“Classical PE” was not exclusive to the United States; it was global. Here’s a nice vintage image of women in Ireland taken circa 1908.
Pre 1920, PE was very gymnastics based. The gymnastics of this era was medical and orthopedic unlike today’s gymnastics designed mostly for competition with high injury rates. This kind of gymnastics “fixed” the human body and created better movers and better thinkers. The women are positioned around the vault. You can see off ground gravity ladder equipment suspended from the ceiling and what appears to be a stack of dumbbells on the shelf on the right.
All of these tools were designed to improve and enhance the physical literacy of students and to move them well–not just move “more” or only to get them “more fit.” They moved and thought better.