Anne Townsend was an athletic icon even before she stepped on the playing fields at Penn. An important part of the rise of field hockey in the United States, Townsend continued that development as a member of several national teams throughout the course of her life. She was a true "sports enthusiast" and her good will was recognized around the world.
Townsend helped begin the U.S. Field Hockey Association and her reign as the captain of the U.S. field hockey team ran from 1924-38 (and again in 1947). During this time, she was a driving force behind the establishment of the Women's Athletic Association at Penn, participating on the Quakers' field hockey and basketball teams.
In 1921, the University of Pennsylvania began its first official season of intercollegiate field hockey, but no definitive schedule was produced. The team had a great interest throughout campus and wound up playing the Temple field hockey team in its first-ever varsity contest. The Quakers had a much better showing than anyone had expected, losing to Temple by just two goals.
The first season of intercollegiate women's basketball at the University of Pennsylvania was in 1921-22. Townsend captained the team from the forward position to a 5-6 overall record. Penn defeated the likes of Pittsburgh, George Washington, Adelphi, College of Osteopathy and Drexel. When asked whether she felt the first year went well, she replied,
“It was very worthwhile. Aside from the fun of competitive basketball, we learned that to be good sports was really what mattered. In short, from the team’s standpoint, the season was certainly a success.” — taken from the yearly report for The Women’s Undergraduate Record, 1922.
Townsend did not play intercollegiately after that, but her athletic career continued for many years. She was named an All-American in field hockey in 1923. She played in two World Cups as part of the U.S. Field Hockey team and toured Holland and Germany. Townsend served as the president of the United States Field Hockey Association from 1928-32, was the president of the Philadelphia Field Hockey Association and was the secretary of the International Federation of Hockey Associations from 1927-32. According to Miss Constance Applebee, the Englishwoman who introduced the sport of field hockey to the United States early in the century, "Miss Townsend was the best field hockey player in America."
But the interests of Anne Townsend continued to grow and her love for athletics widened her circle of friends. She earned All-America honors in 1934 in lacrosse, and belonged to the U.S. lacrosse team from 1933-38. She was also a state champion in tennis and squash and captained the Middle States Sears Cup team in Eastern tournaments. Townsend represented the Merion Cricket Club in both sports. At 36, she remained the only undefeated member of the Cricket Club's squash team. Over 20 years later, at age 57, she won the U.S. Senior Women's Doubles title in squash. Townsend was also competitive in golf and swimming, and somehow found the time to publish two books, one on field hockey and one on religion for school and camp. For all this and more, Anne Townsend was the first woman inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1964.
Townsend’s wonderment for teaching athletics was almost as great as for playing them. She started the Merestead Sports Camps in 1946 as a way to educate girls about the excitement and endless opportunities of athletic participation. A camp that is still in existence today, part of Merestead’s success is its training philosophy as it presents a strong, disciplined foundation to develop a well-honed ‘game mind.’ An officially sanctioned camp by the United States Field Hockey Association, Merestead is the home to one of the oldest sports camps for girls in the U.S.