The forerunner of the Student Handbook, the “freshman Bible,” a compendium of general information about the college, was published by the Christian Association.
At the 25th annual meeting of the Boston alumnae, President Taylor announced that last June Caroline Swift Atwater ’77 had given the college $25,000 for a new infirmary, in memory of her father, Charles W. Swift, a charter trustee. Mrs. Atwater subsequently gave an additional $25,000, and the building, designed by York & Sawyer in the colonial revival style, was completed later in the year.
The president also thanked Mary Thaw Thompson ’77 and Mary Seymour Pratt ’80, for a gift of $100,000 for a new Chapel.
The Class of 1902 avoided last year’s debacle, when they had rudely interrupted the consecration of the sophomore’s class tree—a necessary preliminary to the “knighting” of the class. While this year’s freshmen slept, ’02 arose at 4 am, gathered around am elm between Strong and Main and “softly gave the class cheer,” according to The New York Times. As members of their “sister class,” ’00, also softly cheered, ’02 headed for the gymnasium for the “knighting” ceremony.
The Founder’s Day address was given by President Arthur Twining Hadley of Yale, husband of Helen Morris Hadley ’83. In his address, which focused on “political education,” President Hadley said that, to be effective, study in such disciplines as sociology and political economy must be broad and through enough to affect and develop character.
Inaugurated in 1899 as the first Yale president who was not a minister, Hadley was a eminent scholar of political science and political economy, a former dean of the university’s graduate school and former commissioner of the Connecticut bureau of labor statisitics. His Railroad Transportation, its History and Laws (1885) was a standard textbook in the field.
Along with the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr, President Taylor was among the 25 college presidents named by Dr. Henry Mitchell MacCracken, chancellor of New York University, as one of the four groups of judges to nominate members for the university’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. The other categories in the body were: 24 professors of history and science; 23 publicists, editors and authors; and most of the 27 state supreme court chief justices, along with the chief justice of the United States, Rufus Wheeler Peckham.
MacCracken’s project was the first “hall of fame,” and its home, a sweeping open-air colonnade designed by Stanford White, was the centerpiece for New York University’s new undergraduate campus.
Four of Taylor’s choices—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—were among the 11 initial inductees to the New York University hall. His unsuccessful nominees were American historian John Lothrop Motley and abolitionist and Native American rights advocate Wendell Phillips.
The French Club and the Choral Club sang the Mareseillaise as President Taylor escorted the French Ambassador, M. Jules Cambon, to the platform as the club’s inaugural speaker. After remarks by the President and—in French—Gertrude Candler ’00, M. Cambon, said the Vassar Miscellany, “spoke upon women in France, heroic in history and distinguished in literature, the arts and industries.”
M. Cambon played a key role in the negotiations that ended the Spanish American War.
The college announced that a $50,000 fund for a biological laboratory had been completed. A friend of the college, resident in New England, had offered $25,000 for this purpose provided it could be matched by the college with other funds, preferably drawn from other New Englanders. The Boston branch of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College raised the additional amount for the New England Building within a year’s time.
—The New York Times
Completed in December 1901, the New England Building opened on January 8, 1902.
In his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1900, President Taylor spoke of political matters and the decline of empires as a result of unchecked ambition. “Probably there has been no war,” he told the class, “which could not have been avoided had justice been permitted to temper lust; had charity and forbearance been permitted to subdue greed. Is there no lesson in the disasters of history for those who are reveling in this new outburst of war and who are making this an age of blood and iron?”
The New York Times
Attendance at Class Day, held out of doors at the rear of Raymond House on a perfect June day, was the largest in Vassar history. Marching 1,000 yards along a path marked out in white muslin, the juniors led with the traditional daisy chain, followed by the seniors.
Class president Alice Prentice Barrows ’00 welcomed the attendees, and Eunice Oberly ’00 and Vilda Sauvage ’00 told the class history. The interlude between the two parts of the history was filled by Eleanor Kenrick Samson ’00, who sang Bernborg’s “Nymphs and Fawns.” Moving to the class tree, the seniors buried their class records beneath the tree and, giving the senior charge, Maude Louise Ray ’00 passed Matthew Vassar’s spade to Annie Maria Crater ’01, who gave the junior response.
At the meeting of the board of trustees, Edward S. Atwater was elected to succeed the late Cyrus Swan, a charter trustee and close confidant of the Founder. Lewis Pilcher was appointed instructor in art, succeeding Henry Van Ingen, Vassar’s original professor of art, who died in 1898. A former lecturer in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Pilcher was later the architect of Jewett House and the Good Fellowship House at Vassar, and subsequently, as New York State Architect, the architect of the “new” Sing Sing prison (1919). In his later years, he founded of the School of Architecture at Pennsylvania State University.
At a new Class Day event, the Phi Beta Kappa lecture, Professor Franklin Giddings of Columbia interpreted the granting of Mu chapter as evidence that the last discrimination by sex in education had been removed. Women’s clubs were no longer needed, he told the class and their guests, and he advised the graduates not to squander their time with them or with other such organizations.
—The New York Times
Professor Gow’s organ voluntary opened Vassar’s 35th Commencement, as marshal of the day Emma Rice Richarson ’77, led the juniors and seniors into the Chapel. Topics of the senior essays exhibited their customary range: Isabel Bliss Trowbridge ’00 discussed “The Klephtic Ballads”; Mabel Pearson Schmidt ’00 traced “The Evolution of Peace”; Martha Grovenor Harmon ’00 revealed “The Educational Value of Nature Study”; Marie Thompson Perry ’00 traced “The Development of Darwin’s Idea of Natural Selectio”n; Gertrude Vaile ’00 plumbed “The Ethics of Retail Buying” and Frances Dorrance ’00 explored “The Impressionism of Shelley’s Nature Descriptions.”
President Taylor conferred bachelor’s degrees on 125 member of the Class of 1900, and Eda C. Bowman ’99, Augusta Choate ’99, Blanche Martin ’99 and Ruth Bartlett Mears ’99 received the second degree in arts (the master’s degree).
Graduate scholarships were awarded to: Laura Moriarity ’00 in history; Jennie Mackay Payne ’00 in English; Ruth Wells ’00 in Greek and Frances Dorrance ’00 in biology. The Richardson Babbott fellowship was awarded to Alice W. W. Wilcox ’94 for the study of biology at the University of Chicago.
After dinner, some 300 graduates and guests were entertained by an address by St. Clair McKelway, co-owner and editor of The Brooklyn Eagle.
Helen Reed ’86 was elected to the Rhinebeck, NY, school board, the first woman elected to a board of education in Dutchess County. Later, as Mrs. Theodore Delaporte, she founded the Chancellor Livingston chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Rhinebeck.
Vassar, along with Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, MIT, Harvard and Princeton, was one of 14 American institutions of higher education awarded a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.
Vassar received four papyri from the William Flinders Petrie excavations at Abydos in Egypt. This was the first of several gifts of papyri to the college from the Egyptian Exploration Fund over the next year or so.
As the presidential election drew near, political interest and discussion on campus increased. Five hundred ten votes were cast in an election-eve poll: Republican (incumbent William McKinley), 441; Democratic (William Jennings Bryan), 61; Independent, 2; Socialist, 2; Probition, 4.
