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In his annual report President Taylor urged the formation of a campaign for a million dollar endowment fund. He had previously declared that “Educational endowment is our greatest need.”

United States Senator-elect Chauncey M. Depew and President Taylor were the main speakers at the 23rd annual meeting of the Vassar Alumnae Association of New York—a meeting open by tradition to any alumna. In his remarks, Taylor forthrightly addressed two current issues: Vassar’s “wealth” and whether the traditional liberal arts remained appropriate to a college curriculum. Protesting reports in the press that Vassar was “a wealthy college,” Taylor declared:

“It is not a wealthy college in any sense, and the report that it is rich is a slander that no one connected the College ought to submit to. The interest on our funds is decreasing every year. When money drops from 7 to 4 per cent, as it has in recent years, and when our investments are limited by State law, we cannot do what we formerly were able to accomplish. We must have $1,000,000 for endowment, we must have much-needed buildings on the campus, and it depends largely on the alumnae whether these needs be met or not.”

As to the curriculum, the president stated,

“We want Vassar to be judged as a college, not as a university. We want no woman’s university. We have faith that the public will judge us from the standard of our college work, which fits out girls to compete with university graduates…. To make every student a scholar is a Quixotic, an impossible, idea, but to make those who come under the influence of a college scholarly in taste, to imbue them with respect for learning in one of the ideals of a college.”

In his brief remarks, the senator-elect and former president of the New York Central railroad told the some 250 alumnae a Vassar-related story in support of his declaration that “girls were much more self-reliant than boys.”

“And talking about the enterprise of girls…some years ago I went up to deliver an address. I didn’t intend to go, but it happened this way: A deputation of Vassar girls came to me in my office and invited me to the College. I am a busy man, and I said no. I repeated the refusal gently, but with that firmness which characterizes me. Whereupon a business-like little girl drew her companions into a corner, and in a stage whisper said: ‘Girls, you must go out of the office. You can’t get a man to do anything by college methods and tactics. I understand men; you don’t.’

“Her companions went out, and, shutting the door, she turned to me and said:

“Now, look here, Mr. Depew, we can raise $100, but not another cent.’

“Of course, I went….”

The New York Times

At a special meeting in New York City the Vassar board of trustees adopted a resolution urging President Taylor to remain at Vassar and to reject a unanimous vote in his favor, which was reported to him on February 8 by a presidential search committee at Brown University. A second resolution pledged the trustees’ “cordial co-operation in seeking to meet the pressing needs of the College, that it may hold its place as the leading educational institution for women in our country.”

Taylor received and considered similar entreaties from faculty, alumnae, and students, and on March 1, he wrote to Rev. Alvah Hovey, the search committee chairman, declining the position.

“This conclusion has been reached slowly under the influence of a weight of assurance from the trustees, faculty, alumnae, and students of Vassar, and friends of education unrelated to Vassar, that I cannot set aside. I have been made to feel that the resignation of my duties here would be construed by most observers, despite my own honest protest, as an assertion that the type of work for which Vassar stands is of less importance than that of a college devoted mainly to men. I have been convinced, against my earlier judgment, that the chances of disintegration which come with every change would be very grave, just now, for Vassar, and that her work might be hindered for years, at least till a new leader should have gained the confidence of the College and its alumnae…. I have been convinced, also, that the position offered me would present no greater opportunity for usefulness than that I now hold.”

Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, The Life and Letters of James Monroe Taylor

Writing to The New York Times on February 4, 1915, a few days after Henry Noble MacCracken assumed the presidency of the College, Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 called Taylor’s letter perhaps “the most significant document of his twenty-seven years of service” and Taylor’s decision “in itself a triumph for the cause of woman’s education.”

American writer and suffragist Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78, gave a series of five lectures on “The Economic Position of Women.” Resident in England, Mrs. Blatch—the daughter of feminist pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she and Susan B. Anthony collaborated on History of Woman Suffrage (1881)—conducted a statistical study of the working condition of rural English women which was submitted in 1893 as part of her work towards her Vassar masters degree.

“The first lecture,” reported The Vassar Miscellany, “on ‘Women in Politics’ was followed by a general consideration of the woman’s labor question. After stating the general economic laws which woman’s work follows and the reasons for their low wages, Mrs. Blatch traced the evolution of modern organized labor from the unspecialized labor of the primitive worker, and in her concluding lecture laid much emphasis upon the need of the same, general manual education for women as well as for men.”

