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April 26, 1878

Dancing was allowed for the first time after the literary exercises on Founder’s Day. Although public dancing was frowned upon, Matthew Vassar had himself sanctioned the amusement in 1867, noting, in response to an essay by a Poughkeepsie minister on “Incompatibility of Amusements with Christian Life,” “I never practised public dancing in my life, and yet in view of its being a healthful and graceful exercise, I heartily approved of it, and now recommend its being taught in the College….” With such approval, students organized informal dances from Vassar’s earliest days. Its association with Founder’s Day, however, elevated it further.

“No dancing appeared on the programme until 1878, and then four numbers only—lanciers alternating with quadrille. In 1895, the change was made to permit two affairs, literary exercises in the afternoon with the distinction they deserve, the evening given up to a reception with dancing…. It took till 1896 to establish round dancing and it was opposed even then.”

Frances A. Wood, Earliest Years at Vassar

The Years