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Noting Vassar’s relative isolation, The Transcript, an eight-page student journal, criticized the limitation of outside speakers at the college to those speaking “on educational subjects:”

“Shut in as we are from outside influences, we are too liable to fall into the error of thinking that the student’s life is the only life, the student’s interests the only important interests…. Unlike the students of other colleges, we have not the opportunity to come in daily contact with those engaged in active life, and thus learn what is going on. Absorbed in our regular college duties, we have no time to make a special study of these matters…. We should hear the popular speakers on the great vital questions of the age, that we may learn to judge correctly of th popular mind and intelligently form our own.”

James Monroe Taylor and Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Vassar

A student wrote to her mother about the confidence she was gaining from her education: “To feel capable, not handicapped, for the future is surely a pleasing sensation…”

[Elba Huffman ’70], Letters from Old Time Vassar

“Please have my new riding basque,” a student requested in a letter to her mother, “made 22 1/2 inches around the waist…. Dr. Avery lectured against tight lacing Tuesday morning. She never wears corsets and does not want us to.”

[Elba Huffman ’70], Letters from Old Time Vassar

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.

Daily newspapers were regularly used in classes for the study of current history, and the pressure to read them all was growing. Elba Huffman ’1870 wrote home:

“Must rush to the Library soon to read the ‘World,’ ‘Evening Post,’ ‘Herald,’ ‘Sun,’ and ‘Tribune,’ in time for our Political Economy Class tomorrow or Prof. Backus will be disappointed….Really the large view we get of national problems interests me more than any other subject unless it is the ‘woman question.’”

[Elba Huffman], Letters from Old Time Vassar

“Dr. Eliot, President of Harvard, is here. He has been visiting Antioch and Oberlin in the west and other colleges where women are admitted with men. He has been in at most of the recitations and told Prof. Farrar that the boys at Harvard could not recite nearly as well in German, French, or Latin, or even in mathematics, as the girls did here. He probed the Calculus class and not one failed in reply—and with credit to herself. There is talk of admitting women to Harvard if girls can keep up with boys; he seems to think Vassar girls more than do it. There is one thing people generally seem rather skeptical about till they come here and see for themselves: they don’t believe that more than half of what the catalogue says is true either as to curriculum, scholarship or serious endeavor. But Vassar speaks for herself when the audience gets within reach, in more ways than one!”

[Elba Huffman], Letters from Old-Time Vassar.

Vassar’s fourth commencement observances began on Sunday, June 19, with the baccalaureate service and sermon. Following Class Day festivities, alumnae and trustees meetings, the Class of 1870, some 300 fellow students, trustees, faculty, parents and other visitors gathered in the Chapel on Wednesday, the 22nd, for Commencement.

Following Professor Ritter’s organ voluntary, the audience heard several musical numbers, performances of two student compositions, an original poem and two essays—one in French and another in German—followed by the valedictory address, “Doing and Being,” from class valedictorian Jane Anna Denton ’70. President Raymond conferred baccalaureate degrees on the 33 members of the class. He then awarded the A. B. degree to Lepha Clarke, a mental philosophy teacher in the college.

After the ceremony, graduates, students and visitors enjoyed a collation in the dining room of Main, after which students guided their guests through several places of interest in the college, including the laboratories, the mineral collections, the library and the art gallery.

The New York Times

The college announced its first bequest since those in Matthew Vassar’s will, $32,000 from the estate of Jacob Post Giraud, Jr., a wealthy Poughkeepsie merchant and life-long amateur ornithologist. Giraud had published on the birds of Texas and Long Island, and some of his bird collection came to Vassar along with the bequest—$30,000 to found a museum of natural history and the remaining $2,000 specifically for the purchase of additional birds for the museum.

Professor James Orton drew on the Giraud bequest in developing Vassar’s Natural History Museum, to which he contributed a collection of South American birds.

The sum to come to Vassar at the death of Mrs. Giraud was reduced in 1889 to about $17,000 due to a technical flaw in Mr. Giraud’s will.

The Cecilia Society, a student musical club, gave a concert celebrating the centennial anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, Dec. 16, 1770.

Ellen Swallow ’1870 entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study chemistry. MIT had declined all other women applicants, but admitted Swallow as a special student to ascertain women’s ability in the sciences.

On February 11, 1871, she wrote to a friend “I am winning a way which others will keep open. Perhaps the fact that I am not a Radical or a believer in the all powerful ballot for women to right her wrongs and that I do not scorn womanly duties, but claim it a privilege to clean up and sort of supervise the room and sew things, etc. is winning me stronger allies than anything else.”

Caroline Louisa Hunt, The Life of Ellen H. Richards

Vassar’s Lady Principal, Hannah Lyman, who served, in President Raymond’s words, as “the chief executive aid of the President in the government of the college, and the immediate head of the college family,” died, at the age of 55, after a long and debilitating illness. Her successor was Harriet W. Terry.

An editorial, “Miss Lyman’s Influence at Vassar,” in the first issue of The Vassar Miscellany (April 1, 1872) observed, “the first instinctive thought connected with her was of intense moral power, and this, combined with her intellectual force, made up that subtle, essential spirit of character paramount to her.

“Let us, as students and as individuals, be thankful that we had her as we did, girded with her self-sacrificing, lofty womanhood, guided in all her difficult, delicate way. Let us be glad that when the last came, it came at Vassar College, to which she had given her noblest work, and with which her name must ever stand united in grateful, loving remembrance.”

The first “geological excursion” was initiated by Professor Orton during the spring vacation. The party visited Mauch Chunk and other coal‑producing districts of Pennsylvania, followed by visits to Philadelphia and Washington. This early field trip became a tradition, and it was largely responsible for Vassar’s traditional two-week spring break.

A member of the Class of 1874 recalled that in ’73 the students, dressed in their grey flannel gym suits, sat on wooden benches placed for them in a coal car and travelled two and a half miles underground in the mines at Summit Hill, Pennsylvania. Her diary of the trip notes that, at a hotel in Philadelphia the following night, “youths…who had begged Professor Orton to introduce them to us as they were immensely interested in geology” continued their discussions until “2. a. m.”

