November 6, 1869. 25 Princeton students hop on the 10 o’clock train to Rutgers. They’re heading to compete in the first-ever intercollegiate football game. This isn’t just a milestone in the history of American sports—it also marks the birth of football culture on the sidelines. Because a group of Princeton students, watching the game, breaks into a cheer known as the “Princeton locomotive.” They’re considered the first cheerleaders. How did jumping for joy turn into a big business? And how did cheerleaders go from the epitome of masculinity to femininity—to now, challenging the entire role of gender in sports?
Special thanks to our guests, Dr. Natalie Adams, professor at the University of Alabama and co-author of Cheerleader! An American Icon, and Kimberly Jackson-Jones, former Raiderette and current teacher at Troy High School.
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