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February 22, 1897

In perhaps the first mass student protest in the history of the College, students challenged the faculty’s decision, taken two years earlier, that George Washington’s birthday would no longer be a holiday from classes at Vassar.

In contrast to their response in 1895, when the seniors came to dinner in mourning for the death of the faculty’s patriotism, this year’s protest was loud and long. Before breakfast, students swarmed the corridors of Main Building shouting “Rah! Rah! Rah! George! George! George! First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen!” Singing “America” and “Yankee Doodle,” the procession headed to the President’s House, where they “saluted President Taylor’s windows” with more singing and cheers for the “Red, White and Blue.” Returning to Main, the hundreds of students entered the dining room, quickly festooning the student tables with patriotic colors and drawing a white chalk line around the faculty tables. Many students came to breakfast in their finest clothes, as if dressed for a grand event.

Faculty entering their classrooms found appropriate posters behind their desks: “Qui entre ici laisse le patriotisme dehors” for the French teacher; in algebra, a formula computing the removal of patriotism from the faculty and adding it to the students; in Greek, a poster proclaiming the Greeks’ love of freedom and country; in psychology, a few lines about the mental strain of deprivation of celebration. In the morning mail faculty members received a notice of a production of “A Revised Edition of Shakespeare’s Tragedy, ‘George Washington.’” On the bulletin board in Main, notices were posted cancelling meetings of the Student Association, the Dickens Club, Federal Councils, and the Wake Robin Club. In contrast, another notice said “The Faculty will meet as usual to-day.”

In the evening, at a “Colonial Ball,” the seniors came dressed as George Washington.

The New York Times

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