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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.

The Years