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Strong House, the first student residence outside of Main Building, was completed, Francis R. Allen, architect. It was named in honor of Bessie Rockefeller Strong, special student 1886-88, the daughter of trustee John D. Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller contributed $35,000 toward the expense of construction.

The Windsor Hotel in Poughkeepsie was rented for three months to accommodate students planning to live in the new dormitory until it was completed, in December.

The enrollment for 1892/93 was 427, and the enrollment for 1893/94 was 475.

The Thompson Annex to the front of Main Building was completed, Francis R. Allen, architect. A gift of trustee Frederick Ferris Thompson, the three-story wing was popularly known as “Uncle Fred’s Nose,” and later, “The Soap Palace,” for the heavy use of white, veined marble in its entrance hall.

The annex made space for the expanding library and, after the Frederick Ferris Thompson library opened in 1905, for administrative offices. The annex was razed in the spring of 1960.

Ella McCaleb ’78, who had returned to Vassar in 1885 as secretary to President Taylor, was named the first secretary of the college. In this role she functioned as a senior officer, overseeing with the president Vassar’s academic affairs and its correspondence. Attaining the rank of professor, she was named the first dean of the college in 1913. An important link the college’s early days, she served President MacCracken as dean until her retirement in l923. 

President Taylor reported that the exhibition sent to the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago included photographs, a plan of grounds, building plans, blanks showing business methods and admissions, an exhibit of library methods, a statement on the curriculum, lantern slides and a set of the Vassar Miscellany

Jane Addams spoke at Vassar on the work of Hull House in Chicago and about the settlement movement in general. Although the focus of the Vassar Settlement House Chapter was on the college settlement on Rivington Street in New York, she hoped that students from the Midwest might be moved to help with Hull House, which was in its fourth year.

The New York Times

Jane Addams visited Vassar again in 1902, but, despite appearances at Smith, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley, President Taylor refused to invite her to Vassar in 1907, as a representative of a committee promoting woman suffrage which Taylor considered a political rather than an educational organization. In October, 1915, both Addams and ex-president Taylor spoke at the college on “the social and political status of the educated woman.”

The Berkeley Daily Gazette

At their annual winter meeting the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College toasted trustee Frederick F. Thompson for his generosity to Vassar—including the new library annex. President Taylor informed the alumnae that $12,000 had just been secured for two scholarships and that the endowment towards the Maria Mitchell fund had reached $34,000. He thanked the association for its work.

The association’s first task had been the scholarships of $6,000 each in memory of John H. Raymond and Hannah Lyman, and its most recent was $28,000 for the Alumnae Gymnasium. The Vassar Students’ Aid Society had disbursed $6,000 to deserving students in just two years, and the total to date raised by the alumnae association since its founding was over $100,000.

After the business of the day, the Vassar Glee Club entertained the assembly.

The New York Times

The 101st anniversary of the Founder’s birth was celebrated at Vassar. Author and onetime member of the faculty Helen Dawes Brown ’78 gave the Founder’s Day address, speaking on “George William Curtis,” the late chancellor of New York University, who had spoken at Vassar in 1870 and again as the main speaker at the college’s 25th anniversary observances in 1890.

Following her address, the assembled group retired to the elegantly decorated and lit museum for refreshments, music by the 21st Regiment Band and the Vassar Glee Club, and several promenades.

The New York Times

Vassar students presented the first American performances in the original Greek of Sophocles’s Antigone, under the auspices of the Greek department. Two performances of the production, conceived and directed by Professor Abby Leach ’85 with the assistance of voice and musical coach Max Dessauer, were given in the Collingwood Opera House.

The production drew advance coverage from The New York Times, which said of the players and the production: “…they have at last realized the expectations of their ‘coachers.’ For months they have carefully practiced their parts and mastered every incidental detail. The result will be an entertainment entirely unprecedented in its way in this country.”

Careful attention was paid to the authenticity of the staging and costumes and to the adaptation of the Greek to the music of Mendelsohn. Franklin Haven Sargent, founder of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, assisted in the training of the principal players, and the orchestra for the production was drawn from the leading players in the New York City concert bands of Walter Damrosh and Anton Seidl.

Nearly four-dozen students were in the cast, which also included President Taylor’s son, Morgan, as one of the “attendants.” Classicists from several Eastern colleges and universities attended the sold-out performances, including seven from Harvard and three each from Yale and Columbia. A special train returned audience members to the city after the evening performance.

Class reunions were held by ’68, ’73, ’81, ’88 and ’91 on Class Day, as the Class of 1893 and their guests heard latest versions of traditional addresses. Class orator Adele Whitcomb ’93 explained the significance of the class motto, “Per Augusta ad Augusta,” and Eliza Cobb ’93 and Edith Neil ’93 read the class poem. At the class tree, Ethel R. Evans ’93 gave the senior charge, to which Elizabeth Gillmer ’94 gave the junior reply.

