Ethel Mary Cartwright: properly recognized, finally, at the U of S

On Campus News, 9 February 1996

If Ethel Mary Cartwright was hesitant to accept Walter Murray's offer of a position as assistant professor, she had good reason. Previously employed by McGill's Royal Victoria College in 1906, Cartwright had established both intramural and intercollegiate athletic competitions and had made physical education a requirement for undergraduate women at the college. More importantly, Cartwright had worked to shift the emphasis in physical education away from the then-popular, military-based Strathcona Trust plan, toward recognition of the need for physical education specialists trained through universities and normal schools.

By all accounts she was effective, able, and innovative. Based in that small women's college, Cartwright "had initiated an undergraduate requirement in physical education that even the authorities recognized as setting a standard it would take the men some years to obtain." That McGill's Board of Governors should have agreed to create a Department of Physical Education in 1919 was due to a large extent to Cartwright's considerable accomplishments. Nevertheless, she was overlooked when McGill chose a director for its new Department: instead, the job went to a man who had been associated with the McGill physical education program for only one year. Further, Cartwright was excluded from any policy-making position.

Murray had certainly taken note of her abilities, and by 1929 had persuaded Cartwright to join the University of Saskatchewan. Under her influence, women students formed an autonomous women's athletic directorate at the University. Cartwright was also influential in the fight to employ women coaches and officials.

Although her arrival had coincided with the depression and difficult years financially for the University, by 1931 a School of Physical Education had been established--and Ethel Mary Cartwright was asked to serve as head. Following Cartwright's retirement the School faltered temporarily, but the University had already recognized Cartwright's contributions: she was named Professor Emeritus.

Cheryl Avery