The New York Times
Vassar was one of a dozen colleges and universities whose representatives, meeting at Columbia, adopted the College Entrance Board plan for admitting students. The plan had been proposed the previous December at the annual meeting of the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools by Nicholas Murray Butler, the founder of Columbia’s Teachers College.
The new board’s chairman was Columbia’s president, Seth Low, and Vassar’s president Taylor was one of three members of the Executive Committee.
Lecturing in the Chapel on Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bliss Perry, editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a pioneer in the study of American literature, called Hawthorne, according to The Vassar Miscellany, “America’s ‘greatest imaginative genius.’ Perry ‘followed a somewhat unusual plan,’ the reviewer noted, in seeing Hawthorne’s stay in at the Whig Tavern in North Adams, MA, during the summer of 1838 as “the critical point in his mental and spiritual development. The Whig Tavern…was the gathering place for all the village worthies and convivial spirits, who gladly received the shy reluctant Hawthorne among them…. The North Adams period marks a new contract with actualities, a quickening of interests and a longing to share in the life of humanity.”
The New York Times noted the first publication of the Vassar Observatory, Catalogue of the Stars Within One Degree of the North Pole and Optical Distortion of Helsingfors Astro-Photographic Telescope, Deduced from Photographic Measures, by Caroline E. Furness ’91. In 1889, one of Maria Mitchell’s first group of six astronomy students—known as “the Hexagon”—Mary Watson Whitney ’68, succeeded Mitchell as professor of astronomy and director of the observatory. Having studied with mathematician Benjamin Peirce at Harvard, done research at the Dearborn Observatory at the original University of Chicago and studied celestial mechanics at the University of Zürich before returning to Vassar in 1881 as Mitchell’s assistant, Whitney was more acquainted than her mentor with the wider world of scholarship and scholarly publication, and this publication marked her expansion of the observatory’s mission.
Caroline Furness was Watson’s assistant at the Vassar Observatory in 1894, and the following year Watson had arranged for her to study at Columbia with the recently appointed acting professor of astronomy and director of the observatory, Harold Jacoby. She was the first woman admitted for PhD studies in astronomy at Columbia. In collaboration with Jacoby and with financial support from Vassar trustee Frederic Ferris Thompson and philanthropist Catherine Bruce, Whitney acquired equipment necessary for Furness’s work. The results of this joint study, of which the first volume was Furness’s doctoral thesis, were published in four volumes, two from Vassar and two from Columbia. With Whitney’s retirement in 1915, Caroline Furness became director of the observatory, and the following year she was appointed Alumna Maria Mitchell Professor of Astronomy.
The nascent College Entrance Examination Board of the Middle States and Maryland announced the selection of Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon as the chief examiner for history. Her colleagues in the history examination were Swarthmore Professor William I Hull and Henry P. Warren from the Albany Academy.
Columbia University President Seth Low spoke and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Susan Strong presented a musical program as the New York branch of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reception for the AAVC.
At 11:00 p.m. Ida Watson ’01, a Vassar senior, discovered a new star in Perseus—simultaneously, it appeared, with Dr. Thomas D. Anderson, a well-known amateur astronomer in Edinburgh, Scotland. The joint discovery of the first new star of the 20th century by a Scotsman and an American woman was noted in newspapers from New York and Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles Herald reported Miss Watson “at once recognized it as a new star. In magnitude it was nearly as bright as Capella, the brilliant yellow star directly overhead in the early evening. The next observation…was made on February 25, when it had then diminished in brightness, being the same magnitude as Pollux. On the same evening the spectroscope…showed the spectrum to be continuous, crossed by broad lines, thus giving evidence of great outbursts of hydrogen and helium.”
After graduation, Ida Watson stayed on at the Vassar observatory for postgraduate work and with her classmate Helen Swartz published their calculations of the maxima and minima of variable stars for 1902 in monthly installments in Popular Astronomy, an important journal for amateur observers of variable stars. Thomas David Anderson remained the discoverer of record of the nova, which continued to fade until, 11 years after its discovery, it was no longer visible to the naked eye.
The college announced that it had leased the 400-acre Boardman farm adjacent to the college grounds for pasturage of it herd of cattle, the size of which was increasing with the growing number of students. The size of the college farm was now 1,000 acres.
A 28-year-old mental patient from the Hudson River State Hospital was found on the campus, staring at the students. When questioned, he said that he had heard a good deal about Vassar students and was glad that he had lived to see them. Authorities said that he was not considered a dangerous patient.
The New York Times
The first of many outdoor student productions, As You Like It, the fourth hall play, was presented in authentic Elizabethan manner “in a woody spot on the north side of the campus.” There being no scenery changes, settings were announced by posters at the sides of the stage. The programs described the play as “a comedy by Master William Shakespeare, laide in ye Forest of Ardennes and truly set forth before ye worshipful maydes of Vassar College in ye month of Mae, MCMI”
The New York Times
A scale model of Vassar’s campus, containing all buildings including those under construction, was nearly complete. The model, five feet by three and a half feet, was sent to Buffalo for display at the Pan-American Exposition.
Unusually inclement weather forced the Field Day events to extend over several days. At their conclusion, two records were matched and two new records were set. In the 100-yard dash, Louise S. Holmquist ’01 matched her standing Vassar record; in throwing the basketball, Elsa Hillyer White ’02 also matched her previous record of 62 feet, 10 1/2 inches; a new standing broad jump record was set by Dora E. Merrill ’02 and Julia B. Lockwood ’01—already the holder of the Vassar records in the 120-yard hurdles and lawn tennis—set a new record, throwing the baseball 173 feet, 6 inches. The Class of 1901 won the overall event, their 38 points besting the juniors, sophomores and freshmen, with 28, 29 and 16, respectively.
The New York Times
President Taylor drew his baccalaureate sermon for the Class of 1901 from Kings, I, 19:12, “But the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a still small voice.” Denouncing the growing tendency to worship power, he told the class that earthly power was not the final aim of life. Although the age was finding God in thunder and earthquakes, he said, He was rather in the still small voice, in industry, gentleness, faithfulness and truth.
The New York Times
“Some Evidences of an Education,” Columbia professor Nicholas Murray Butler’s Phi Beta Kappa address, was enthusiastically received in the Chapel. Drawing a distinction between erudition and true education, Butler offered “five characteristics… as evidences of education—correctness and precision in the use of the mother tongue, refined and gentle manners, which are the expression of fixed habits of thought and action, the power and habit of reflection, the power of growth, and efficiency, or the power to do.
“On this plane the physicist may meet with the philologian and the naturalist with the philosopher, and each recognizes the fact that his fellow is an educated man, though the range of their information is widely different and the centres of their highest interests are far apart.”
The New York Times
On Class Day morning, parents and guest enjoyed a pair of basketball games, played by the teams from 1899, 1901 and 1902.
In the afternoon, class president Margaret Pinckney Jackson ’01 welcomed over 2,000 students, alumnae and guests to Class Day exercises, held at an outdoor site northeast of Main Building. The Class of 1901, seated on a large stage and each holding a bouquet of American Beauty roses, joined class historians Elsie Cole ’01 and Lucia Cole ’01 in looking back at the last four years. As they recounted events, the historians paused and groups of their classmates illuminated the tale with original texts set to popular tunes. The address by class orator Letitia Jean Smyth ’01 was answered by a junior reply from Mary Bliss Dale ’02.
