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An exceptionally cold winter reached a new low: 20º below zero on the campus, one of many record lows in the state. The New York Times reported, “the temperatures from several localities is the lowest ever known.”

Lecturing on “Psychology and Relaxation,” Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James said Americans were too excitable, a “characteristic,” reported The Vassar Miscellany, “which is not a sign of great strength.” “Professor James,” the journal added, “is a speaker to whom one can listen without any of the nervous tension which he regards as a great defect in the American character.”

“He said that College girls wore themselves out by trying to wear ‘a bright and interested expression’ all the time, and should cultivate more than they do, ‘the stolid expression and codfish eye’ of their European sisters.”

MS letter

“We have a queer thing to do for History tomorrow: That is, find out all the rigmarole which would have to be gone through with in order to get ourselves appointed postmistress of the town in which we live….I cannot find out much about it from any books that I have consulted yet….”

MS letter

Brought to Vassar in 1887 to establish Vassar’s history department, Lucy Maynard Salmon’s assignments often reflected her interest in social history, as well as her advocacy for woman suffrage and her insistence on the value of primary sources.

The senior class petitioned the faculty and trustees for a change in Commencement format. Instead of the reading of essays by a number of honors graduates, they asked for an address by some prominent educator. It was thought that, particularly as President Taylor was still abroad, the question would go no further.

Soprano Villa Whitney White gave two lecture recitals. In her afternoon appearance she sang and spoke about German songs starting the 14th and 15th centuries, explaining and singing examples from the Minnesingers and the Meistersingers. “The early songs,” reported The Vassar Miscellany, “were were simple in melody and harmony, but the gradually acquired a more complex character until about 1600, when the Italian influence was introduced by Hasler…. This influence continued until about 1780, when the…poets, Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and other introduced the poetry of art.

On the following evening, the second lecture recital was “devoted to Schubert, the greatest of song writers…. Schubert above all others has united words and music to express the inner meaning of a poet. Miss White illustrated with a variety of songs. She has a mezzo-soprano voice, beautifully trained and under perfect control. Her simplicity was her greatest charm, showing her to be a thorough artist in that she concealed her art, and gave free and spontaneous expression to the meaning of the songs.”

Villa Whitney White appeared again at Vassar on December 11th, singing and lecturing on German ballads as reflected in Romantic songs and offering Advent and Christmas songs.

President Daniel Coit Gilman of Johns Hopkins was the speaker at the 31st Founder’s Day. Speaking on “Some Forgotten Chapters of Our History,” he revealed unknown or forgotten institutions, forces and events in the evolution of American higher education.

After a reception at which President Gilman and Estelle McCloskey ’86, president of the student association, received, there was promenading in the corridors and square dancing in the dining room. At midnight, the Glee Club sang the “Good Night” song and all joined in singing the Alma Mater.

The New York Times

The College announced that trustee John D. Rockefeller had agreed to give Vassar $100,000 toward the construction of either a new recitation hall or a new residence hall. Both facilities had been badly needed for some time, as President Taylor never failed to remind his many audiences. President Taylor, recently returned from his six-months leave of absence, planned to meet with Rockefeller to discuss the competing needs.

The New York Times

It was announced that, in their meeting about Mr. Rockefeller’s recent gift, John D. Rockefeller and President Taylor had agreed that the $100,000 gift would go toward a new recitation hall and that the College would meet its other urgent need, a new residence hall, by drawing an equal amount from College funds.

The New York Times

Vassar held its second annual field day on the College oval.

Students in Moorish costumes clanged brass bells to draw attention to the senior bazaar, where seniors annually divested themselves of items no longer needed. Autograph letters from President Cleveland and actor Joe Jefferson—a Vassar favorite—brought $4 each, and one from naturalist and friend of the College John Burroughs was bid in at $2.75.

The New York Times

The Jacob P. Giraud Jr. Professorship of Natural History was established through the bequest of Jacob P. Giraud, who had earlier presented his collection of North American birds to the College. The chair was first held by Elizabeth E. Bickford, Associate Professor of Biology, 1895–1899.

Professor of Mathematics Achsah M. Ely ’68 was robbed as she was leaving the College to board the trolley to go to the train station. A man hiding in the cedars at the gatehouse stole her satchel, which contained her railway ticket and some papers. “Miss Ely was almost prostrated by the shock, and had to postpone her trip to New York.”

The New York Times

The Years