Vassar Quarterly

The Associate Alumnae of Vassar College was organized. The first motion passed was to raise a scholarship fund; the first committee appointed was to investigate and report on the advisability of alumnae representation on the Board of Trustees.

After a soirée musicale the previous evening, commencement activities began on Tuesday, June 20, with Class Day in the afternoon. The Chapel was filled to capacity and decorated with baskets and wreathes of flowers and streamers of evergreens. An orchestra from the New York Philharmonic Society provided music and addresses by the seniors focused on the history and the future of the class.

Proceeding from the Chapel to the lawn west of Main, the seniors planted their class tree. Kate G. Jewett ‘71 delivered the senior oration and Annie B. Folger ’72 gave the junior oration. Following the deposit of the class records, the class song was sung, the orchestra taking up the theme. In the evening, Sarah Glazier ’68, a master’s student at Vassar and later a professor at Wellesley, gave the Philalethean Society address.

On Wednesday, the 21st, Commencement exercises were held in the Chapel. Addresses from the seniors in English, Latin, French and German were interspersed with musical selections before President Raymond conferred the baccalaureate degree on the 21 members of the class.

The New York Times

The Vassar Transcript, an annual account of the college year from a student perspective published since 1867—the college’s second year in existence—became the quarterly Vassar Miscellany. The faculty’s refusal of student requests in 1869 and 1870 for permission to publish The Transcript on, respectively, a bi-monthly and a quarterly basis led to the Student Association’s decision to publish no documentation of the year in the spring of 1871. After much discussion in the fall, the faculty relented, and the first issue of The Vassar Miscellany, the first such publication by students at a college for women, appeared in April 1872.

The Laundry, Main Building kitchen and dining room extension, designed by a local architect, James S. Post, were completed. 

The American orator and abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips lectured on “The Lost Arts.” Although Matthew Vassar himself was proud that Phillips had spoken at the college in November 1867, the trustee lecture committee refused the Students’ Association’s request in December 1869 that Phillips be invited to deliver this address—part of his repertoire for nearly two decades. In a letter to her mother Ellen Swallow ’1870 surmised that the committee “thought that a man so identified with extreme views ought not to come here as we were not to be exposed to radical doctrines of any sort. ‘The sacred trust of fathers and mothers,’ etc…. We are about tired of poky lectures.” Caroline Louisa Hunt, The Life of Ellen H. Richards

The editors of the first issue (April 1, 1872) of the Students’ Association’s publication, The Vassar Miscellany, called Phillips’s appearance a “long cherished wish of the students,” and noted that the speech—a detailed comparison of the arts of ancient civilizations with contemporary ones, with the conclusion that “democracy” was the current civilization’s uniquely fine creation—“is too well known and too generally appreciated to need comment.”

Special German language tables were set up in the dining room.

In the first issue of The Vassar Miscellany, published by the Students’ Association and “Edited by Members of the Senior and Junior Classes,” the editors acknowledged “our exceeding newness frankly and fearlessly, without apology for the past or promise for the future.

“While we make no promises for the future, it may be well to look at what is lying before us…. It is no slight responsibility to meet the confidence reposed in us by the Faculty in consenting to give us what we have so long asked for, a college periodical under our control…. We have had, heretofore, no means of expressing our opinions, and much that we have often considered unfairness in our instructors has been, probably, ignorance of our real wants. Our columns will always be open to the Faculty, and we hope for their advice and opinion on matters of common interest.… [W]hile we intend always to advocate the cause of the students, we wish every question to be considered fairly, and we feel as jealous for the honor of our Alma Mater and our instructors, as for our own.”

In “Hints to Graduates,” Professor Maria Mitchell—writing as “M. M.”—used the new publication to urge her former students to heed the call of the Astronomer Royal of England for telescopic study of the fourth satellite of Jupiter, noting “it is on that satellite that observations must be made for determining the mass of Jupiter.”

“Would it not be well,” she asked, “for the graduates of Vassar College who are in possession of good telescopes, to combine in their work, and, connecting with the observatory at Vassar, keep up a series of observations?”

“The Vacancy in the Board of Trustees,” by “A Member of the Class of ’70,” declared it “eminently fit” that a woman be selected to fill the vacancy created by the death of founding trustee William Kelly. “When, in 1861, the corner-stone of Vassar College was laid,” the writer conceded, “giving prominence to women was looked upon in an entirely different light from that of today, and it might have been imprudent in Mr. Vassar to have added anything more than was necessary, to excite opposition to his infant enterprise.

“But, the aspect has entirely changed. Not only is Vassar College a success, but the serious consideration of the question, whether their doors shall not be opened to women, is agitating every college in the land…. We put it on the simple ground that no man can fully represent a woman, since she alone knows anything of the working of her own mind. If her intellectual processes are different from those of man, he surely needs her evidence to know that they are. If they are the same, why should any distinction be made, except to select the best person?”

At their meeting n June 25, the trustees elected the New York City Baptist minister, Edward Bright, Jr., to fill the Mr. Kelly’s seat on the board. The first women elected as trustees of Vassar, Helen Hiscock Backus ’73, Florence Cushing ’74 and Elizabeth Poppleton ’76, joined the board in 1887.

The English-born Unitarian minister and orator Robert Collyer, spoke at the Founder’s Day exercises. His lecture, “Our Folks and Other Folks,” which he had delivered on several occasions, was much anticipated and well-received. He spoke again at Founder’s Day in 1881 on “George Eliot.”

The Vassar Miscellany for July 1, 1872, reported the visit to the college, on May 1, of the Jubilee Singers of Fiske University, Nashville Tennessee. The group was formed in 1871, when Fisk—opened in1866 as the first American university offering a liberal arts education to “young men and women irrespective of color”— was in dire financial need. The school’s treasurer and professor of music, George L. White, formed the choral group of nine men and women and toured with them, raising money, bringing notice to the institution and introducing to American music both “slave songs” and “Negro spirituals.”