The procession to the class tree was led by 01’s outstanding athlete, Margaret Calhoun ’01. She and her classmates were accompanied by 20 sophomores carrying a daisy chain—150 feet long and containing 30,000 blooms—made by the sophomore class. After a reception in the evening, the sophomores serenaded the graduating class, as the seniors dropped roses from their windows.
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 142 members of the Class of 1901, Vassar’s largest graduating class to date, at Commencement in the Chapel. Three of the senior essays had literary and textual subjects, two discussed educational matters and one dealt with history. “The Song Writer’s Art,” “Opposing Tendencies in Modern Drama” and “The Spirit of Modern Nature Poetry” were presented, respectively, by Mary Barbour Whitman ’01, Margaret Pinckney Jackson ’01 and Helen Eldred Storke ’01. Louise Sommer Holmquist ’01 described “By-Products of a College Education,” and Clara Stillman Reed ’01 considered “The Bible School in Education.” Ada Jeanette Lord ’01 shed “A New Light upon Ancient History.”
In his remarks, President Taylor announced that the residence hall under construction would be named in honor of charter trustee Edward Lathrop and that trustee John D. Rockefeller had given $110,000 for the erection of a new residence hall to be known as Eliza Davison Hall, in memory of his mother. The president noted that these developments came none too soon. “The college is growing rapidly,” he said, “and we are outgrowing our accommodations. We have been compelled to reject 150 students who would have liked to become freshmen next Fall, solely on this account. In five years our student body has grown from 570 to 750 and our Faculty has increased by fourteen professors.”The New York Times
President William McKinley was shot at the Temple of Music of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, and he died a week later.
Miss Constance M. K. Applebee, who had earlier in 1901 introduced field hockey to America at a seminar at Harvard, spent a week at the college, giving instruction in the sport. Vassar was the first college to employ Miss Applebee, who was director of outdoor sports at Bryn Mawr from 1904 until 1926 and who, in 1922, helped found the United States Field Hockey Association.
Lathrop House, was completed, Allen & Vance, architects. The residence hall was built with college funds and named in honor of Dr. Edward Lathrop, a charter trustee and chair of the board of trustees from 1876 until his death in 1906.
The Students’ Association received a charter from the faculty and relinquished the honor system in favor of student proctors, whose job it was to see that rules were obeyed.
Eliza Davison House, given at a cost of $110,000 by John D. Rockefeller in memory of his mother, was completed, Allen & Vance, architects.
The gift of the New England alumnae, The New England Building, designed for the departments of biology, physiology, geology and mineralogy, was completed, York & Sawyer, architects. Florence Cushing ‘74, alumna trustee from Boston, arranged for a piece of Plymouth Rock, recently broken off, to be installed over the entrance to the new building.
Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 lectured on “Handicrafts of England.” The daughter of woman suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the wife of English businessman Harry Blatch, Harriot Blatch was a social activist in both England and America. Just prior to her marriage she had collaborated with her mother and Susan B. Anthony on a book, the History of Woman Suffrage. In England she had conducted a study of the condition of rural working women, for which she received the master’s degree from Vassar in 1894. Returning to America in 1902, she helped restore the American woman suffrage movement, organizing working women in New York City and organizing and leading the 1910 New York suffrage parade.
In her illustrated talk, she discussed the damaging effect of mechanization on the several local and regional handicrafts.
President Taylor announced in the Chapel that trustee John D. Rockefeller had pledged to duplicate every gift made to the college before Commencement in 1904 up to a total of $200,000. A trustee of the college from 1888 until his resignation in 1905, Rockefeller was a generous donor, providing partial funding for Strong House, named in honor of his daughter, Bessie Rockefeller Strong, a special student between 1886 and 1888, and fully funding Rockefeller Hall (1898) and Eliza Davison House (1903), honoring his mother. At Rockefeller’s death, in 1937, his gifts to Vassar, totalling $493,348.59, stood fifth among his philanthropies to colleges and universities, after The University of Chicago—which he helped found—Harvard, Yale and Brown.
The New York Times.
Some 300 people heard Polish piano virtuoso Ignacy Jan Paderewski play in the Chapel. From his Paris musical debut in 1887 on, Paderewski‘s virtuosity had invoked intense popular admiration, sometimes bordering on mania. After his American debut in 1891, his friend Helena Modjeska reported, “Women are crazy about him. Critics praise him without limits. The only two things they criticize is [sic] his performance of Beethoven and his too large of a mess of hair.’ Many in the audience came to Poughkeepsie on special trains.
The Vassar audience remained relatively calm until, near the end of his program, a student screamed out loudly, apparently setting off a minor craze. In its issue for March 6, 1902, under the title “Vassar Hysterics,” the New York journal, The Independent, copied a note from The Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Snce the Vassar girl set the example it is the fashion now for young women to have hysterics when they attend Paderewski concerts.”
—The informer, The New York Times
Fire at the laundry building behind Main Building caused $15,000 damage. Fourteen maids, residents of the building, escaped harm, but the building was destroyed. It was insured for $10,000.
The New York Times
The French Club, restricted in membership to students in junior and senior French classes, presented La Fée, by Octave Feuillet. The play’s hero, Le Comte Henri de Comminges, was played by Rowena Beattie Uptegrove ’03, and Clare Allen ’03 was Mlle. Aurore de Kerdic , his spurned fiancée —“the fairy” who lures him to a fountain in Brittany.
All students studying French and guests of club members were invited to the production. “The music for the ballade, which had an important part in the play was composed by Miss E[mma] A[melia] Williams ’02. It was played with very pretty effect by mandolins behind the scenes.”The New York Times
Jane Addams, co-founder of the most well known settlement house in the United States, Hull House in Chicago, lectured on “The College Woman and the Social Claim.” She visited the college in February 1893 and talked on her work at Hull House, which opened in 1889.
Bryn Mawr’s Mary E. Garrett Fellowship for study in Europe was awarded to Marie Reimer ’97, who had been a graduate student at Bryn Mawr for two years. In its account of the fellowship, The New York Times noted that Miss Reimer—whose work was “of unusual brilliancy”—had been “one of the graduate students living in Denbigh Hall, and lost all her property in the fire on Sunday [3/16], except her thesis for the doctor’s degree, which was rescued by a member of the faculty.”
After her fellowship year in Berlin, Dr. Reimer joined the Barnard faculty, where she taught organic chemistry until her retirement in 1945.
Vassar defeated Wellesley in the first intercollegiate debate between women’s colleges. The Vassar debaters were: C. Mildred Thompson ’03, Elizabeth Forrest Johnson ’02 and Celia Arnold Spicer ’03. Vassar argued the negative on the question: “Resolved, that the United States should subsidize a merchant marine”..
“Monday night we had a monster celebration and dragged the debaters all over the campus in a 3 wheeled parcel cart of the janitors with 65 feet of rope.”MS letter
At the Founder’s Day celebration, President Taylor announced that a donor, whose name he withheld, had pledged to fund a new library for Vassar. No set sum was specified, as the building was intended to meet the needs of the college far into the future.
At Commencement in June, Taylor revealed that the donor was Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson ’93, widow of the popular and benevolent trustee, who had died in 1899. The Frederic Ferris Thompson Memorial Library was dedicated in 1905.
