Heidelberg Historical Society

Getting Physical with Prof. Bjelke Petersen

Posted on Friday, 8th May 2020 by Janine Rizzetti

from our Facebook page 8 May 2020)

Have you been missing your exercise during this coronavirus shutdown? Well, if you had been a schoolgirl at Cooerwull (the forerunner to Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School) a hundred years ago, you could have kept fit doing Physical Culture under the auspices of the Bjelke-Petersen Physical Culture School, which was offered as part of the curriculum.

Bjelke-Peterson - now where have we heard that name? No, it’s not Premier Joh from Queensland, but instead it’s his uncles Hans Christian, Johannes and Harald and aunt Marie who established a physical culture gymnasium in Hobart, not long after their arrival in 1892.

They expanded into Sydney in 1907 where they established multiple branches. In 1909 they commenced a Melbourne branch in the Temperance and General Building at 132 Swanston St. By 1913 they advertised that they had a staff of over 25 lady and gentlemen experts.

Many girls’ schools in Melbourne, including Cooerwull, offered “Physical Culture by Prof. Bjelke-Petersen” which included Deportment Drill Classes. These classes were not taught by Prof. Bjelke-Petersen himself, but instead by a teacher accredited by the institute.

Their booklet, seen here, advertised that

“The Secret of a Perfect Form for your daughter lies in the application of regular exercises designed to develop the deficient parts. Exercises which correct her stoop and raise her chest. Some gentle daily exercises which restore and revive the circulation in all the vital organs, and bring them into normal state, will be found a great aid to her complexion and appearance”.

I bet you’re sitting up straighter already.

Image: Bjelke-Petersen Bros. : what we do for children. State Library of NSW FL3503027

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