“They treated us,” said the Miscellany, “to an impromptu concert, the news of which spread like wild-fire from room to room and gathered teachers and pupils in the Chapel. Professor White told us how these noble boys and girls were working to support their college, and how, but for their efforts, it must have been given up. Then they sang their simple melodies with such pathos that few of the listeners were unmoved. ‘Keep me from sinking down’ was the fit expression of the great hungry longing, the sorely-tried yet never-faltering faith of their race. The students testified their enjoyment of the singing and their sympathy with the young people and their object by the most hearty applause and by the contribution of eighty dollars to the Jubilee Concert in Poughkeepsie.”

Annual college trips by ferry and carry-all to Lake Mohonk were inaugurated, the gift of trustee Frederick Ferris Thompson—the student’ beloved “Uncle Fred”—later famous for the “Vassar spoon” which he presented to each senior upon graduation.

The seniors and the sophomore elocution class were permitted to attend a performance by the emminent American actor Edwin Booth in Hamlet, at the Collingwood Opera House in Poughkeepsie. “He was miserably supported by a company from Troy,” reported the Vassar Miscellany. “Booth himself was so nearly perfect that the audience were tolerably successful in restraining their risibles at the utter comicality of some of the acting.”

Vassar Miscellany, July 1872.

“One of the pleasantest entertainments ever given in the College parlors was the Junior party…the Faculty and Seniors being the invited guests. The rooms were tastefully decorated, the guests charmingly entertained. Room J, accustomed to hearing that the elk is a horned animal, that the meeting will come to order and that the next essays will be due in three weeks from Saturday, did not know itself as an elegane supper-room, but smiled contentedly upon the festivities. Then came music and dancing in the parlors, prlonged until to-day was almost to-morrow.”

The Vassar Miscellany

The end of the college year began with the traditional soirée musicale on the evening of Monday, June 24. Bad weather, however, hampered Class Day on the 25th.

At Commencement, on Wednesday, the 26th, the Latin and German orations were given by Alla Foster ’72 and Alice Seelye ’72. Other class addresses included “Sanitary Science in Our Homes,” “The Antagonism of Science and Religion” and “Progressive Phases of Astronomical Science.” Of particular interest was the oratorical opposition of Ella Hollister ’72 and Wilimena Eliot ’72, who spoke on “This Age Specially Irreverent” and “This Age Specially Reverent,” respectively. “The love for the audiacious, the idolatry of experiment, the levelling process of science, the educational methods of modern times,” claimed Miss Hollister, “are subordinate to the great annilhilation of the existing order of things. The spirit of communism is abroad in the land. It heads the army of social insurgents which seeks to destroy all distinctions of rank and worth. It raves against the glory of God…. It claims to be th expression of the most self-sacrificing generosity. It is the crystallization of the selfishness of men.

“It might be argued that selfishness implies a reverence for one’s self and that, in this respect, our age is specially reverent. Granted. But if Darwin can prove beyond a doubt that men and brutes have the same origin, and ultraism [radical socialism] prove that all men are born free and equal in every respect, where are the grounds for our superiority, and what becomes of our reverence for ourselves? These hypothetical theories may seem to be mere driftwood on the current of the times, still driftwood shows the direction of the stream.”

“The religious sentiment of the age,” Miss Elliot responded, “ought not to be measured by the number of people who go to church on Sunday, but by the number of those who go to work with an earnest and unselfish purpose on Monday. And, on the whole, no country has produced a greater number of inveterate workers and thinkers than ours. True, the thinking often leads to skepticism, but there is no stronger proof of a reverent belief in something beyond than this same doubt. It only shows that the religion which is to guide this and future ages must be intellectual. Not the infidelity of the learned, nor the devoutness of the foolish, but a faith which shall have ‘heaven and earth for its beams and rafters’ while science, art and beauty shall be its sign and illustration.”

Miss Hollister was especially active in the day’s program, opening its musical element by joining Elizabeth Kirby ’72 in a two-piano performance of Schumann’s “Études Symphoniques” and concluding the student presentations with Liszt’s “Polonaise.”

President Raymond conferred the baccalaureate degree on 28 members of the class, and—the trustees having established the requirements for the master’s degree the previous year—he conferred that degree on three members of the Class of 1868: Sarah M. Glazier, Isabella Carter and Mary Whitney. Miss Glazier had given the Philalethean Society address the previous year, and she went on to become the first professor of mathematics and astronomy at Wellesley; Mary Watson Whitney had been elected president of the alumnae association at its founding in 1871, and in 1889 she succeeded her mentor, Maria Mitchell, as chair of Vassar’s astronomy department and director of the Vassar observatory.

The New York Times, The Vassar Miscellany

Since the college had opened, German and French had been taught by assistant teachers under a professor of ancient and modern languages. In 1872, modern language instruction, in French and German, became independent “instructorships,” and the professorship was limited to “Greek and Latin.”

Charlotte Finch ’72, organist and teacher of music, began the tradition of organ recitals in the Chapel on Sunday evenings. “Sunday evening,” wrote a student in 1875, “is becoming very attractive through the kindness of Miss Finch, who plays the organ, from a quarter of nine till Silent Time. Long before the appointed hour, the sentimental and musial assemble, listen and become insensibly sadder and wiser. The chapel is not lighted, except by the gas jets each side the instrument, and their uncertain gleams together with the sweet strains, make up an exquisite bit of sentiment in our otherwise practical living…. In the main, “Adagios” are most acceptable, because they best express the emotions of the audience. One charming production is the representation of chimes—charming because they do not call us to a sermon where everyone falls asleep till the Benediction is over. This composition represents the evening bells, the intonation of the priest, the response of the choir and all the melody and fascination of ritualistic worship. The aesthetical and the devotional elements are here most appropriately combined.”
The Vassar Miscellany

Miss Finch died on October 1, 1885, at the age of 34, serving also in the last three years of her life as secretary to the president. The “Saint Cecilia” window to the left of the organ in the Chapel was given by a member of the Class of 1887 in her memory, and the angel it depicts is in her image. Her Sunday recitals were revived in 1908 by Ellen M. Fitz, a Mount Holyoke College graduate, and they continued until Miss Fitz left the college in 1915. Known as “Dark Music” during this period, they preceded the Sunday evening Vesper service.