Professor Woodrow Wilson of Princeton gave the Founder’s Day address on “Americanism.”
Four new records were set at the annual Field Day. Fannie James ’04 ran the 100-yard dash in 0:13.1.5; Elsa Hillyer White put the shot 29 feet, 11 inches; Harriet J. MacCoy ’03 threw a basketball 72 feet, 5 inches and Jean Hooker ’03 threw a baseball 175 feet, 6 inches.
As was customary, no men were permitted at the games, with the exception of a few professors.
—The New York Times
The Philalethean Society presented The Birds of Aristophanes, in the original Greek and in an appropriate outdoor setting. Spectators, sitting on the grass of Sunset Hill with the players below them on a stage backed by evergreens, followed the action with the translation in their programs by Elsa Hillyer White ‘02 and Edna Laura Kibbe ‘03.
Professor George C. Gow composed the music for the choruses, who were accompanied by a flute player hidden behind a tree. The play was directed by Professor Abby Leach of the department of Greek.
The “deadening effect of pleasure-seeking” was, according to The New York Times, the theme of President Taylor’s baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1902. It was students’ tendency at the present time, he said, to think that the best thing to be had at college was a good time. This attitude was destructive to the soul, to physical vigor, to clear thinking and to spiritual insight.
Taylor told the class their “opportunities and training had given them a view over these tendencies as from a mountain top; that they now must descend into the plain and help in the battle against them.”
The Nassau Herald, a commencement publication at Princeton edited by the seniors, gave the results of a poll taken of the graduating class. Longfellow was the favorite poet, and Walter Scott slipped by Thackeray, Kipling and Dickens among the novelists. The class had 185 Republicans, 30 Democrats, 7 Gold Democrats and 7 Prohibitionists, and, as to women’s colleges, the class favored Vassar (67 votes) over Smith (51), Wellesley (43) and Bryn Mawr (39).
The New York Times
After the alumnae luncheon, five alumnae spoke to those who returned for Class Day on women and occupations. Dr. Mary Sherwood ’93 discussed medicine, Helen Hoy ’99 discussed law, Maude Ray ’00 discussed journalism, Mary Root ’78 discussed agriculture and Nancy McClelland ’97 discussed advertising.
Class Day exercises were held out of doors in the afternoon. The juniors marched in, followed by the sophomores, nineteen of whom bore the daisy chain that announced the entry of the Class of 1902, led by Louise Sanford ’02. Class president Theodosia Hadley ’02 gave an address of welcome, and class historians Caroline Sperry ’02 and Nina Eldred ‘02 looked back over the class’s four years at the college.
At the class tree, Lucy Burns ’02 gave the senior charge and gave Matthew Vassar’s spade to Harriette Anderson ’03, who delivered the junior response. The day ended with a glee club concert and the president’s reception.
At Commencement, President Taylor identified the donor of the new library as Mary Clark Thompson and announced that ground would be broken for the new chapel immediately after the graduation ceremony. Two new trustees were elected: the Rev. W. T. E. P. Rhodes of Brooklyn and Daniel Smiley of Lake Mohonk, NY.
The first automobile appeared at Commencement. A member of the Class of 1902 recalled that is was a Ford, driven from Detroit by an alumna of ’00.
The College Inn was opened on Raymond Avenue, filling a long-felt need for the entertainment of guests. Later known as the Wagner Inn, it was established by Anne Edith Lapham ’96 and Mary Swain Wagner ex-’95 and was managed by Miss Wagner.
President Taylor conducted a short service for the laying of the cornerstone for the new chapel. Both of the donors, Mary Thaw Thompson ’77 and Mary Morris Pratt ’80, were present. They placed in the stone a box containing several Vassar publications and brief memoirs of Charles Pratt, Mrs. Pratt’s father-in-law, and William Thaw, Mrs. Thompson’s father.
The New York Times
A college handy man was arrested for stealing students’ jewelry. Almost all of the items found in his possession at the time of his arrest were identified by students, and the total value of the jewelry was estimated at $2,000.
In the spring of 1902, the English actor and producer, Ben Greet and the Elizabethan Stage Society mounted a production in London of the 15th-century morality play, Everyman. That fall, the prominent Broadway producer Charles Frohman arranged with the society and Greet for an American production, as part of a plan, as he told The New York Times, “to bring to and lay before American audiences everything in the theatrical line that its citizens go to see [abroad].”
A performance of Frohman’s production in the Chapel, with the English actress Edith Wynne Matthison as Everyman, was the gift of an anonymous donor.
According to The Miscellany, student attendance at lectures on “The Labor Movement,” “Railroads” and “The Laws of Social Progress” was unusually large and attentive. Students were being advised “not to teach until they look into the opportunities in law, medicine, journalism, business, and college settlements.”
Ground was broken for Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library, the gift of Mary Clark Thompson as a memorial to her husband, a Vassar trustee from 1885 until his death in 1899.
On Shakespeare’s birthday, a Vassar benefit performance of As You Like It was presented at the Victoria Theatre in New York City. Veteran Shakespeareans took the major parts, and Elizabethan music, arranged by American musicologist Edward Krehbiel, was sung by Franklyn Wallace.
In their second meeting, the Vassar debate team again defeated the team from Wellesley, in Poughkeepsie. The question, proposed by Wellesley, was “Resolved, That economically it is not advantageous for the United States to possess territory in the tropics,” and Vassar argued the affirmative. The Vassar team, led by Susannah J. McMurphy ’03, also included Katherine M. Morgan ’03 and Jennette S. Taylor ’04. Each speaker was allowed twelve minutes in debate and four minutes in rebuttal.
After dark, on Sunset Hill, The Philaletheis Society presented an ambitious production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A large audience of students and friends of the players gathered as colored lights illuminated the scenes and the surrounding pines, fairies danced and lovers were confounded. Dances were arranged by athletic director Harriet Ballintine and Violet Kauffman ’03, who played Titania, and a hidden orchestra accompanied the Three Shakespeare Songs of American composer Amy Cheney Beach.
Jeanette Hooker ’03 played Bottom, and Jane Sousa ’03 was Puck. Helen Whitmore ’03 was, according to The New York Times, a “stately Helena,” and Margaret Conger ’04 portrayed Hermia “with feeling.” “The production,” The Times concluded, “was one of the most elaborate the Philalethian Society has ever undertaken, and it has proved the most successful from an artistic point of view.”
On a perfect May day, Vassar’s ninth annual Field Day saw five records set and one equaled. Evelyn Gardner ’04 set two school records with a standing broad jump of 7 feet, 7 inches and a running broad jump of 14 feet 6 ½ inches. Helen Wood ’04 set a record for the running high jump of 4 feet 2 ¼ inches, Agnes Wood ’03 ran the 220-yard run in 0:30 3-5 and the 50-yard dash in 0:06 3-5, both new records. Fanny James ’04 equalled her standing record in the 100-yard dash: 0:13 1-5.
The junior class was the overall winner, with 54 points to the seniors 36 and the sophomores 18.
Summing up the “Great Day for Records,” The New York Times proclaimed, “History in American athletics is being made rapidly this year. Saturday was a red letter day in every respect…and little consideration was shown for old records.” After noting record performances by athletes from Princeton, Cornell, New York University and Amherst, The Times said, “Mention should be made of the growing interest in athletic contests of all sorts by young ladies…. The Vassar girls held a regular field day on Saturday and in their record-breaking prowess they were fully as successful as their brother athletes.”
