APTA Centennial Logo

Our History

Our story began with a calling: to serve those who sacrificed so much for our country in World War I. Where others saw limitation, we saw potential. Since our founding in 1921, we have moved forward together, with a passion and commitment to transform lives and strengthen our profession.

Explore 15 milestones from our first century:

January 15, 1921

APTA’s founders meet at Keens Chophouse in New York City. The participants decide to create an association with the name American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association. Dues are established at $2.


The association’s journal, P.T. Review, debuts. The issue was held in production awaiting election results for the new officers and executive committee. Mary McMillan was elected president. Free to members, annual subscriptions to the quarterly publication were available to the public for $1. The journal’s name eventually evolved to Physical Therapy (PTJ).


The association’s first annual conference is held in Boston, September 13-16, at the Boston School of Physical Education. Sixty-three reconstruction aides attend. The associations name is changed to American Physiotherapy Association to be more inclusive.


The first special interest sections meet at the association’s annual conference in Palo Alto, California.


The association moves into its first official headquarters in New York City, where the organization was founded. Mildred Elson becomes the first executive director of APA.


The association’s House of Delegates is created at the 1944 annual meeting. Margery L. Wagner of California is elected first chair of the body.


The House of Delegates votes to change the association’s name to the American Physical Therapy Association from the American Physiotherapy Association, which had been its name since 1922.


The first two classes of physical therapist assistants (PTAs) graduate and enter the workforce. The first PTA education programs were established earlier at Miami-Dade Community College in Florida and St Mary’s Junior College in Minnesota (now St Catherine University).


APTA relocates its headquarters from New York City, where the association was founded, to Washington, DC, in order to have a stronger advocacy presence on Capitol Hill.


The first Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) is held in Washington, DC. It drew more than 1,000 attendees. By 2018, CSM would attract more than 17,000 attendees per year.


Catherine Worthingham becomes the first recipient of the fellowship program that bears her name. The Catherine Worthingham Fellow designation (FAPTA) is the highest honor among APTA’s membership categories.


APTA purchases and moves to new buildings at 1111 North Fairfax Street in Alexandria, Virginia, with 2 neighboring buildings being purchased in 1993 and 1996. This marks the first time the association owns the buildings that house its headquarters.


The Student Assembly is formed to enhance the role of student members and lend a voice to the future leaders of the profession.


Association membership surpasses the 100,000 mark after a collaborative push by APTA, its components, and members. To put that accomplishment into perspective, APTA surpassed 25,000 members in 1975 and 50,000 members in 1990.


To begin the association’s 100th year, APTA will open a new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The building will support APTA’s workforce of the future and be more welcoming to our members and the public. APTA Centennial Center is a tribute to APTA’s mission, vision, and values.