Margaret Bell

Heads Gymnasium, Dr. Margaret Bell Fielding Yost and Margaret Bell on balcony of Women's Athletic Building, overlooking Palmer Field

Fielding Yost and Margaret Bell on balcony of Women's Athletic Building, overlooking Palmer Field, ca. 1938

In 1923, Margaret Bell (1888-1969), arrived at the University of Michigan as an M.D. for the University Health Service. That year, she also became Director of the Department of Physical Education for Women (DPEW). Participation in the Women’s Athletic Association (WAA) peaked under Bell’s supervision.  Although she supported women’s participation in athletics, Bell did not advocate for a women’s varsity program. Bell viewed the men’s varsity system as corrupt and believed that intense competition could have harmful effects on the well-being of women competitors.[1]

Directing the DPEW, Bell reorganized the University Health Service and created a national model by integrating medical science with physical education.[2]

Bell served the DPEW and the WAA for 34 years. Upon her retirement, the Bell Pool was named in her honor and the female athletes she advised were grateful for her guidance and commemorated her at her retirement in 1957.[3]



[1] Sheryl Szady, “The History of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women of the University of Michigan” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1987).

[2] November 30th, 1927, Scrapbook Vol. 1, Box 1, Dept. of Physical Education for Women, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[3] “Memoir: Margaret Bell,” Regent’s Proceedings 670, Faculty History Project, University of Michigan, https://www.lib.umich.edu/faculty-history/faculty/margaret-bell/memoir.