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Education Higher

Tending the Student Body

Youth, Health, and the Modern University

by (author) Catherine Gidney

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Feb 2015
Higher, History, Gender Studies, General, General
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2015
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2015
    List Price

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In the early twentieth century, university administrators and educators regarded bodily health as a marker of an individual’s moral and mental strength and as a measure of national vitality. Beset by social anxieties about the physical and moral health of their students, they introduced compulsory health services and physical education programs in order to shape their students’ character. Tending the Student Body examines the development of these health programs at Canadian universities and the transformation of their goals over the first half of the twentieth century from fostering moral character to promoting individualism, self-realization, and mental health.

Drawing on extensive records from Canadian universities, Catherine Gidney examines the gender and class dynamics of these programs, their relationship to changes in medical and intellectual thought, and their contribution to ideas about the nature and fulfilment of the self. Her research will be of interest to historians of medicine, gender, sport, and higher education.

About the author

Catherine Gidney is a professor of history at St. Thomas University. She writes about youth culture and students in revolt over everything from vending machines to curfews to war. She is the author of Tending the Student Body: Health, Youth and the Rise of the Modern University, 1900-1960 and A Long Eclipse: The Liberal Protestant Establishment and the English-Canadian University Campus, 1920-1970.

Catherine Gidney's profile page


  • Joint winner, English-language Book/Anthology Prize awarded by the Canadian History of Education Association

Editorial Reviews

‘Gidney’s book will make a good resource for teaching due to her focused writing style and its fascinating look into student life in the past.’

Acadiensis vol 44:02:2015

‘In this excellent new study of Canadian higher education, Catherine Gidney explores the origins of campus health facilities and athletic programs, services that are now an expected part of undergraduate program.’

Canadian Historical Review vol 96:04:2015

‘This book provides a solid foundation for other scholars who wish to do more detailed studies of the history of student health and physical education in Canadian colleges and universities.’

Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth vol10:01:2017

‘This fine piece of work provides new insights into the way the nature and culture of life in Canadian universities changed during the first sixty years of the twentieth century.’

BC Studies February 2017

‘Catherine Gidney has deftly analyzed an impressive amount of previously unexamined archival material to support her findings with conviction…. This study effectively highlights the ongoing dialectic between school and society.’

History of Education vol 45:06:2016

‘Gidney does an excellent job connecting her discussion of specific health services and physical education programs to the larger societal developments occurring throughout the first half of the twentieth century.’

Urban History Review vol 44: 1-2:2015

Other titles by Catherine Gidney