As he had with the preceding class, President Taylor warned the Class of 1903 in his baccalaureate sermon about the lure of an age of commercialism and pleasure seeking. “We need,” he told the class, “to find an ideal of life which will withstand the commercial spirit of our age…. There is a growth of luxury and idleness, but history shows that the real value of life comes from the growth of the soul. This is the testimony of the rich as well as the poor…. In this age, where idleness is like to follow the acquisition of wealth, the gospel of work should be emphasized. Work makes one better and happier.”
The New York Times
Whitelaw Reid, editor of The New York Tribune, gave the Phi Beta Kappa address, “The Thing To Do.” Decrying the materialism and indulgence of the age, he described in detail and with several examples the rapid degradation of the social fabric. “Nothing is more noticeable,” he said, “at the great centres of population and of National activity, or in any large section of what calls itself and is often called our best society, than this disappearance of the old foundation of character and action: this loss of profound, enduring, restful faith in anything.”
Reid turned eventually to “another side to the picture. Admitting all faults and inconsistencies and hysterical alternations of heat and cold, our people are still the freest, most generous, most active and daring, our country is still in our eyes the best the sun shines on.” The role of educated women in the revival and strengthening of these enduring, if endangered, aspects of American society was a pivotal one, Reid asserted. “Outside the immediate and inestimable effect on the family, the conservative power of educated women will naturally show its first and perhaps its chief influence in the next greatest among the forces that guide the world—that of social life. The will surely help to check its degradation. The may make it regain its soothing relaxation, and its benign stimulus for the best in every one. They may even give back to society the inspiration it once had for the leaders of the world’s work…. If the conduct of the so-called inner circles of society has sometimes seemed to justify this brazen uproar at their gates, so much greater the demand for the conservative influence and the real refinement that come from the high training of superior women.”
—The New York Times
The president of the Class of 1903, Elizabeth Burd Thompson ’03, welcomed fellow students and guests to Class Day exercises. The seniors were escorted by a group of sophomores carrying the chain of daisies made by their class. Crystal Eastman ’03 and Harriet Anderson ’03 gave the class history, again complemented by the seniors, who explained some of the two historians’ remarks by singing original lyrics to snatches of popular songs.
At the class tree, Matthew Vassar’s spade was passed by Mary Starr ’03, who gave the senior charge, to Jeannette Taylor ’04, who offered the junior reply. In the evening, a concert by the Glee Club was followed by the president’s reception.
At their annual luncheon, in the Strong dining room, the alumnae heard remarks from, among others, Yale president Arthur Hadley and Professor Gertrude Buck from the English department.
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 154 members of the Class of 1903 at Commencement in the Chapel. 23 seniors received honors at graduation and graduate scholarships were awarded to Alice Chamberlain ’03 in Greek and architecture, Mary Wilson Cross ’03 in Greek and architecture, Angie L. Kellogg ’03 in philosophy and psychology and Mary Elizabeth Mills ’03 in Latin and Greek.
In his remarks, President Taylor, announcing that $50,000—all from alumnae—had been raised toward the $200,000 matching challenge given the college by trustee John D. Rockefeller, asserted that, had the offer been to a men’s college, the effort so far expended would have met the whole amount of the challenge. He said he didn’t expect the remaining sum to come solely from alumnae; he directed an appeal to those among the wealthy at large who were friends of the college and of women’s education.
Another modification to the curriculum was introduced, one that would last with only a few changes until the 1930s. After much deliberation the balance between required and freely elected study tilted slightly in the direction of the latter. “It was a decided advance on what had preceded it. Compulsory mathematics was retained by a small majority. Two languages were continued during the first year. A year of science, a year of history, and a year of English were enforced; philosophy, or psychology, and ethics were retained as obligatory….” The new plan was “a system which promised a broad foundation of general study and liberty beyond that, limited by certain concatenations of studies, by permission of professors, and by general faculty oversight.”
—James Monroe Taylor & Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, Vassar
Margaret Floy Washburn ’91, the country’s first woman PhD in psychology, was appointed assistant professor of philosophy, in charge of psychology. In 1908 she became professor of psychology and the first chair of that department, one of the earliest in women’s colleges. From the first, her students were urged to undertake independent research in experimental psychology, and in addition to her own prolific publication, some 40 papers undertaken with her students appeared as “Studies from the Psychology Laboratory at Vassar College” in The American Journal of Psychology.
A major figure in psychology in the United States in the first quarter of the 20th century, Washburn served as president of the American Psychological Association and was the first woman psychologist and the second woman scientist—after the discoverer of the origin and processes of the lymphatic system, Florence Rena Sabin—to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Washburn died on October 29, 1939, and at a memorial service at Vassar the following April, her accomplishments were praised by Dr. Leonard Carmichael, the president of Tufts University and of the American Psychological Association, and by President MacCracken, who hailed her as “the philosopher in science.”
Several Vassar students were at lunch at Mrs. Brittan’s boarding house on Grand Avenue when their landlady, answering the doorbell, discovered a large, grey, tailless monkey on her veranda. After several attempts by the students failed to chase the monkey away—including, according to The New York Times, a “flying wedge formation”—Mrs. Brittan called the police.
A Poughkeepsie saloon keeper, John Vanderburgh, arrived on the scene to reclaim his pet, which he’d thought was on its way to the country under the care of his father. The monkey, however, was now atop Mrs. Brittan’s chimney. A neighbor, Mrs. Charles Nixon, coaxed the monkey down to an upstairs window with a piece of cake and, seizing its leg, held it until the owner could secure it.
The students were late for their afternoon recitations.
—The New York Times
After doing all the planning for it, the Philaletheis Society, by a large majority, voted to cancel their annual ball—along with Founder’s Day, one of the two major social events of the year. They voted to apply the $500 thus saved toward the $200,000 needed for the matching endowment challenge of trustee John D. Rockefeller
Near the beginning of his first American lecture tour, Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats lectured on “The Intellectual Revival in Ireland.” Yeats had arrived in America on November 11, and the lecture, one of four he had prepared for the country-wide tour, was that which he gave at Carnegie Hall on January 3, 1904, before a large Irish-American crowd and which he told his colleague Lady Augusta Gregory, was “my big lecture, the most important of the whole lot.”
Yeats visited Vassar again, reading from his poems and speaking about them in May 1920.
The million-dollar endowment drive, undertaken in 1900, reached the $350,000 mark.
Prolonged pressure from the Students’ Association forced the faculty to take a first step towards voluntary class attendance: permitting students to present written excuses for absence. Faculty members could accept the excuses or not, but an excuse alleging illness was to be accepted without question.
The Frances A. Wood House, a faculty dwelling at 79 Raymond Avenue, was completed, Pilcher & Tachau, architects.
Miss Wood’s long association with the college started in 1866. She held the posts of teacher of music, teacher of English, and assistant lady principal before being appointed to the librarianship, which she held from 1880 until her retirement in 1910.
A large student audience showered applause on Dorothy Donnelly in the title role and Arnold Daly as the poet/lover Marchbanks in Daly’s production of Bernard Shaw’s Candida (1897). Daly’s was the first professional American production of Shaw’s play, which—departing from Ibsen’s A Doll’s House—proposed, in Shaw’s words, “that in the real typical doll’s house, it is the man who is the doll.”
