The Evolving Role of Young Women in Middle Class Culture and Society
The role of young women in middle class culture and society is reflected in the evolution of cheerleading. Starting as strictly a male activity, cheerleading has progressed into a predominantly female sport. The different stages of the evolution mirror the relative status young women have held in society. The evolution of cheerleading as a sport parallels the empowerment of women as competitors and active members of society.
To demonstrate this evolution, a variety of primary documents were used. Editions of the Beverly High School Year Book, courtesy of the Beverly Educational Archives, and editions of the Hartford Public High’s “Owl Annual”, courtesy of Harvard University’s Gutman Special Collection Library will be used. Beverly High School enrollment records from the Beverly Educational Archives allow the identity of the first cheerleading team to be compared to that of the student body. Work previously done on the social history of cheerleading include “Go! Fight! Win! Cheerleading In American Culture” by Mary Ellen Hanson. This is one of the few reliable sources on cheerleading. University Websites contain general information regarding only the history of cheerleading.
The main goal of this research paper was to reflect on middle class women’s evolution through the development of cheerleading.
For ages cheerleading has represented spirit, strength and patriotism, characteristics unique to American culture and society. Over the years, the role of cheerleaders has evolved greatly. Through the transition of a male activity to a predominantly female sport, cheerleading reflects the evolving role of young women in middle class culture and society. With Beverly High School as a vehicle, the metamorphosis of the female position in suburban life is examined.
The roots of cheerleading can be traced back to the 1880’s, when the evolution of the sport was occurring on several college campuses. Princeton University gave birth to the first pep club, a group of several enthusiastic male students who led yells on the sidelines at Princeton’s football games. This idea of leading cheers to promote crowd excitement was quickly followed. In 1890, the University of Minnesota boasted the first organized cheering team (all males) along with the first school “fight song”.  A positive addition to the football game atmosphere, colleges across the nation began to adopt the activity with high schools following closely behind. 
As the phenomenon of cheerleading trickled down the scholastic ladder to the high school level, secondary schools responded. Hartford Public High School of Hartford, Connecticut described its need for school pride in its 1909-year book the “Owl Annual’s”, Review of Athletics. Referring to lack of attendance at track meets the Owl stated “…we “licked” Springfield hands down in a dual meet. But where was the enthusiasm, the crowds, the support?”  Also lacking student attendance at school baseball games the 1909 Owl asked “…where was the support?”  At this point in time female participation in school athletics was limited, leaving female students searching for the ticket aboard the bandwagon of extracurricular involvement. Seizing the opportunity to become part of the athletic family, female students proved their school loyalty and pride by attending male sporting events and supporting their peer athletes. The 1910 edition of the “Hartford Public High Owl Annual” noted low student attendance at football games but commended the new female fans for their undying support. “The attendance at the games, excepting the one in North Britain, showed little of the much needed increased except of the girls who are certainly to be congratulated for their loyalty to the team.”  Female students were again thanked for their presence at school basketball games:
“Here again the girls are due a lot of credit for their school spirit in turning out to see the games and at many times they nearly out numbered the boys.” 
Lack of student attendance at school sporting events not only showed want of school pride, but more importantly led to lack of financial support in sponsoring these events. Therefore school officials, who may have been interested in increasing school pride, were open to suggestions in improving spectator turnout at school sporting events. An article in Beverly High School’s 1914 “The AEGIS”  discussed the possibility of designating people who led cheers at sporting events to make games more appealing to audiences. Nothing further was to be mentioned of this until 1943.
The start of World War I in 1914 brought a surprising, yet greatly appreciated increase in student attendance at Hartford High sporting events. With General Leonard Wood’s wafting ideas of conscription and nearly half of the United States Army stationed over seas  , feelings of patriotism were spreading through the nation, reaching even the young adult population. The “Owl’s” 1915 “Review of Athletics” directly commented on the post war atmosphere and its effect on the sporting event attendance.
“The spirit of the entire school is responding to the calls for candidates, and in attending the various games, has been unusually strong, and goes to show that all the patriotic people of this world are not to be found in Europe.” 
