness." - Amy Erdman Farrell, American Historical Review
"Martha Verbrugge's scholarly and critical analysis of the history of physical education within the political and social backdrop of twentieth century America brings to life the role of gym class in the lives of girls and women across the nation. Painting a brilliant and moving portrait of the world of female physical educators in a field that is still gendered, hierarchical, and insecure, she provides powerful arguments about the ways in which the profession, standing at the crossroads of science, culture, and daily life, has historically located-and continues to locate-sex differences directly in the body." - Patricia Vertinsky, University of British Columbia
"Verbrugge rescues women's gym class experiences from merely the loving wonder of singer Meg Christian's 'Ode to a Gym Teacher' or our worst memories of failure. Active Bodies is a tour de force history of the role of physical education in the naturalization of gender, sexuality, and racial differences and the struggle waged for equality and justice. Written with wit coupled to the research and narrative skills of a great historian, Verbrugge's work provides what will become a classic in women's educational and sports history." - Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College
"Focusing on female physical education instructors in high schools and colleges over the course of the twentieth century, Martha Verbrugge has written a model study of the interaction of scientific, medical, and feminist theories of the female body as they are interpreted by educators directly involved in disciplining and liberating the adolescent female body. With a nuanced perspective, Verbrugge deals with difference as well as similarity, showing variations by region and institutions, black as well as white. A must read for historians of education and of sports, Verbrugge's sweeping perspective elucidates the history of women more generally, while showing the persistence of racism and homophobia even in eras of general advance." - Lois Banner, author of Revelations: The Passion and Paradox of Marilyn Monroe
"Martha H. Verbrugge's thorough and systematic history of women's physical education amply demonstrates how that field both reflected and perpetuated social, cultural, political, and economic inequalities in the twentieth-century United States." - Lynne Curry, Journal of American History
"A major contribution... This book therefore offers not only an invaluable contribution to the history of science and medicine but also a path forward for feminist scholars." - Heather Munro Prescott, Bulletin of the History of Medicine
"“[An] insightful and comprehensive survey of the history of women's physical education over the past century. No snickers, please, about gym class and gym teachers. This is cultural and social history at its best, moving the topic of physical education from the margins of historical inquiry to the center of twentieth-century debates about gender, race, class, and sexuality.”-Susan Ware, Reviews in American History "
"“A compelling read for anyone interested in this neglected area of women's history, Verbrugge's analysis is a welcome addition to theories that formulate the bases of discrimination based on gender, race, class, orientation, and ability, and shows how an analysis of women's differentially embodied experiences in sport comes to form a visceral part of their identities.”-Linda Heywood, Women and Social Movements in the United States "
"“Verbrugge offers historians of sport and physical culture a sound foundation from which to continue the critical examination of the experiences of the American sportswoman.”-Sarah Jane Eikleberry, Journal of Sport History "
"“For the historian this is an important work as it provides a window on to the history of female body and the ways in which both men and women have sought to control and sometimes prevent 'active womanhood.'…This work should also be required reading for all physical educators as Verbrugge recognizes physical education's potential as a social justice movement more so than most practitioners and scholars within the field.”-Alison M. Wrynn, Journal of Social History "