The Vassar Alumnae Association of the West, meeting in Chicago, pledged to raise $70,000 before Founder’s Day, April 29. $50,000 was intended to endow a James M. Taylor chair of Biblical Literature, in honor of President Taylor. The remainder was to be added to the general endowment fund.
Ex-secretary of the Navy John D. Long delivered the Founder’s Day address, which assessed the achievement of Matthew Vassar. “When Matthew Vassar founded the college,” he said, “it was an experiment; it was the first real college for women. Now the woman’s college is one of the settled institutions of our country, and that, too, without the slightest impairment of woman’s delicacy.” The New York Times
Four new Vassar records were set at the annual Field Day. Fanny James ’04 ran the 50-yard dash in 0:61.5 and the 100-yard dash in 0:13, Helen Babson ’05 set the running high jump record at 4 feet 2 ½ inches and Alice H. B. Elding threw a baseball 195 feet 3 inches.
The seniors won the day with 55 points to the juniors’ 29, the freshmen’s 14 and the sophomores’ 10.
The Everyman Company,the English acting company of Ben Greet and Edith Wynne Matthison, which presented Everyman at Vassar in December 1902, performed Shakespeare’s As You Like It, under the auspices of the Tuesday Club of Poughkeepsie, on the grounds of the DeGarmo residence. In the evening the same company performed Much Ado about Nothing at the Collingwood Opera House. Both performances were in support of the Vassar Endowment Fund.
“In the evening the boys of the Riverview Military Academy held their annual drill on the campus for the college students. The manoeuvres were skillfully done, showing thorough training and discipline, and the college enjoyed the sight greatly. Lemonade was served to the boys after they broke ranks.”The Vassar Miscellany
In the baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1904, President Taylor voiced his concern about complacency, especially in regard to public education. “Unless,” he said, “we educate the people, North, South, black, and white, we shall fail among the nations of the world. We boast of our progress in this line. The splendid progress of the South is worthy of great praise, but it is a fact that some of the Northern States have grown in illiteracy.”
The New York Times
The Chapel was used for the first time for Commencement. The largest graduating class to date, 176 students, received their degrees. President Taylor announced that total raised in a year-long campaign for the endowment fund amounted to $171,834. As John D. Rockefeller had offered to match any amount up to $200,000, the endowment fund now stood at $343,668.
Additional subscriptions brought the final amount raised by the end of January, 1905, to $175,000, which Rockefeller matched.The New York Times
A feature story, “How Vassar Did It,” in The New York Times credited an energetic, well-organized alumnae body and the college’s current students—along with “Mr. John D. Rockefeller, one of the trustees”—for averting a “crisis” at Vassar by raising $173,000 for the endowment fund in the recent campaign. Noting Vassar’s great success in building a strong student body and an excellent faculty and commending the nine buildings that had recently been “added to the material equipment of the college,” the article reported that before the campaign “the general endowment was practically nil.”
Among alumnae donors, “some few, some very few, drew their checks for $1,000,” but the gift committee had suggested donations of $30 “as the amount which the average individual might safely pledge and pay.” Individual subscriptions, the article said, “rarely exceeded $100.” Vassar calendars, Vassar fudge and Vassar blotters were sold by alumnae, and one graduate wrote “sketches of Vassar which sold at $1.25 a volume and brought in a neat sum.”
When asked what students were doing to help, one undergraduate answered: “Well, I guess I’ll have to own up that it’s the alumnae who are doing things this time. We girls on the campus are raising money chiefly by not doing things…. We’ve given all the way from ‘Phil’ [one of the two college proms, which was cancelled] to strawberries.”
Vassar was awarded a Grand Prix for an exhibition prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis that included models of its buildings and grounds, photographs and library and departmental exhibits.
Professor of Mathematics Achsah M. Ely ’68, a strong leader of the faculty and of the alumnae, died of a heart attack suffered while walking on the campus toward the Main Building.
In a pamphlet, Suggestions for the Year’s Study in History, Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon defined the “note topic,” later known to generations of history students at Vassar: “The topic is a study made of a limited field of history. It involves the use of various parallel authorities, it brings to a conclusion the reading done on the subject, and when finished it is in plan a miniature chapter of a book.” Notes were taken and the topic presented on the “history” or “topic” pad designed by Miss Salmon.
At the biennial business session of the AAVC, in Washington, the alumnae voted to establish a fellowship for Vassar graduates, to be awarded experimentally each year for five years.
The alumnae association of New York gathered at Delmonico’s for its annual meeting. President Taylor and John H. Finley, president of the College of the City of New York spoke, as did Colonel George Harvey, the editor of Harper’s Weekly. In his remarks, Col. Harvey spoke of the importance at the present time of women’s involvement with political matters. “I wish,” he told the alumnae, “that American women who have been trained to think, and who would really like to do something in the cause of progress and civilization, would take an interest in politics. The reasons why they have not done so in the past are well understood. The dominance of sordid and vulgar motives, the supremacy of the so-called professional politician, the instinctive repugnance of well-bred persons to distasteful associations, have constituted an impassable barrier.”
Still, Col. Harvey thought, women might—and should—direct useful thought to such issues as the sudden emergence of the United States as an international power. “Here, indeed,” he said, “is a situation demanding from duty most earnest thought. But withal how fascinating! How thrilling to trace the course and effect, here and there, and everywhere, of a changed policy as it embraces the globe! How interesting the study of the corollaries, which in moving times come to supplement, if not stultify, doctrines which formerly constituted the tenets of our National faith!”
In concluding his call to the Vassar alumnae, Col. Harvey, made an important distinction. “It is not,” he noted, “by the use of the ballot—the time for that has yet to come—but by the precedents and policies of the past and by the exercise of intuitive prescience in the future that this really noble work may be performed.
“Is not the ambition a worthy one? Is it not indeed inspiring? Is it not in very truth ideal? I ask you women of Vassar.”The New York Times
President Taylor announced that for the incoming Class of 1909 the trustees had agreed to increase tuition and residence fees, which had remained fixed since 1866 at $100 and $300 per annum. Each fee was increased by $50, thereby increasing the four-year cost of attending Vassar by a total of $400. The trustees also voted to limit the enrollment of the college to 1,000 students.
When Taylor announced the tuition increase in chapel the following hymn was sung:
O Lord, I know that all my life is portioned out for me
The changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see.
Accompanied by pianist André Benoist, violin virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler gave a recital at Vassar. An anonymous review in The Vassar Miscellany declared the recital “one of those rare occasions when violiinist and audience are in perfect sympathy. Mr. Kreisler proved himself master of his full-toned violin in the almsot liquid clearness of the trills and runs, in the accuracy and sweetness of the high flute tones and in the sonorous chord work, and, what is even more difficult, in the perfect phrasing and repose of the simpler songs.”
Fritz Kreisler appeared at Vassar again in 1915 as part of a subscription program for war relief and in 1920.
President Taylor announced that requests for admission to the college were markedly increased. Nearly 500 prospective students had applied for next fall, and other requests were for admission five or six years in the future. He said another residence hall on the quadrangle was needed, and until that was done the college population would remain at the current level, about 1,000 students.
