Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert Blobaum.


This dissertation examines the interaction between the various forces of Polish "nationalism" and "feminism" in the construction of women's physical culture in modern Poland from the late nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth century. The basic premise of this work is that unlike most western countries where sportswomen have typically been marginalized in their athletic endeavors, Polish female athletes have earned far greater respect and recognition in the development of their physical culture. On many occasions, women's athleticism in Poland was a source of immense pride and prestige for both the state and society, albeit for varied reasons throughout the time period. This form of public acceptance, however, does not suggest that Polish sportswomen faced no discrimination in their efforts to become more athletic. Women's physicality remained the subject of much debate throughout the history of Poland. Such scrutiny became even more intense when the socio-economic conditions worsened and threatened the survival of Polish families. Still, despite the patriarchal and other barricades, the Polish struggles for independence and women's concerns to achieve greater equity with men created significant institutional spaces and ideological avenues for Polish sportswomen to build their physical culture. Although Polish sportswomen were not depicted as Soviet-style sports stakhanovites, neither were they portrayed as "abnormalities" quite typical of the western identification for their sportswomen. The Polish female athletes were not placed in either of these two ludicrous categories; rather, they were located in the middle of these two polarities. Polish sportswomen were simply "heroic" women who took advantage of the available opportunities to build their physical culture without causing much controversy in popular discourse and official rhetoric. In this manner, they made significant contributions to the feminist goals of self-awareness and self-authorization, albeit within the boundaries of a still patriarchal nationalist agenda.