Collections Crossover: Health and Fitness
Collections Crossover: Health and Fitness

New Year, New You! That's right isn't it? If you're still ploughing through the Quality Street then you may want to take a rain check on a shiny, new fitness regime but whether you're an enthusiastic participant in the latest health kick, or determined to remain firmly horizontal on the sofa, January seems to be the time when our thoughts inevitably turn to all things healthy.

There is plenty of motivational material in our archive, starting with Bedford Physical Education Old Students' Association Archive, which energetically evokes women's sporting life in the first half of the twentieth century with a terrific set of photographs dating from 1903 to the 1940s. The founder of the college, Margaret Stansfield, succeeded in developing a strong, female tradition of sports and gymnastics against opposition from a male-dominated society. Consequently, the collection chronicles the way in which fitness was becoming an acknowledged and integral part of education for a growing number of women during this period, with sports featured including fencing, lacrosse, netball, hockey, cricket and some superb dance and gymnastic displays. It all looks very jolly hockey sticks and above all, tremendous fun.

Women's sport and exercise is a recurrent theme in the ILN magazine archive. The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News recognised their female readers' growing interest and involvement by publishing a Women in Sport feature in every weekly issue and all titles gave prominence to famous sportswomen such as tennis stars Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody, as well as now-forgotten personalities like Teddy Myers, a formidable ladies' wrestling champion of the 1920s. There are also advertisements for sporting attire and a variety of inventive dietary aids for whittling down the waistline. Vigor's Horse-Action saddle was guaranteed to jolt one out of any January ennui, while we are particularly interested in investigating the Cush-Up, a device that allowed one to exercise in bed (see picture number 12021270). And if group exercise is your thing, then sign up for the lovely Prunella Stack's Women's League of Health & Beauty. Members got to wear a natty uniform of silky shorts and cap-sleeved shirt. Very chic. Even William Heath Robinson provided some excellent ideas for reluctant exercisers. It's all here and more.

The ILN magazines were also very keen on winter sports - several of them even brought out a 'Winter Sports' number each year. We've included plenty of them here, but we've also some stunning posters for winter sports destinations via Onslow's Posters. Since it IS the season for snowy pursuits, it seems a good opportunity to remind you about them too.

There is lots more to please fitness fanatics in our archive. Our run of French magazine, 'Beaute' celebrates, as the title suggests, the body beautiful and features some seriously buff young gentlemen on their covers. We present more muscles from celebrated strongmen and body builders, Eugene Sandow and Charles Atlas, or exercise instructions from Bilz's 'Natural Method of Healing', 1900 . There are lots of energetic people doing various sporty things in the collections of Classicstock, Barnaby's and Everett, and we've thrown in some charming photographs of primary school PE classes through the lens of Henry Grant, John Gay, Roger Mayne and others . And since it's also Veganuary, it's also worth mentioning we've pictures of some trailblazing vegetarians, including the rather eccentric Mr. J. R. B Branson who in the autumn of 1939 appeared in The Bystander extolling the virtues of his diet which consisted entirely of grass!

Finally, don't forget fitness on film. We've a selection of images showing some of the screen's most famous physical transformations, as well as a few pictures to appeal to anyone with a nostalgia for the 1980s aerobics craze with fitness videos by the likes of Christie Brinkley, Raquel Welch and of course, the evergreen Jane Fonda.

As we star jump into 2023, let us know if we can provide any support, whether that's picture research or fee quotations. Email or call 020 8318 0034 and we'll sprint into action on your behalf.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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