In 1930 Mary Bagot Stack created the Women’s League of Health & Beauty. Her vision was of “a league of women who will renew their energy in themselves and for themselves day by day”. She believed completely in the power of women to make the world a better place to live in.
Her work started in London where in 1925 she opened her Bagot Stack Health School. By 1930 she had trained enough enthusiastic young teachers to help her launch her ‘Women’s League’ which enjoyed immediate and outstanding success – the growth was spectacular. Mary Bagot Stack was a total inspiration and her ‘health training’ classes combined exactly the right mixture of hard work and fun so that after only 7 years since its inception 166,000 women had joined the League.
Mary Bagot Stack died in 1935 at the age of 50. That her movement has survived more than 70 years beyond her death is testament not only to the devotion that she inspired in her daughter Prunella and friends Peggy and Joan St.Lo who carried on her work, but to the true and lasting value of the idea itself.
The outbreak of the Second World War arrested the League’s startling expansion as many teachers and members responded to the call to National Service. Peggy and Joan St.Lo carried on the administration in London, while 50 centres across the country were kept going by teachers who also ran special classes, raised funds and organised entertainments for factory, civil defence, nurses and service personnel.
After the war there was an increase in the number of teachers and members as classes and the Bagot Stack Health College re-opened, but the extraordinary growth seen in the pre-war years was never to be repeated. The two year full time teacher training course was replaced in 1969 by a part-time training course.
The Women’s League of Health and Beauty changed its name to the Fitness League in 1999 and became a Founder partner of the Exercise, Movement and Dance Partnership (EMDP) in 2006.
With EMDP we have developed a nationally accredited teaching qualification at Level 3 with our teachers also sitting on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REP’s) at L3. We have developed an outstanding continuing professional development (CPD) programme for teachers to ensure they are keeping abreast of current thinking within the fitness industry and that they can apply that knowledge to our system of exercise.
Prunella continued to be actively involved with the Fitness League until her death in 2010. Her granddaughter Saba Douglas Hamilton is now our President and we continue to develop the Bagot Stack system and deliver it to fresh audiences.
The continuing popularity of Mary Bagot Stack’s ‘League’ rests in the fact that its exercise principles are based on the structure of the human body which never changes. Her recipe for classes – hard work, good fun, sociable – has a lasting appeal for the thousands who have enjoyed high levels of fitness for the greater part of their lives. Now as Fitness League, we continue to develop and deliver quality exercise training and classes that uphold the principles of exercise, fun and empowerment.