Harriot Stanton Blatch lectured again at Vassar in January 1902 on “Handicrafts of England,” emphasizing the social and physical benefits of hand work and amateur industries.

The Class of 1902 dealt a blow to both the Class of 1901 and a Vassar tradition. By long custom, classes selected their class trees secretly in the sophomore year, revealing its location as graduation approached. But as ’01 came to the secret site, they found themselves suddenly passing between two lines of jeering freshmen.

Adding insult to injury, the freshmen had also discovered the location of the celebration to be held after the consecration of the tree and had carried ’01’s ice cream off to Strong, where they had a party of their own.

The New York Times

Ellen Swallow Richards ’1870, MIT chemist and coiner, in 1892, of the term, “ecology,” spoke on “The Education and Occupations of the Twentieth Century Woman,” calling for more general and thorough study of science in women’s colleges. An instructor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an alumnae trustee, Richards, said The Vassar Miscellany, “introduced her subject by tracing women’s occupations and opportunities to the present day.” More thorough scientific education for women was important, The Miscellany reported, “especially in consideratioin of the important position in the world to be occupied by the twentieth century woman.”

Three Vassar alumnae were among the women named in the annual announcement of fellowships and scholarships at Bryn Mawr College. Lida Shaw King ’90 and Annie Lyndesay Wilkinson ’97 were awarded resident fellowships for the next year in Greek and mathematics, respectively, and Winifred M. Kirkland ’97 was awarded a graduate scholarship in English.

In his baccalaureate address, President Taylor urged the 118 members of the Class of 1899 to use their influence as women to counteract “the desire to secure immediate gratification.” Social ills ranging from the exploitation of “helpless tribes of Indians” to heedless national expansionism—“as if everything American must be right”—were, he said, examples of “the curse of the social world..the desire to secure immediate gratification…. Women, on account of their great influence in this age, must set their faces against this social laxness which now stands in grim contrast to the godly spirit which is to save society from…ruin.”

Among the guests in attendance were the varsity and freshmen eights of the Columbia crew, in Poughkeepsie for a regatta. Several members of the class attended a racing demonstration and tea given by the crews the following afternoon. The event was chaperoned by Mrs. J. W. Hinkley, the wife of a Poughkeepsie industrialist, and the wife of the crew’s coach, Dr. Walter Peet.

The New York Times

Benjamin Ide Wheeler, professor of Greek and comparative philology at Cornell University, delivered Vassar’s first Phi Beta Kappa Lecture, “Language and Life.” “Man’s character, Professor Wheeler said,” reported The Vassar Miscellany, “is the result of all the conscious choices of life. Language is lik character and every speaker has helped to build it. Words are not words without context and life—they must be warm with the life blood of living speech…. Every word with its subtle coloring and personal characteristic carries its character with it. Language is a social product.”

“At the close of the address,” The Miscellany noted, “Professor [Mary Watson] Whitney [’68], as Vice-President of the Mu Chapter, read the names of all graduates since ’67 who were eligible to Phi Beta Kappa, and asked those we were present to remain for the initiation.”

Mu Chapter, the first Phi Beta Kappa chapter at a college for women, was installed at Vassar by the president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society on April 8. Professor Wheeler became president of the University of California in 1899.

Class Day ceremonies began with a procession—seniors in brightly colored gowns followed by sophomores and juniors in white and by the 12 members of the daisy chain—to a platform erected at the rear of Main Building. Elsie Nichols ’99, president of the class, welcomed the gathering, and class historians Annie Calvert Jones ’99 and Alice Taggart ’99 “humorously told,” respectively, highlights of the class’s first two years and the last two years at Vassar. The class song, with words by Miss Taggart and music by Louise Jacobs ’99, was sung to an orchestral accompaniment, and as the singing progressed the Daisy Chain led the gathering to the class tree. The senior spade orator, Eleanor Ray ’99 handed Matthew Vassar’s spade to her sister, Maude Louise Ray ’00, who “responded in a happy speech.”

A holiday from classes was given for the naval parade in New York City in honor of Commodore George Dewey, the hero of the Battle of Manila Bay. The College arranged for the side-wheeler Mary Powell to take students to New York.

On September 30th, the Commodore visited Vassar on his tour up the Hudson.

The Years