Winifred R. Tilden

Winifred R. Tilden was born to Lydia C. and George G. Tilden on October 8, 1880 in Ames, Iowa. She graduated from Ames High School and then earned her B.A. (1903) from Mount Holyoke College. Upon graduation from Mount Holyoke, Tilden became Directress of Physical Culture for women at Iowa State College (University).

Tilden became a strong leader of physical education for women on campus and was nationally recognized for her efforts. She started Jack O' Lantern, a women's honorary society, and the Women's Athletic Association, which supervised the women's athletic clubs. She also created programs for female students that included exercise, dancing, gymnastics, swimming, bowling, tennis, track, basketball, golf, field hockey, archery, and a variety of other athletic activities. Tilden wrote and staged the popular "May Day" pageants. These celebrations honored women of the senior class and the profits from the events benefited women's athletics.

In 1918, Tilden took a leave of absence from her teaching duties to serve the YWCA war effort in France. She served as Hostess and Recreation Director at Toul, France, and later was called to Paris to serve as Manager of the Palais Royal. She returned to Iowa State in 1919 and was given the rank of Professor of Physical Education.

Under Tilden's direction, the women's physical education program expanded tremendously. When she retired in 1944, her programs had grown from less than 100 participants into the thousands. The crowning achievement of her career was the construction of the Women's Physical Education Building in 1941, the year she stepped down as Head of the Department. Winifred Tilden died in 1948 after a long illness. She is buried in the Ames Municipal Cemetery.

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Winifred R. Tilden  Papers

RS 10/7/11
University Archives, Iowa State University Library


Winifred R. Tilden

Twentieth Century Women of Iowa State University Archives, Iowa State University Library