Ellen Fitz’s successor in 1917, E. Harold Geer, continued the “Dark Music” tradition, moving its time between late afternoon to mid-evening from time to time, including guest organists from other colleges and universities and presenting thematic programs: music from “Allied nations” during World War I, exclusively American or French music, etc. The series prompted comment, criticism, and sometimes humor in The Miscellany News:


“Vassar: ‘Can’t you stay over for Dark Music?’

“Princeton: ‘How dark?’

“Vassar: ‘Dark enough.‘” (1920)

In 1922, an attempt by an “enterprising junior” to transform a recital by the world-famous pianist Harold Bauer in the Students’ Building “into ‘dark music’ was met with applause, and the less self-contained portion of the audience demonstrated by hisses its disapproval of the reappearance of the overhead lights.”

Professor Geer performed his 500th “Dark Music” recital on Sunday, January 14, 1934, and, while the series ended shortly thereafter, he continued to offer organ recitals from time to time. He retired from the college in 1952 and died on December 24, 1957.

The horse car route from Poughkeepsie was extended to the college, the new end of the line.

To relieve crowded conditions in the library, newspapers and periodicals moved to an adjoining room in Main Building on the third floor. Students complained about it, claiming, “It is poorly ventilated and only half the would-be readers can enter. Those inside can scarcely thread their way out through the crowd.”

Vassar Miscellany,

John Raymond published Vassar College. A College for Women in Poughkeepsie, N. Y.: A Sketch of Its Foundation, Aims, and Resources, and of the Development of Its Scheme of Instruction to the Present Time, “a report of the college’s first seven years, prepared at the request of the U.S. Commissioner of Education to be presented at the World Exhibition in Vienna.”

Raymond discussed all elements of the college’s founding and gave a detailed presentation of its curriculum, methods of study, and funding in the college’s first seven years.

James Orton published The Liberal Education of Women: the Demand and the Method: Current Thoughts in American and England. The collection of 36 essays surveyed the issues—from single-sex versus coeducational education to current questions of health and community fabric—and offered essays on the experiences at seven American colleges and universities and at six institutions in England, Ireland and Scotland. An appendix presented a summary essay by one of the contributors to the volume, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, along with extended comments on it by Louis Agassiz, Harvard President Charles W. Eliot, and Wendell Phillips. Orton’s volume remained an important assessment for many years.

In his essay on the experience at Vassar, Orton noted: “It has been doubted whether a true collegiate standard could be maintained in a woman’s college. It has been done at Vassar for eight years; and the Faculty have yet to receive a petition for a lower standard.”

At the invitation of Maria Mitchell, the English women’s rights activist Emily Faithfull, a publisher and the editor of The Victoria Magazine, lectured at Vassar. Faithfull returned to the college in April 1883, and she compared her two visits in Three Visits to America (1884). Of this first view of the college, she said, “I was not prepared for the beauthiful surroundings of the college, which is charmingly situated on the banks of the magnificent Hudson river, with the Catskill mountains stretching along the north and the Fishkills on the south.” While she regretted, on her later visit, the closing of Vassar’s riding school—“’Want of funds’ was the reason assigned”—she found “the life of these bright and enthusiastic girls” enviable in almost every way. She also offered in this essay a moving portrait of Maria Mitchell: “As you look into that strong, good face, shadowed by grey curls, which soften its outline and grace it with a beauty which often comes with age, you can understand the magnetic sympathy which holds her youthful scholars spellbound, and makes their scientific investigations full of delight as well as of wonder.”

Emily Faithfull’s Victoria Magazine reprinted Professor James Orton’s essay about his work at Vassar from The Liberal Education of Women (1873) and what Faithfull calleld, “a remarkable paper,” Maria Mitchell’s address to the American Association for the Advancement of Women’s 1876 congress on “The Need for Women in Science.”

Starting in 1873, the date for the annual Founder’s Day observances was set at the Friday closest to April 29, Matthew Vassar’s birthday. Phillips Brooks, Rector of Trinity Church, Boston, gave the Founder’s Day address on “Discipleship of Life.”

Reportage by The New York Times of Vassar’s Commencement was notably breezy. The “special correspondent” noted, “President Raymond delivered the Baccalaureate sermon at Vassar, on Sunday. To-night [June 23] there is to be a grand musical soirée in the chapel, to-morrow is Class Day, and on Wednesday is Commencement proper.”

The report further observed that the “health of the pupils was never better than now, which may account for the fact that last month, notwithstanding the fact that Vassar owns twenty cows, the milk bill was over $400. And I may add that the butcher’s bill was $1,500! Does not that speak well for the physical capacity of the pupils?”

The telegraph line of Western Union was extended to the college. The wires entered at the north end of the building, passed through the first corridor close to the ceiling, and into the college office where a lady operator was in constant attendance.

“We hear that she sends, on an average, seven or eight messages daily, and probably receives more. The students cannot fail to appreciate highly the change from the old annoying and sometimes agonizing delays, to the present promptness and dispatch.”

Vassar Miscellany

President Raymond’s daughter, Mary, a graduate in the Class of 1873, was married in the Chapel to William J. Richardson. When Dr. Raymond’s elder daughter, Harriet, had married Harlan P. Lloyd in 1869, the students were given only a half-holiday. Mary demanded and gained for them a whole holiday.

Speaking to the first congress of the American Association for the Advancement of Women, in New York City, Maria Mitchell declared, “Public sentiment does not yet require learning in women, society is decidedly opposed to it; and however public sentiment may be construed, ‘society’ is decidedly fashioned by women. It belongs to women themselves to introduce a better order of things.”

Mitchell helped found the association, of which she was president from 1874 until 1876.

Maria Mitchell, “The Higher Education of Women,” Papers and Letters Presented at the First Woman’s Congress of the Association for the Advancement of Women

Charles Kingsley, Canon of Westminster, novelist, naturalist and chaplain to Queen Victoria, lectured on “Greece in the Day of Her Glory.” “He was exceedingly reserved, indifferent and hard to entertain. The only interest he showed was towards Miss Mitchell, whom he called upon at the observatory.

