The first debate club at Bridgewater College was formed on December 9, 1899 by a small group of male students. There is a little evidence pointing to the existence of a debate club from 1902 to 1903, but debating didn’t catch on at Bridgewater College until 1908, when the W.I.T. Debating Club formed. This club lasted until 1911 and had Bridgewater’s first intercollegiate debate with Juniata College in April of 1908. Intercollegiate debating dropped off from 1913 to 1921, but from 1922 to 1939, male Bridgewater debaters would have many wins at intercollegiate debates. Women began intercollegiate debating in 1925 and like their male counterparts, would win the majority of their debates. There was a named Debate Club from 1939-42, which was then rebranded as the Speech Club in 1943.
Debate clubs would exist in various forms throughout the years (as well as under different names), but Bridgewater students would still participate in on-campus and intercollegiate debates, regardless of if they were members of a debate club or not. The method of choosing debaters for intercollegiate debates was often selective. On some occasions it would be faculty members who judged which debaters would form a team, and in other cases, it was left up to the Debate Council to make the decision. Clubs would exist under names such as the Debaters, Debating Club, the W.I.T. Debating Club, Debate Team, and Debate Club.
By Meghann Burgess, Special Collections Intern, 2021
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