Margaret Newell H’Doubler was born in Kansas in 1889. She and her family lived in Illinois for some of her childhood years and then moved to Madison, Wisconsin. H’Doubler studied biology at the University of Wisconsin (UW). After she graduated in 1910, she was asked to stay and teach in the Department of Physical Education for Women, where she became popular as a basketball and baseball coach.
In 1916, H’Doubler took time off from her job at the UW to go to graduate school at Columbia University in New York. Her boss at the UW told her to find out something about dancing that she could bring back to Madison to teach. H’Doubler was surprised, because she had no interest in dance and didn’t know much about it. But she ended up having bold new ideas about creative movement and the teaching of dance in higher education, and she was passionate about the subject for the rest of her life. She taught her students that dance involved both the body and the mind, and she was known for using a skeleton to explain how the body moves.
In 1926, the UW approved H’Doubler’s proposal for dance as a major that included science, philosophy, and art. In 1940, H’Doubler published a book, Dance: A Creative Art Experience, that has been called “a classic of dance education” and is still being used. In 1942, she became a full professor, and she continued teaching at the UW until she retired in 1954. H’Doubler died in 1982.
H’Doubler, Margaret N. Dance: A Creative Art Experience. F.S. Crofts & Co., 1940. 2nd edition, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 1957. Reprinted with a new essay by Mary Alice Brennan, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
“Margaret H’Doubler and the Wisconsin Dance Idea.” UW-Madison Libraries. https://www.library.wisc.edu/archives/exhibits/campus-history-projects/health-and-fun-shall-walk-hand-in-hand-the-first-100-years-of-womens-athletics-at-uw-madison/margaret-hdoubler-and-the-wisconsin-dance-idea/
Pillinger, Barbara B. “Margaret H’Doubler: Pioneer of Dance,” in They Came to Learn, They Came to Teach, They Came to Stay (volume I in University Women: A Series of Essays, edited by Marian J. Swoboda and Audrey J. Roberts), pages 33-36. Office of Women, University of Wisconsin System, 1980.
Rizzuto, Rachel. “Margaret H’Doubler, 1889-1982.” In Dance Teacher, September 1, 2015. https://www.dance-teacher.com/margaret-hdoubler-1889-1982-2392686528.html
Ross, Janice. “Margaret H’Doubler.” In “100 Dance Treasures,” Dance Heritage Coalition. https://new.danceheritage.org/html/hdoubler.html
Ross, Janice. Moving Lessons: Margaret H’Doubler and the Beginning of Dance in American Education. University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.
Wilson, John M., Hagood, Thomas K., and Brennan, Mary A. Margaret H’Doubler: The Legacy of America’s Dance Education Pioneer. Cambria Press, 2006.
Photo of Margaret H’Doubler by James Graham from the University of Wisconsin Madison Archives.
Special thanks to Mara Johnson and Emma McClure, UW-Madison students, for their assistance in writing and editing this profile.