‘My wife would never forgive me if I came home without seeing Miss Mitchell….’ When asked if he would take some refreshment, Mr. Kingsley frankly mentioned that he would like a glass of beer. The situation might have been embarrassing had not Professor [of English Truman] Backus come to the rescue and carried the guest off to his study for a pipe and chat and bottle of ale….”

Frances A. Wood, Earliest Years at Vassar

Prayer was dropped from the Founder’s Day program. Edward Everett Hale, Unitarian minister and orator, chose as his topic “What Is the Work of a Person Devoted to Letters?” Hale also spoke at Founder’s Day in 1886.

The junior class gave the seniors a moonlight excursion down the Hudson on the steamer Mary Powell, in place of the usual reception. This became an annual custom until the faculty discontinued it in 1885, citing its expense, the danger from wandering ferry boats and some detrimental remarks from newspaper men. The tradition was restored in June 1899.

“The most celebrated excursion was the trip to West Point on the Mary Powell in 1877. The cadets turned out in a body, clambered over the rocks by the river, and waved ‘pocket handkerchiefs’ to the young ladies, who fluttered theirs in return (it is not recorded whether or not with the permission of the Lady Principal), and exclaimed in the Miscellany later, ‘What elegant uniforms!’”

Frances T. Marburg ’15, “The Social Life,” The Vassar Miscellany, Vassar 1865-1915, From the Undergraduate Point of View, Fiftieth Anniversary Number

Under their class motto, “Finis Coronat Opus,” 42 members of the Class of 1874 received their degrees in the Chapel at Vassar’s eighth Commencement. The traditional organ voluntary was followed by an invocation by the chancellor of New York University, Rev. Howard Crosby. The literary and musical exercises followed, and, in a departure from custom, the musical pieces were given by members of the music faculty: the Misses Charlotte Finch ‘72 and Eliza M. Wiley and Mrs. Alma B. Goodrich.

The Latin salutatory oration, given by Lizzie Andrews Hill ’74, was followed by student orations, which included “The Specialist in Natural Science,” by Anna Louise Meeker ’74, “Deutschland und die Wissenschaft,” by Lucretia Stow ’74 and “The Deformity of Symmetry,” by Mary Walley Marvin ’74. The oratorical opposition for 1874 was between “Competition Fatal to High Scholarship,” given by Fannie Florence Fisher ’74, and “Competition Favorable to High Scholarship,” given by Laura Higbee Brownell ’74. The valedictory address was given by Florence Cushing ’74.

The conferring of degrees on the 42 graduate was followed by a luncheon and tours of the college facilities.

The New York Times

Addressing the general session of the National Educational Association, meeting in Detroit, Professor James Orton compared both graduation rates and absences due to poor health at men’s and women’s colleges. “Vassar graduated last June,” he said, ’42, just half the number who have been connected with the class.  Amherst graduated 62 out of 95, and Cornell 65 out of 261—a painful example of ‘survival of the fittest.’ During the past year, eleven percent of the undergraduates in Vassar have been kept from college duties more than ten days on account of illness; while at Amherst, where the physical education of the young men is more carefully attended to than at any other college, the percentage was twenty-one.”

Orton’s paper, “Four Years in Vassar College,” followed “The Building of a Brain,” presented by Dr. Edward H. Clarke, a professor at Harvard Medical College whose influential attack on higher education for women, with warnings about its potential psychological and physical dangers, Sex in Education or, A Fair Chance for Girls, had appeared in 1873.

Calling it “one of the most complete adaptations of electricity to a useful purpose,” the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle hailed a collaboration between Professor Maria Mitchell at the Vassar College Observatory and Theophilus Mayhew, a Poughkeepsie watchmaker. Having noted “some talk” three years earlier “of regulating city time by electricity from Vassar College Observatory via Atlantic and Pacific [telegraph] wires,” the Eagle announced that Mayhew had invented “what he calls a controller and corrector, which is a contrivance connected with Vassar College Observatory by wire, and which enables him to obtain correct time at any time he may desire it…. Mr. Mayhew has almost completed a magnificent dial, which is to be placed in the post office. This dial is to be propelled by electricity from the regulator, and will therefore indicate exactly the same time.

“On the roof of the Morris building a signal pole has been placed, and in a few days our citizens will be enabled to set their timepieces by the dropping of a target at precisely noon. This is also operated from the observatory. Mr. Mayhew will be pleased to explain the working of his apparatus to who may take an interest in anything new.”

Maria Mitchell relied on the precise time kept by her astronomical clock, made by the famous Bond company in Boston, for the work she and her students conducted at the Observatory. As the “Vassar Time Service,” she and her successor, Mary Watson Whitney ’68, and their students sustained this local collaboration for several years.

On January 23, 1875, Theophilus Mayhew applied for a patent for “a time-recording instrument operated by pneumatic pressure upon a friction-brake, in which, when both hands are engaged, the pressure may be applied by a tube placed in the mouth, or exerted in any other suitable manner.”

The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith, June 1, 1875

The Art Gallery moved to the Museum of Natural History, formerly the Calisthenium and Riding Academy. Following five years of requests for additional space, the trustees approved moving the Library from the third to the fourth and fifth floors in Main Building, where the Art Gallery was formerly housed.

“Miss C. is a beautiful dancer—and has just taught me the Saratoga—do you know it? It is all the rage—and if you don’t, you must learn it right off.” Letter from a student to her fiancé.

In 1867 Matthew Vassar had sanctioned dancing at the college. Noting a recent essay by a Poughkeepsie Methodist minister entitled “Incompatibility of Amusements with Christian Life,” Vassar said:

“Years ago I made up my judgment on these great questions in the religious point of view, and came to a decision favorable to amusements. I never practised public dancing in my life, and yet in view of its being a healthful and graceful exercise, I heartily approved it, and now recommend its being taught in the College to all pupils whose parents and guardians desire it.”

