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April 1879

“The Sophomores have founded a Political Club which they called the T. and M. Club. Diligent inquiry has failed to discover the signification of their mysterious letters.” Vassar Miscellany.

The Vassar College Prospectus, compiled in the spring prior to the opening of the college, was explicit on the impropriety of debating: “Oratory and debate are not feminine accomplishments; and there will be nothing in the college arrangements to encourage them.” Nevertheless, with support from the president and the faculty, political and philosophical debating had been a feature of college life from the founding of Philaletheis in December of 1865. The Philalethean debates were generally essay-debates, where two opposing essays were prepared on such topics as whether intellect or enthusiasm had been more effective in the reforms of the world (1874) or if reviewers benefit literature (1875).

By the end of the 1870s, the essay-debates gave way to live debates and their topics shifted from the abstract to the concrete. A short-lived society formed in 1876-77 studied political science, and a member who failed to spend at least 20 minutes each day reading political news faced a fine of ten cents. The advent of T. and M. accelerated these trends, as topics ranged from the abolition of honors at Vassar (1881) to whether “the individual worker” ought to “refuse to merge his effort in that of the organization” (1887).

In its sophomore year the Class of 1884, established a club called Qui Vive, for the discussion of current literature and historical topics, and a lively exchange between the two organizations and across the classes continued into the next century.

Speculation about the mysteries of T. and M. and particularly its name produced suggestions ranging from Tempus et Mores to Tea and Milk, Toast and Muffins and Tadpole and Monkey.

The Years