The New York Times
In his baccalaureate sermon to the Class of 1905, President Taylor returned to a theme on which he had spoken out on several occasions, his concern with the vulnerability of the separation of church and state. Recent action by Congress, granting money for sectarian schools among Native Americans, seemed to him, once again, to blur this important line. While urging the graduates to strongly defend the separation doctrine, he emphasized also his belief that education without strong moral and spiritual components was a weakened or perhaps even a failed education. Ethics and morals could be taught, he told the class, without entering into religious matters.
The Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library was dedicated, Allen & Collens, architects. English Perpendicular Gothic in style, the building’s exterior was made of Germantown granite with trim and interior of Indiana limestone. The gift of Mary Clark Thompson, widow of trustee Frederick Thompson, the building could accommodate 360 readers and 150,000 volumes. Vassar’s collection contained more than 50,000 volumes and several thousand pamphlets; more than 200 periodicals were being received.
At the annual trustee meeting, the resignations of trustees F. P. Gates, John D. Rockefeller and Levi P. Morton were tendered and accepted, and George W. Perkins, Arthur L. Lasher and Edgar L. Marston were elected to succeed them. The gifts announced by the trustees ranged from $411.80 from Andrew Carnegie for books to $500,000 given by Mary Clark Thompson for the new library in memory of her husband, Frederick Ferris Thompson.
Among the new faculty appointments were three—Marian P. Whitney and Lilian Stroebe in German and Jane North Baldwin in physiology—who in years to come made extraordinary contributions to the college.
Fine weather welcomed a large crowd of alumnae, families and guests to Vassar’s 39th Commencement. The college’s largest graduating class to date, 200 members of the Class of 1905 received bachelor’s degrees. Honor students Edith Clark ’05, Margaret Tucker ’05, Linda Holloway ’05, Nina Raynor ’05, Sylvia Buffington ’05 and Corliss Babson ’05 read essays. In his remarks, President Taylor made the case once again for another residence hall, which, he said, would require $200,000.
In his address to the class, Supreme Court Justice David Josiah Brewer observed that the successful assimilation of immigrants as franchised citizens suggested that enfranchisement of women might be possible and even valuable to the nation. Going further, Brewer said, to great applause, that no one could be certain that, before these graduates’ hair turned grey, “a woman like Queen Victoria should not sit in the White House to glorify this Nation as Victoria glorified England.” The following day, The New York Times, reacted to this speculation: “This sentiment, at a female college, deserves the applause with which it appears that it was received. But it is not exactly a plausible prediction. The hair of this year’s graduates of Vassar will have turned gray, barring hair dye and idiopathy, in thirty years. Nobody can really look forward to the election of a female Chief Magistrate of the United States by 1935.”
A recent custom was continued at the class dinner when “cupid’s roll call” was called. If evidence to the contrary was presented when, at the calling of her name, a member of the class indicated she was not engaged, she was given three chances to change her response. Some twenty engagements were announced in the roll call.
In an innovation, the following morning many members of the class attended the wedding of Delia Athena Shepard ’05 to Karl C. Schuyler.
The New York Times
The Vassar trustees sold the Vassar Brewery and six adjacent buildings for $100,000.
The James Monroe Taylor Chair of Philosophy was established in appreciation of Dr. Taylor’s 19 years of service as President of Vassar. It was first held by Henry Heath Bawden, professor of philosophy from 1901 until 1907. Donations for the chair were received from trustees, alumnae and other friends of Vassar College.
Prior to its New York City opening, the English acting company under the direction of Ben Greet performed Shakespeare’s Henry V, in Poughkeepsie before a large crowd, the greater part of it Vassar students.
“Mr. Greet’s production, without the elaboration of heavy sets of scenery, allows time for an employment of all of the text, and the occasion was therefore of unusual interest to students….”The New York Times
Continuing a tradition begun in 1897, the annual ice carnival was held on Vassar Lake. “Fancy dress is the order for the evening and the lake is to be strung with Japanese lanterns.”
Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle
An addition at the rear of the Alumnae Gymnasium, designed by William Downing, was completed.
The San Francisco earthquake extended nearly 300 miles along the San Andreas Fault and left over 3,000 people dead.
Two school records fell in the annual Field Day. Alice Belding ’07, who held the record for throwing a baseball 195 feet, 3 inches, jumped 7 feet, 7 inches in the standing broad jump, bettering the record jump of Dora Merrill ’02 by an inch. Martha Gardner ’07 ran the 100-yard hurdle in 0:16 3/10, lowering the record set by Caroline Barnes ’05 of 0:17 1/10.
The junior class won the day with 43 points to 31 for the freshmen, 13 2/3 for the seniors and 11 1/3 for the sophomores.
The New York Times
The Philalethean Society produced another of Shakespeare’s plays at night on Sunset Hill. Japanese lanterns lit authentic Elizabethan stage settings and costumes as Inez Milholland ’09 played Romeo to the Juliet of Emily Ford ’06.
The New York Times reported faculty censorship of this year’s Vassarion. Pictures of students in hall plays portraying male roles were altered to obscure their knickerbockers.
The faculty censors relented after two years, and the 1909 Vassarion showed the masculine costumes of the thespians.
The board of trustees accepted the Carnegie Foundation pension plan for faculty. President Taylor was a trustee of the foundation between 1910 and 1914.
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 102 Members of the Class of 1906 at Commencement in the Chapel. The honors senior essayists were Susan Little Griggs ’06, Sidney Lewis ’06, Sarah Morris ’06, Alice Thurston McGirr ’06, Reba Hendrickson ’06 and Emily Ford ’06.
In his remarks, President Taylor announced that the trustees had approved spending $200,000 for the erection of a fifth residence hall in the residential quadrangle. This, he said, would permit the college to remove the severe limits in place for entering students and thus would make Vassar less exclusive.
The president also announced that trustee Dr. Henry M. Sanders had pledged $75,000 for a building, as yet undesignated, in memory of his wife’s interest in women’s education. The gift was to become Sanders Chemistry Building (1909), the first of two buildings Dr. Sanders gave to the college.
Vassar was among the 41 institutions on a provisional list of those eligible to receive benefits from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The foundation was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered by an act of Congress in 1906. The eligible group excluded institutions with state or municipal support or clear denominational ties and those falling below college level academic standards.
Professor of Geology and Mineralogy William Buck Dwight died suddenly at his summer home in Massachusetts. Dwight, who had come to Vassar as James Orton’s successor in 1878, was 73 years old.
A new residence hall was completed. First called “the fifth dormitory” and later known as “North,” the building was designed by the firm of Pilcher & Tachau. Lewis F. Pilcher, professor of art from 1900 until 1911, also taught architecture classes. He and his partner, William G. Tachau, designed the Frances A. Wood house (1904) and the Goodfellowship House (1908).
The new building’s eccentricities—a nine-story tower section (with a 30,000 gallon water tank under its roof and an elevator) behind a four-story, low-rise section and eclectic ornamentation including animal figures and grotesque masks—instantly set it apart from the other quadrangle halls’ simpler designs, causing some of the architect’s faculty colleagues to refer to it as “Pilcher’s crime.”
Two short poems by Alma deVries ’08 in The Vassar Miscellany suggest that some students were also bemused:
A Natural Query
Said a Freshman of wit quite vivacious:
“Will you pardon a question audacious
Behind your North Hall
Can you tell me at all
What that tall building is?—Oh, good gracious!”
