Ruth Cohoon Papers Opened to Researchers

Women archers at the University of Arkansas, ca. 1970. (Ruth Cohoon Papers, MC 1880UA, Series 4, Box 1; University of Arkansas Libraries, Special Collections Department.)
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Women archers at the University of Arkansas, ca. 1970. (Ruth Cohoon Papers, MC 1880UA, Series 4, Box 1; University of Arkansas Libraries, Special Collections Department.)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In celebration of Women’s History Month, the special collections department of the University of Arkansas Libraries is opening a manuscript collection donated by Ruth Cohoon, the first director of women’s athletics at the university.

Cohoon joined the university as a swimming instructor in 1965. In 1972, she was appointed director of the first funded women’s athletic program. During her career at the university, she saw the first athletic scholarships offered to female students and coaching opportunities offered to women educators. Cohoon consistently fought for increased funding, better equipment, more scholarships and greater opportunities for women athletes.

Intercollegiate competition for women became a reality only in the later part of the 20th century after the passage of Title IX of the Equal Opportunity in Education Act of 1972. Prior to this, women competed only in local “sports days” or “play days,” which evolved into intramural and extramural teams. Female educators at the University of Arkansas helped to shape women’s athletics both at the university and in the state of Arkansas. Women’s sports began in what was then called the College of Education, where physical education teachers volunteered their time to coach girls who wanted the opportunity to compete.

The Ruth Cohoon collection not only contains information about the formation of women’s athletics at the University of Arkansas, it also documents developments at the state and national levels. University educators, including Cohoon, were involved in state, regional and national organizations, including the Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association (AWISA) and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). The collection contains information from every AIAW delegate assembly during its 10 years of existence.

University archivist Amy Allen, who processed the collection, said, “This collection illustrates the challenges women faced for opportunities to compete in athletics.” The collection consists of 11 linear feet of materials in 12 boxes and can be accessed through the special collections department reading room in Mullins Library. Please call ahead at 575-8444 for information concerning availability and retrieval of materials or e-mail

For detailed information on the collection see the online finding aid.


Amy L. Allen, university archivist
University of Arkansas Libraries


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