In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Bensalem High School was a powerhouse for girls’ sports. Their basketball, softball and field hockey teams all won several championship titles under the direction of Coach Helen M. Smith.
Keep in mind, this was all taking place before the advent Title IX, the law that requires schools to provide equality for girls in sports. Prior to Title IX, girls athletics were often non-existent in schools or barely tolerated at best. It was often frowned upon for girls to exert themselves by participating in a physical activity or to be competitive in any way. Smith and her athletes defied the social norms of the time and showed that girls can truly be competitive and successful in athletics.
Smith, who coached girls’ sports at the high school from 1937 to 1943, later became the director of physical education and a guidance teacher at William Allen High School in Allentown, Pa where she was a mainstay for 35 years before retiring in 1978. She was also program chairwoman for the former Lehigh County Health, Physical Education and Recreation Association and was president of the Lower Bucks County Coaches Association. Smith was inducted into the Hall of Fame for both Bensalem Township and William Allen High School.
Helen was truly a ground breaker in girl’s sports and physical education as well as an amazing role model for young women. Sadly, she passed away on May 19, 1989 at her home in Phoenixville, PA, but her legacy lives on through the many lives she touched throughout her career.