Celebrating 120 Years of Gym Drill

1924 – Cathedral Street

In 1904, the first formal Exhibition of Gymnasium Works showcased the talents of the girls attending The Bryn Mawr School. For several years the event took place within the confines of the gymnasium at the school’s Cathedral Street location. Beginning in 1916, the event was moved outside to the courtyard or as Headmistress Edith Hamilton preferred to call it “the Garden.”

1927 – Cathedral Street

During the 1930s under the leadership of Rosabelle Sinclair, Gym Drill began to include intricate dance moves executed with great precision. Clearly, the foundation for the essence of this event was firmly set in place to become a true Bryn Mawr tradition.

1959 – Melrose Avenue

The early 1950s brings the addition of a large white drum. The drum was acquired from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Alumnae Dorothy Wolff Phipps ’50 recalled:

“I guess Margaret Briggs got the drum, according to legend anyway, from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Miss Sinclair retired in the late 40s, and Miss Briggs took over as head of the Gym Department in 1950. So, it had to have been in the early 50s when we got the drum. Marge Wagner and [Miss] Briggs were great friends, and that’s how it all evolved.”

1981 – Melrose Avenue

In 1985, The Bryn Mawr School celebrates the school’s 100 year anniversary. This year marked Gym Drill’s first annual Alumnae Banner march with all of the Alumnae dressed in gold and white.

1998 – Melrose Avenue

During the mid 1990s, a new athletic director, Mrs. Maureen Sanborn, replaced Mrs. Pat Becker. Dance director, Diana Curran began to incorporate old and new world dances that would add new elements to challenge the girls. African dances with colorful movements are added for the first time as well.

2004-Melrose Avenue

2004 – Melrose Avenue

The Centennial year of Gym Drill was celebrated in 2004. Jeanette Budzik summarized the significance of this tradition in a compilation of research and living history that was featured in Bryn Mawr’s Communique – Alumnae Class Notes 2004:

“Imagine 100 years ago – young girls moving about in a gymnasium – exercising, marching, and dancing. This may have been viewed as outrageous to many, especially during a time when there was still a reluctance to educate young women in any capacity. But to the five founders of the Bryn Mawr School, providing girls with the same opportunities as boys was a top priority. Formal exhibitions were created for girls to demonstrate their talents in the gymnasium, and now 100 years later, the school continues to celebrate this tradition known as Gym Drill.”

2009 – Melrose Avenue

2010 – Melrose Avenue

   2018 – Melrose Avenue


Gym Drill continues to celebrate the historical dances of the past while embracing new traditions. The sword dance has been performed by students for over 60 years while new dances are added in hopes of becoming the newest tradition.

2024 – Niche Poll

Celebrating 120 years, Bryn Mawr’s Gym Drill is a beloved tradition that continues to be a grand event that connects all alumnae.


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