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Martha Barksdale

Martha Barksdale (1899 - 1974)

Martha Elizabeth Barksdale, a native of Redlands, Virginia, entered the College of William and Mary in 1918 as a member of the first class to include women. Barksdale exemplified the innovative spirit of her class. She was the first president of the Women's Student Council, the first house president, the first "Miss William and Mary", and ended her distinguished and groundbreaking student career with an election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Barksdale worked to establish an intercollegiate sports program for women as a student and continued this work as a faculty member. In 1920, basketball was introduced. By 1925, women could also compete in hockey and tennis. After graduating, Barksdale was appointed to teach in the newly-established Department of Women's Physical Education. She received her M.A. in Physical Education from William and Mary in 1929. 1936 came with a promotion to Assistant Professor of Physical Education, followed by a 1939 promotion to Associate Professor of Physical Education. Barksdale also served as acting chairman of the Women's Physical Education Department in 1944 and 1965. She eventually taught or played nearly a dozen sports.

On retirement in 1966, Barksdale was named Associate Professor of Physical Education for Women, Emerita. In 1970 she received William and Mary's Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in recognition of her influence for good in the College and in the community of Williamsburg. Barksdale lived in Williamsburg for fifty-six years and was a founder of the Williamsburg Community Council. She was also an organizer of the Williamsburg Auxiliary for Patrick Henry Hospital and helped to establish the hospital's therapy program.

A year after Barksdale's 1974 death at age seventy-four, the playing fields for the Department of Women's Physical Education were reworked into three permanent playing fields. The fields were named The Martha Barksdale Athletic Fields to honor her dedication to the College as its eternal "Miss William and Mary".

Inventory of Martha Barksdale Papers
Martha Barksdale's Diary, 1918 - 1919
Photographs of Martha Barksdale and of the Barksdale Athletic Fields