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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 Years