A year into World War I, 1916, three official cheerleaders were listed in the “Owl Annual”. Under the summary of basketball games three male students were recognized as cheerleaders. Following the cheerleaders names were the school yells and the school song, which were to be led by the designated cheerleaders. The school song, written by student Helen Roberts Tolles ,class of 1916 reads;
“Shout it loud in unity…While now we lead thee onto victory…And we will praise thy name as we do prove thy fame. Three good old cheers for the Hartford High.” 
The mass media of the 1920’s introduced America to the use of females as a vehicle of “sex appeal”.  This revolution in the media ignited the long process of cracking away the traditional shell of sexual modesty placed on females. Slowly females were allowed to obtain roles that drew attention to their physical shape and attractiveness. This movement reached urban areas years before touching the suburbs.
Proving this, The Hartford Public High’s school yells and song had been relocated to beneath the Girl’s Leader Class  in the 1920 “Owl Annual” as compared to the debut of the suburban cheerleaders in Beverly High School’s 1943 yearbook twenty-three years later. Colleges followed the new media trend quickly. The University of Minnesota, began experimenting with gymnastics and tumbling in 1923, and in the same year allowed female students to become cheerleaders. 
Books such as “Tumbling, Pyramid Building and Stunts for Girls and Young Women” by B. and D.Gotteral encouraged women to involve themselves in activities similar to modern day cheerleading. The Gotteral’s book, published in 1929, gave step-by-step instructions for creating pyramids, tumbling and stunting. It provided explanatory pictures and gave costume and music tips for routines that would grasp crowd appeal. All of these techniques, mounting, music, uniforms tumbling and pyramids are evident in competitive cheerleading today.
Along with World War II in the 1940’s, availed the opportunity for suburban young women to become cheerleaders at their high schools. The suburban town of Beverly, Massachusetts is a prime example of this transition. The first Beverly High School yearbook to contain a cheerleading team was in 1943 . The team consisted of nine students, three males and 6 females. As young men were being drafted into the war, female students begin to fill their positions on cheerleading teams. Not only were women taking over the jobs in factories, farms and business’s, but on the sidelines also. After 1944, the Beverly High School cheerleading teams consisted of all young women until 1958, when the high school had one male cheerleader.
As World War II progressed, the evolving role of young women in middle class culture and society was reflected by the social status of Beverly High cheerleaders on a much more minute level. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the United States’ entry into World War II.  Along with the military draft bill enacted the previous year, the United States of America’s entry into the war was a turning point for middle class women. Men of ages 18 to 35 were being drafted into the war, leaving many occupations and positions in society idle. Government propaganda encouraged American women to replace their deported men in everyday work and routine. Icons such as “Rosie the Riveter” provoked women to work in factories and try to upkeep the American industry while the men were at war. Cheerleading followed this same trend, and as young men were drafted into the service, female students expanded their roles through participation on the cheering squad.
The 1943 Beverly High School Cheerleading team set the standard of future teams to follow it. Intelligent, popular and respected among their peers, the nine cheerleaders of 1943 were extremely well rounded. Compared to the 1943’s student body IQ average of 103, the 1943 Beverly High Cheerleading Squad held an average IQ score of 111. Socially, 1943 cheerleaders were strong characters in their class, founding the tradition of strong social and academic skills among Beverly High School cheerleaders.
The student body of Beverly High School in 1943 was fairly diverse for it’s time. The 1943 cheerleading squad mirrored this variation of nationalities. As determined by school report cards, fifty-five percent of the 1,448 students (791) had been identified as having parents of “American” nationality. Of the nine cheerleaders, four, (44 %) were categorized as having “American” nationality. The Irish population of Beverly High School, which was 3.4 percent, 50 of the 1,448 students, were represented by only one member on the 1943 cheerleading squad. Minority ethnic groups within the school such as Irish French (13 students, .89 %) and Scottish (33 students, 2.27) were too represented each by one member of the 1943 team. Ironically, Italian, the predominant nationality of the school with 194 students and 13 percent of the student body, held no representation on the 43’ cheerleading team.
