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June 9, 1897

The rainy weather continued, but it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of nearly all of the 104 members of the Class of 1897, the largest class to graduate in the history of the College. The traditional senior essays were read, covering such topics as: “The Religious Melancholy of the Greeks and the Hebrews” by Marion Schibsby ’97; “The Sonata as an Art Form” by Grace Hannah Landfield ’97; “Practical Socialism” by Rachael Schauffler ’97 and “The Romanticism of Ruskin and Morris” by Nancy Vincent McClelland ’97. Helen Peters ’97 sang “Hymn to the Angels,” by Berthold Tours.

The New York Times

Among the graduates was Anita Florence Hemmings ’97, the College’s first alumna of African American heritage. Her racial background was unknown up until a few days before graduation when, under pressure from a classmate’s family’s investigation of her, she disclosed it to a professor. The College found no reason to interrupt her graduation, but the excellent student, active in many College groups, was reportedly under great stress in her last days at the College. Hemmings’s daughter, Ellen Parker Love, graduated from Vassar in the Class of 1927, also without acknowledging her racial origins. The first acknowledged African American graduates of Vassar were Drs. Beatrix McCleary Hamburg ’44 and June Jackson Christmas ’45/4.

The Years