At their annual meeting, the board of trustees voted to appropriate $10,000 from the general fund to complete the $50,000 Maria Mitchell Fund. Correspondence was reported to be under way with an eminent philosopher with a view to establishing a new chair in philosophy, and a committee of five was formed, President Taylor presiding, to consider and report on whether Vassar should become a university.

“The report,” President Tayor recalled, “showed that the consensus of opinion favored the view that the better work would be done for the undergraduate where his or her interests were paramount, that greater singleness of aim would be encouraged, that the best interests of education in the country certainly did not demand that every college should aspire to be a university, and that Vassar would do well to declare itself for an independent policy and sphere. The board adopted the report, withdrew the offer of courses leading to the Ph.D. degree (1894), and deliberately declared Vassar an undergraduate college…. Perhaps with pardonable inconsistency the College continued for several years to grant scholarships to recent graduates for one year of work at Vassar. Many were thus encouraged to go on to higher studies in the universities. The results of this policy have amply justified it.”

The New York Times; James Monroe Taylor and Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Vassar

In his baccalaureate sermon, President Taylor took as his text Matthew xiii. 33,

“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. The president noted the many paths the seemed to lead to success, and then he touched on four modern tendencies that frustrated real success —dependence on organizations rather than individuals, impatience for immediate results in spite of opposition, caring more for external show than reality and self-centered exaltation of “the worker over the work.”

Showing how Christ’s success opposed these false measures, he told the Class of 1893 to “strive for what was real, to avoid all sham, and to follow Christ’s method, the simple, patient, leavening, slow, but eternal”

The New York Times

Commencement began with an organ voluntary, followed by a prayer from President Taylor, and several senior essays, on topics ranging from “Mediaeval and Modern Charity,” by Frances Spaulding Beecher ’93, and “Spiritualization of Thought in France,” by Elizabeth Kemper ’93, to “Shakespeare’s Influence Upon German Literature,” by Elizabeth Sophia Bradley ’93, and “Modern Prison Methods,” by Mary Vida Clark ’93.

Fifty-three members of the Class of 1893 received the bachelor’s degree, and two women with bachelor’s degrees from the University of Nebraska, Anna Rogers and Isabella Rogers, received master’s degrees. Margaret Floy Washburn ’91, currently studying for her Ph.D. at Cornell, also received a master’s degree.

In his remarks, President Taylor spoke of the great progress of the college during the last year. He pressed the need for a new recitation hall, and observed that, of the 190 applicants already requesting a place in the college next year, only 115 could be offered a place.

The New York Times

Turning to the great desire of the alumnae to do university work, he noted that, in the last two years, 20 alumnae weres pursuing advanced degrees in America and Europe.

Although in July she had delivered a paper on the Union of Utrecht (1579) during the “Literary Congresses”, an extraordinary scholarly gathering at the World’s Columbian Exhibition, it was her appearance at a later meeting that earned Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon a notice in The New York Times “Personals” column:

“Among the many notable speakers at the Labor Congress of the World’s Fair is Miss Lucy M. Salmon, Professor of History at Vassar. For many years past Miss Salmon has concerned herself with the labor question as specially connected with domestic service. In person she is tall and slender, with brown hair brushed abruptly back from a finely-featured face of unusual strength and sweetness.”

The college opened with an enrollment of 460 students, and a few more were expected. Among the newly appointed faculty members was classicist Grace Harriet Macurdy, whose distinguished career at Vassar spanned 44 years.

Four members of the Class of 1897 were daughters of alumnae. They thus joined the informal Society of Granddaughters of the College, begun but not publicized in 1892, when Helen Bishop ’96, the daughter of Harriet Warner Bishop ’67, and Marie Champney ’96, whose mother was Elizabeth Williams Champney ’68, matriculated. The new “members” were Mary Evans Baille ’97, Elizabeth Loraine Bishop ’97, Emma Baker ’97 and Clara Tuttle ’98.

Eventually adopting the motto “The condition of your birth/Is the measure of your worth,” the society persisted for several years, raising funds and collecting college memorabilia, but it phased out as the distinction it recognized attenuated.

“We had fudges. Fudges is a kind of candy, made of 2 glasses of sugar, ¼ cake of chocolate, one glass of milk and a little butter….”

MS letter

Fudge was known as “Vassar fudges” for many years. In 1912, Emelyn Hartridge ’92 wrote Professor of History Lucy Maynard Salmon that she had introduced the confection to Vassar in 1888, having learned of it in Baltimore: “Fudge, as I first knew it, was first made in Baltimore by a cousin of a schoolmate of mine. It was sold in 1886 in a grocery store for 40 cents a pound…. From my schoolmate, Nannie Hagner…I secured the recipe and in my first year I made 30 pounds for the Senior Auction, its real introduction to the college, I think.” Within a few years, a fondness for fudge had spread to other women’s colleges.

Lee Edwards Benning, Oh Fudge: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Candy

The Years