The first documented source of peer recognition of the cheerleaders was in the Beverly High School 1943 yearbook. Cheerleader Gloria Guertin was voted “Best Looking” by her fellow peers as part of the year books “Senior Superlatives” section. The following year cheerleaders occupied four spaces among senior superlatives including “Best Athlete”, “Wittiest”, “Peppiest” and “Best Personality”. Ninety forty-eight greeted B.H.S. senior cheerleaders with “Most Popular” and “Peppiest”. Cheerleaders were recognized with awards of “Best Dancer”, “Peppiest”, “Best Personality”, “Cutest” and “Most popular” in 1949.
High school society was, and is, in essence a microcosm of the adult world. Student government serves as a “practice run” for political involvement and familiarization among high school students. The same idea holds true regarding cheerleaders, who in the realm of high school society bear the responsibility of promoting school pride and loyalty. In the greater adult society of the United States of America, school pride is replaced with patriotism and school loyalty with nationalism. Therefore, in a time of war, when patriotism and nationalism are high among the adult population, high school students reflect variations of these same emotions by means of school pride and loyalty. This is why during the 1940’s, an era plagued with war, Beverly high school students demonstrate their “patriotic” and “nationalistic” strength by electing cheerleaders respected superlatives in high school society and culture. The student recognition of the cheerleaders symbolizes their broader recognition of wartime sentiments and support toward the United States.
Since the debut of Beverly High School cheerleading in 1943, there was only one cheering team per school year. The squad had an average of 10 girls, and participated only at football games and fall pep rallies. In 1958, the yearbook noted the basketball players were “…cheered onto victory at their home games…”  by the cheering squad. The same team was responsible for inventing hockey cheering when they “…experimented with cheering on ice…”. Not until 1974, two years after Title IX was passed, did Beverly High School cheerleading expand into distinct cheerleading teams for each popular male sport. The B.H.S. 1974 year book is the first to display two squads, one for football the other for basketball. The following yearbook in 1975 includes new cheerleading teams; hockey, junior varsity football and junior varsity basketball. The 1975 edition pictures cheerleading captains, each holding equipment of the sport they cheer for, proudly showing off the distinct squads that evolved. By 1994, Beverly High School had four individual cheerleading teams; football, basketball, hockey and soccer. This increase in squads was a delayed result of Title IX , the Education Amendments of 1972. These amendments required federally founded organizations, such as public schools, to provide equal facilities and programs to both male and females.
During the 1970’s as women begin to take a more significant role in society, Beverly High School cheerleading began the transformation from an activity into a sport. Football and basketball cheering incorporated a wide variation of tumbling, mounting and stunting into routines. This transition period rose cheerleading to the level of difficulty it is today. It is not longer an activity but a sport that requires great athletic ability and dedication. Competitions are very common among highschool teams. However all is not well in modern day cheerleading, which is owed a debt of respect and credit. Many schools still consider cheerleading and activity not worthy of sport team benefits. The 2003 Beverly High School Handbook does not include cheerleading under “Athletics”, but rather “Extra Curricular Activites” Ironically, Beverly High School cheerleaders are required to pay the one hundread dollars for participating in an “Athletic”, and not the fifty for an “Extra Curricular Activites”.
In a society where patriotism and leadership is greatly admired, cheerleaders have preformed such roles. A symbol of spirit and pride, cheerleading has captured the progression of young women in middle class culture and society. Both beginning from male dominance and control, cheerleading and young middle class women have flourished into a stronger being. Thriving off the power of one another, cheerleading has incorporated all aspects of female youth into one sport. For most however the social significance of cheerleading is little known, or cared about, and the one truth that remains the lifeline of the sport is the notion that all cheerleaders are “proud to be one.”
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1909) pg 61
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1909) pg 61
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1910) p. 171
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1910)
 Charles Osborn, “The Spectator”, The Aegis, 1914, Vol. 14
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1915) Monroe C. Gutman Education Library at Harvard University.
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1916) Monroe C. Gutman Education Library at Harvard University.
 Mary Ellen Hanson, “Go! Fight! Win! Cheerleading in American Culture,”Bowling Greenstate University Popular Press. 1995. 17.
 The Hartford Public High Owl Annual, vol. 14, A review of Athletics (Rutland: Marble City Press, 1920) Monroe C. Gutman Education Library at Harvard University.
 Feldmeth, Greg D. “U.S. History Resources” http://home.earthlink.net/~gfeldmeth/USHistory.html (31 March 1998).