Matthew Vassar, Communications to the Trustees, X, June 25, 1867

The first decade of Vassar was celebrated by the formal opening of the new Museum of Natural History, housed in the former Riding Academy. The Art Gallery was transferred from Main to new quarters in the Museum where it remained for forty years. Among the guests were Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union, and Louisa M. Alcott.

Miss Alcott was pursued by students seeking autographs:

“I finish my tale and go to Vassar College for a visit. See M[aria]. M[itchell].; talk with four hundred girls, write in stacks of albums and school-books, and kiss everyone who asks me….”

Louisa May Alcott, Life, Letters and Journals

Activist, poet, and author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe, visiting the college as a guest of Maria Mitchell, lectured in the Observatory on “Is Polite Society Polite?” Mrs. Howe was a frequent guest at the college. In her journal for January 1883 she spoke of “a peaceful day at Vassar College.” She was also present at the dedication of the Chapel, Nov. 4, 1904.

Class Day for the Class of 1875 began at 3 pm in the Chapel. A band played a march as the class assembled, led by their marshal, Emma Hollister ’75. The recitation of the class’s history by class historian Eva March Tappan ’75 was at times, according to The New York Times, “so irresistibly funny that the members of the Senior Class, fully appreciating her allusions, indulged in uncontrollable laughter.” After a poem by the class’s poet laureate, Mary Taylor ’75, Kate Roberts ’75 offered, one by one, the prophecies for her classmates, and as she “surrounded their future with impossibilities, the greatest merriment prevailed.”

Later, the band serenaded a crowd gathered under a pavilion for the dedication of the class tree, a young maple. Preparing to bury the class records at the tree’s base, Kate McBain ’75, holding Matthew Vassar’s spade, delivered the senior charge, praising the maple, which, she said, casts long shadows while yet letting sunlight shine through. She added that, although the maple had been chosen to represent the class, the class was not a “sappy” one. In the junior response, Mary Augusta Jordan ’76 said that she was interested to hear of the class’s lack of sap, “as that statement fully accounted for the absence of all sweetness in it.” An evening reception and dancing in the Calisthenium to the famous band of Patrick Gilmore concluded the class’s day.

The trustees, in a concurrent series of meetings, elected the Rev. Dr. J. Ryland Kendrick and William Allen Butler to the places left vacant by the deaths of founding trustees Rufus Babcock and George W. Sterling, gave out a detailed description of the college’s grounds and facilities and reported on the college’s finances. Receipts for the year totaled $170,000 and expenses—including $45,000 for extensive alterations to the former Riding Academy to accommodate the new museum—of $200,000. The year’s profits were about $16,000.

The New York Times

The trustees also reported that the inventory of the college property showed its value to be nearly $700,000 and additional investments to amount to about $300,000, bringing the total value to $1,000,000. Collegiate students for the year were 214: seniors, 42; juniors, 51; sophomores, 58; freshmen, 63. Pursuing special collegiate courses were: juniors, 3; sophomores, 5; freshmen, 3. Students in the preparatory department totaled 159, for a total of 384 students at Vassar.

The Chicago Tribune

According to The New York Times:

1,000 people packed into the Chapel, on an “intensely hot” day for Commencement. Founding trustee and president of Brown University Ezekiel Gilman Robinson gave the invocation and the traditional program of student orations and musical selections included addresses in Latin and German and selections by Beethoven. Mary Frances Buffington ’75 spoke on “The Acheivements of Theoretical Chemistry,” Alice Hettie Lowrie ’75 discussed “The Aesthetics of Astronomy” and Kate Roberts ’75 explored the varying views of “Agassiz and Darwin.” 1875’s oratorical opposition was between “The Sciences Superior to the Fine Arts in their Influence on Progress,” given by Kate Louise Maltby ’75 and “The Fine Arts Superior to the Sciences in their Influence on Progress,” by Kate McBain ’75.

Among the distinguished guests as President Raymond conferred the baccalaureate degree on the 42 members of the class were the hero of the Battle of Fort Fisher (1865), General Alfred Terry, and Elisha Pease, who had been the civilian governor of Texas at the outset of Reconstruction.

The New York Times

Three baseball clubs were formed, the Sure-pops, the Daisy-clippers and the Royals.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, minister, abolitionist and Civil War Colonel, gave the Founder’s Day address, “Common Sense in the Study of History.” “First premising,” said the Vassar Miscellany, “that History should be the most absorbing of studies…Col. Higginson deplored that characteristic dryness of the average History which makes it so tame and unsatisfactory. Life is man’s most absorbing study, but the historian robs it of all vitality.” He offered “three all-important rules” for correcting this situation: “First, cultivate exactness. The love of facts and the capacity for fixing them is common to all minds; the mistake is made in trying to master too many…. Fix your dates and—equally important—fix very few of them. Secondly, if History is to be a profitable study—cultivate the imagination, the power of forming an image, of seeing the past as present; of bringing together fragments of a whole, found here and there in reading, and of forming a vivid picture in the mind, of the times and people. Thirdly, let the student of History bring to his reading a free, comprehensive, fearless, unbiassed mind. Cultivate impartiality…. Finally, let the American student devote himself especially to the history of his own country.

“As his last words the speaker left us an expression of the hope that in this our Centennial Year, when study of our own History is peculiarly appropriate, we would mark out for ourselves a course of reading that would make us all more truly American than before.”

Vassar Miscellany

During the war Higginson had commanded the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first African-American regiment. After the war, he devoted much of his time working for recognition of the rights of freed slaves and women.

Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, visited the college. “I had imagined the Emperor of Brazil,” Maria Mitchell wrote, “to be a dark, swarthy, tall man, of forty-five years; that he would not really have a crown upon his head, but that I should feel it was somewhere around, handy-like, and that I should know I was in royal presence. But he turns out to be a large, old man, say sixty-five, broad-headed and broad-shouldered, with a big white beard, and a very pleasant, even chatty, manner. Once inside of the dome, he seemed to feel at home; to my astonishment he asked if Alvan Clark made the glass of the equatorial…”

Phebe Mitchell Kendall, Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals.

