Skip to content Skip to navigation
Skip to global navigation Menu

April 29, 1870

Founder’s Day continued to be observed on Matthew Vassar’s birthday, but the music, collation and promenade—augmented with a guest speaker—were moved to the evening. George William Curtis, American author and orator, spoke on “Woman’s Sphere Is Wherever She Can Find Anything to Do.” Ellen Swallow ’1870 wrote in her diary: “It was the best women’s rights speech I ever heard. Suffrage, the ballot or rights, were not mentioned.”

Writing to Charles Eliot Norton on May 3, 1870, Curtis called his visit to Vassar “one of the most unique occasions of my whole life…. As you know, the spirit of the College is far from that of the ‘Woman’s Rights’ movement, at least among the trustees and many of the professors, but I pleaded for perfect equality of opportunity and liberty of choice, and I was never so cordially thanked, even by those, like the President, who I thought might regret my coming.

“Maria Mitchell, the astronomer, was most ardent in her expressions. Several noble looking girls, who would not tell their names, came up to me at the reception afterwards and asked to take my hand. I felt more than ever how deeply the best women are becoming interested.”

Edward Cary, George William Curtis

On June 12, 1890, Curtis returned to Vassar as the main speaker at the college’s celebration of its 25th anniversary.

The Years