President Raymond delivered the baccalaureate sermon, drawing his text from First Thessalonians, v., 21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” and declaring that he “knew of no more prudent and all-embracing law of sound thinking. Notions we have in plenty, ideas, impressions, fancies, caught up by the accident of education or association; strong prejudices, decided predilections fostered by press or pulpit, by personal sympathies or class interests, leading to intense and even passionate asseveration, and often upheld with persistent zeal. Opinions they may be called, but they are not worthy of the name, because they do not rest on an intelligent basis; they are not the product of thinking; not the result of a careful and deliberate search for the truth.”

The New York Times

Class Day was extremely hot, with temperatures in the 90s, as the Class of ’76 and about 100 alumnae—with strong representations from New York, Boston and Cincinnati— gathered on campus. Members of all nine previous graduating classes were in attendance, and reunions were held by the Classes of 1869 and 1873.

In their meetings, the trustees elected Col. Fred Townsend to the board, replacing the late founding trustee Ira Harris, and according to The New York Times, a group of trustees were “agitating the subject of erecting a colossal bronze statue of Matthew Vassar in the centre of the circle in front of the main entrance to the college.” A statue of the Founder, derived from a maquette done from life by Poughkeepsie sculptor Laura Skeel Hofmann, was dedicated on the south lawn of Main Building on June 9, 2006.

At 2:30, the Chapel doors were opened. Floral and evergreen decorations adorned the room, along with a banner bearing the motto of the Class of 1876, “Mens agitat molem, arranged in a semi-circle against a large American flag. Shortly before 3, as Downer’s Orchestra played Operti’s “March of the Amazons,” the senior and junior classes entered and took their seats.

Class speakers included class orator Eliza Greene Metcalf ’76, whose remarks touched on the national centennial, class historian Elizabeth Gifford ’76 and Zenobia West Brigham ‘76, the class poet, whose poem “treated of heroes from the time of the siege of Troy down to the closing days of this century” and ended by “enjoining the Class of ’76 to do battle bravely for the future.”

A sudden thunderstorm cut short the dedication of the class tree (a 3-year-old elm), postponed the burying of the class records and drove the assembly back to the Chapel, where class prophesies were posed by Catharine Talcott Hale ’76 and where Matthew Vassar’s spade was exchanged, along with “pleasant sarcasm” between Martha Clark, ’76 and Abbie Dana ’77.

Inclement weather continued into the evening, cancelling plans for a promenade, dancing and merriment on the lawns west of Main Building, all illuminated by Chinese lanterns. Instead, “the promenading and flirting and chatting went on in the main corridors.”

The New York Times

The traditional organ voluntary and a prayer offered by newly-elected trustee chair, founding trustee Rev. Edward Lathrop, opened Commencement ceremonies in the Chapel. Class orations were offered on such topics as “Moral Beauty in Art,” “The Foe of Our Letters, the Friend of Our Government” and “The Relation of Women to Science.” “Shall we Condemn Carlyle?” was offered by Ellen Poppleton ‘76, who argued that the Scottish essayist was visionary rather than practical and therefore destructive, not constructive. She was answered by Grace Hallam Learned ’76 in “Let Us Admire Carlyle.” The valedictory address was given by Jeannie Carlton Price ’76.

President Raymond conferred baccalaureate degrees on 46 graduates.

In what she termed “ an institution composed entirely of the disenfranchised class,” Harriot Stanton ’78 organized a Democratic Club, the first political club at Vassar. Urging the disenfranchised to use their indirect influence to elect Samuel Tilden president, the group paraded through the corridors of Main “led by a vibrant comb and jewsharp corps.”

—Harriot Stanton Blatch, Challenging Years, Memoirs of Harriot Stanton Blatch

“In compliance with an invitation from the commission of the bureau of education representing the department of the interior in matters relating to the national centennial of 1876,” the college compiled and published Historical Sketch of Vassar College. Founded at Poughkeepsie, N. Y., January 18, 1861.

The Vassar Miscellany changed from a quarterly to a monthly journal, appearing nine times annually.

Journalist, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Mary A. Livermore gave an informal address she called “Superfluous Women” in the Chapel. Mrs. Livermore’s explanation of the superfluity of women in America, the Vassar Miscellany explained, was that “while there are six per cent more male children born into the world, war and drunkenness, to which evils we are so little exposed, have always destroyed a large proportion of men. . . .The solution which Mrs. Livermore suggests seems to be the only practicable answer to the question…women need to be trained to self-support and independence.”

Laura Johnson Wylie ’77 gave the valedictory address—“perfect in finish and exquisite in sentiment” according to The Vassar Miscellany—and Emma Culbertson ’77 spoke on women in medicine as 45 members of the Class of 1877 received the bachelor’s degree at Commencement. “Her words,” The Miscellany said of Culbertson’s address, “could give us no new or startling ideas, but all felt that they were spoken by a true woman, a woman of whom Vassar is proud. It was not the essay itself which was enthusiastically applauded, but the essay as delivered by Miss Culbertson.”

Among the first women admitted to graduate study at Yale, Wylie was also among the first group to receive, in 1894, the Yale Ph.D. Yale’s publication of her doctoral dissertation, “Studies in the Evolution of English Criticism,” in the same year, was the first such publication by the university of a dissertation by a woman. Returning to Vassar in 1895, Wylie became head of the English department in 1897. She and her colleague Gertrude Buck pioneered in the modern development of an English curriculum that conceived of literature as an organic bonding of art and scholarship and of action and analysis. Wylie taught in the English department until her retirement in 1924.

Dr. Emma B. Culbertson received her A.M. from Vassar in 1881, the same year she earned her M.D. from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. A practicing phyisican in Boston from 1883 until her retirement, she was attending surgeon to the New England Hosipital for Women and Children and, the first woman to be admitted to the American Academy of Medicine, she served that organization as a vice-president. In “The Best Preparation for a Woman Physician,” which appeared in The Vassar Miscellany in 1896, she wrote, “The field for women in medicine is constantly enlarging and there will be ample room in the next fify years for all who come fitly prepared. Indeed it would seem that the woman physician is to be a very important factor in the sociological evolution of the twentieth century.”

Professor James Orton, who had begun a third expedition into a previously unexplored region of the Andes the previous October, died at the age of 47 on a schooner on Lake Titicaca, from exhaustion and lingering injuries incurred during a mutiny among his escorts.

“Among the distinguished visitors this fall we mention Lyon Playfair, M.P., Mrs. Bright, sister-in-law of John Bright, and Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell.” Vassar Miscellany.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins, America’s first primarily research university, granted Christine Ladd-Franklin, ’69, mathematician, logician and (later) pioneer psychologist, permission to attend the lectures of the eminent mathematician, James Joseph Sylvester, without, however, admitting her as a degree candidate. She was later awarded the stipend, but not the title, of a fellow at Hopkins, the first woman to receive one, and was permitted to study also with the preeminent philosopher and logician, Charles Sanders Peirce.

Ladd completed her degree requirements in 1882, and Peirce called her doctoral dissertation, “The Algebra of Logic,” “brilliant.” He gave it a prominent place in Studies in Logic by Members of the Johns Hopkins University, which he edited and published in 1883. The university, however, waited until 1926 to award Ladd-Franklin her PhD—in conjunction with the celebration of its 50th year.

She was the only person to receive an honorary degree from Vassar, the LL.D, which was awarded to her in 1887.

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

Class Day exercises and the trustee meetings were held on Tuesday, June 25. Henry L. Young of Poughkeepsiewas elected to the board, and William Buck White was appointed professor of natural history and director of the Natural History Museum, succeeding James Orton, who had died the previous fall on an expedition in the Andes.

The next day, before a large crowd, President Raymond conferred 42 baccalaureate degrees on the Class of 1878. Sarah Wilkinson ’78 delivered the valedictory address. Also awarded were three post-graduate degrees: to Julliette Monroe ’74 in the department of medicine, to Mary Augusta Jordan ’76 in the department of metaphysics and to Helen Hiscock ’73 in the department of English literature.

President John Raymond died after several months of declining health. Professor Mary W. Whitney ’68 wrote in the Vassar Alumnae Monthly, June 1911: “My impression, as I look back, is of a struggle to keep up the standard of Vassar to a fairly collegiate grade, against the unfortunate opinions prevailing in the public mind, and against the pressing pecuniary needs of the time. In this struggle the personality of the president and his teachers was the strong factor. The wise but never narrow conservatism of President Raymond combined with the enthusiastic ambition of Professor Mitchell, Dr. Avery, and many of the instructors, are the forces which moulded my Vassar loyalty. The curriculum was very scanty then, as the catalogues showed, and it was the character of our teachers that built up the early Vassar more than a definitely formed policy of education.”

The Reverend Samuel L. Caldwell, a graduate of Waterville College—later Colby College—and Newton Theological Seminary, was elected president by the Vassar board of trustees to succeed John H. Raymond, who had died after a lengthy illness on August 14. At the time of his appointment, Caldwell was Professor of Church History at the seminary.

Two young Japanese women, Shigeko Nagai and Sutematsu Yamakawa, enrolled at Vassar. Japan’s 1868 Meiji Restoration inaugurated an era of modernization, mandating that “Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule.” In 1870, a large Japanese delegation touring the United States, England, Germany and France and studying how Japan might modernize its political, economic, and social systems, had included a group of Japanese girls who were intended to remain in the visited countries as students. Two of the three girls who remained in the United States, Shige and Stematz (their somewhat Westernized nicknames) had lived with American families—Shige in the home of Rev. John Abbot in Fair Haven, Connecticut, and Stematz in New Haven with the family of Rev. Leonard Bacon. A third girl, Umeko Tsuda, stayed in Washington with the family of Charles Lanman, a secretary at the Japanese legation.

Shige enrolled in the School of Music, and studied singing, music theory, piano, organ, music history, music aesthetics, and acoustics. In addition she took courses in mathematics, French and English composition.

Stematz, president of her sophomore class, a member of the Shakespeare Club (reserved for students of formidable intellect) and president of Philaletheis graduated magna cum laude, ranked third in the class and presented her senior thesis, on British policy towards Japan, at the commencement ceremony in 1882.

In later life, Shige Nagai, as Baroness Uriu, was a key figure in the introduction of Western music to Japan. She returned to Vassar on several occasions, speaking to her class on Class Day in 1909. An outspoken advocate of women’s education, she told The San Francisco Chronicle at the time of her return to Japan in October of 1881: “My country will never become advanced until her women and mothers are educated, and our women, as a class, will never be educated so long as they marry so early, for the years from 15 to 20 they should remain in school.”

Stematz Yamakawa studied nursing after graduating from Vassar and, returning to Japan, became Princess Oyama, the wife of the Japanese Minister of War. A passionate supporter of women’s education, she was a trustee of the Peeresses’ School in Tokyo, where her childhood friend, Alice Bacon, taught and where Ume Tsuda headed the English department. She was also instrumental in the creation of the Girl’s English Institute, founded in 1909 by Alice Bacon and Ume Tsuda.

The educational exhibit of student papers and publications sent by Vassar to the Paris Universal Exposition was awarded a Silver Medal. The exposition, held to celebrate France’s recovery after the Franco-Prussian War (1870), was the largest of its kind ever held. Among the many exhibitions from the United States were Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, Thomas Edison’s phonograh and a selection of “pamphlets and views” from Wellesley College, which had opened three years earlier. Also on display near the Trocadéro Palace, built especially for the exposition, was the completed head of the Statue of Liberty, which opened to public eight years later, in 1886.

In July, The Vassar Miscellany had noted the intention of several students to travel abroad during the summer months. “Many of our number,” the editors said, “will visit Europe, and we feel no little degree of pride in knowing how well Vassar is to be represented at the Paris Exhibition. We wish all these a bon voyage…. The majority of us leave College with the determination to carry out to the letter the familiar maxim ‘Play while you play,’ thus to gain new vigor for obeying in the fall its counterpart, ‘Work while you work.’”

The Vassar Miscellany, Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Paris Universal Exposition, 1878

“The Lawn Tennis has arrived, but at present the devotees exhibit more energy than grace in the game.”

Vassar Miscellany.

“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