A Pleasure Trip
A maiden whose name we must hide,
On the ninth floor of North once was spied.
When asked: “Have you friends here a few,
Or did you come for the view?”
Said, “No, I just came for the ride.”
At the time of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1915, the building was renamed Jewett House in honor of the college’s first president, Milo P. Jewett.
The announcement that a Maid’s Clubhouse would be built rewarded the efforts of many undergraduates and alumnae who raised the needed $10,000 and convinced the trustees both that some 200 maids, kitchen workers and other employees on campus were integral to the college and that ideas on which students and alumnae were allied should shape college policy.
To date, the effort had raised $8,478.41, and the rest was expected before the end of the calendar year. Professor Lewis Pilcher had drawn plans for a building containing a social hall, library, reading and sitting rooms, infirmary, bathrooms, gymnasium, locker room, kitchen and laundry. A junior, Ruth Weeks ’08, was chairman of the building committee.The New York Times
Snow early in the morning foretold difficult conditions for Vassar’s 13th annual Field Day, but the warmly-dressed crowd enjoyed the activities. In the fence vault, Mildred Vilas ’07 exceeded by a quarter inch, at 4 feet 10 ¾ inches, the standing record of Dora Ellen Merrill ’02, and Inez Milholland ’09 put the eight-pound shot 31 feet 8 7/8 inches, eclipsing the college record of 29 feet 11 ½ inches set in 1902 by Elsa Hillyer White ‘02.
The sophomore class won the day with 43 points, followed by the seniors with 23, the freshmen with 20 and the juniors with 13.The New York Times
Classical scholar Gilbert Murray, Fellow of New College, the University of Oxford, lectured on “Greece and Progress.” He also lectured at the college in 1912 on “The Chorus.”
In what was becoming a tradition, the Fourth Hall production by the Philalethean Society was by Shakespeare and was performed at night on Sunset Hill. “The sixteenth century setting” of Twelfth Night, The New York Times reported, “was adhered to as closely as possible. There was no scenery, and placards announced the changes of scene.”
Inez Milholland ’09 portrayed Hermione “with skill and success,” and her sister Vida Milholland ’10 “was excellent as Leontes.” Gertrude Taylor ’07 was Florizel, and the role of Perdita was played by Helen Hart ’07.
The Nativity, a 14th century English play, was presented as the year’s Second Hall Play. The prologue was spoken by Inez Milholland, ’09.
Samuel Parsons, an eminent landscape architect, was appointed by the trustees to make a plan for beautifying the entire campus. The Alumnae Association pledged half of the cost of the plan.
Poughkeepsie’s police chief was visited by a group of students engaged in “sociological studies” and led by Inez Milholland ’09, the president of the junior class. Inquiring into the system of probation currently applied to Poughkeepsie public school truants and after listening to some of their stories and excuses, the students astonished Chief McCabe and Judge Sherrill by personally taking charge of several of the most obstreperous urchins and changing their defiant attitudes to cooperation.
“The girls will act as probation officers, and the truants, as an earnest of their desire to reform, will have to report at the Y. W. C. A. at regular intervals.”The New York Times
The Goodfellowship Club House, a maid’s clubhouse, was completed, Pilcher & Tachau, architects. Built with funds raised by the Students’ Association from students and alumnae over a number of years, the clubhouse provided the maids with a place for gatherings and classes as well as for recreation and rest. In addition to $10,000 for the construction of the house, students, alumnae and club members eventually raised a $26,000 working endowment for the club.
A pamphlet published by the officers of the club in 1912 explained its purpose and operation: “The Good Fellowship Club is maintained for the use of all girls and women who work in the housekeeping department of Vassar, as well as for those who work in the homes of its teachers and officers.
“The Clubhouse is open every day—morning, afternoon and evening—and you are welcome to use the circulating library, the sewing machine, the laundry, the dining room and kitchen—and rest, work or play as you like. Classes are open to all members, with no charge after the club dues are paid, except for materials used in the cooking, sewing, mending, and fancy-work classes.”
The Steadfast Club (1890-91) was the first club of maids, students and faculty, and the Good Fellowship Club—later, Goodfellowship—for maids and students had been organized in 1902/03. Activities at the clubhouse—classes, dramatic productions, athletic teams and lectures—continued under the oversight of a house manager and a steering committee of faculty, students and alumnae through the 1930s and into the early 1940s.
“Late in May and early in June a group of suffragists led by Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch travelled by trolley up the Hudson Valley holding open air meetings. The most notable of these was held at Poughkeepsie near Vassar College.”International Year Book, 1908
Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 was the daughter of pioneer suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, with Lucretia Mott, organized the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.
Helen Clarke ’09 broke the running high jump record of Helen Babson ’05 at the annual Field Day with a jump of 4 feet 2 7/8 inches, 3/8 of an inch higher than Babson’s record, set in 1905. Miss Babson, assistant to the Vassar lady principal, ran across the field to present her with her grey championship sweater with a rose-colored “V” on it.
The sophomores won the day with 32 1/3 points to the 30 2/3 points of the juniors, the 28 2/3 points of the seniors and the 16 1/3 points of the freshmen.
Reviving a tradition, the junior class gave a moonlight sail on the Hudson to the graduating seniors. Travelling at the boat in trolley cars, the guests discovered on board a stage, complete with scenery and footlights. The play was “a travesty of Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House,’ the story being adapted to college affairs. It was called ‘A Poor House,’ and the Nora in Ibsen’s play was Bridget in the Vassar interpretation. The original story was cleverly satirized.
“The elevator boy at Vassar, angry because Bridget did not tip him while in college, brings her a lot of unpaid inn bills which he threatens to show her husband. Her husband and she have a quarrel, and Bridget leaves him because his neckties are always crooked.
“Miss Ruth [Elizabeth Presley ’09] did clever action as Bridget, and her imitation of Nazimova was voted a great success. Miss Montgomery Cooper ’09 as the husband was good, too.”The New York Times
Members of the Vassar branch of the Consumers League, starting to investigate conditions in Poughkeepsie shops and businesses, were forbidden to do so by President Taylor. The league, founded in 1899 by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, had been active at Vassar since 1900, and by 1908 The Vassar Miscellany was publishing the league’s manifestos and a “white list” of New York shops—those who met the league’s conditions for workers and practices.
Writing in The Vassarion, Helen Josselyn ’08, the president of the Athletic Association, explained her attraction to athletics. “Athletic games, as we aim to have them played… bring out the best that is in us. They develop keenness of perception, quickness of action, and, best of all, that large spirit of fairness which is the life of true sport. Class and college spirit each play their part, but this embraces and transcends them both, and is something to carry into our daily life and elsewhere.
Athletics are, moreover, one of the strongest unifying forces in college life, for they bring all classes together with a common aim.”
Preparing and reading his baccalaureate sermon with particular care and formality, President Taylor engaged his large audience in consideration of the radical tendencies he saw in the federal government and their auguries for the nation’s future.
“A startling change has come over American political thought,” he said. “I am not now referring to the vast increase, deplorable indeed, of war talk and war feeling, but to the more dangerous tendency to absorb legislative and even judicial powers into the executive department of the Government….
“It is a foolish, unwarranted faith in a Government, in its power to right the wrongs that only the people can right, and it is the cessation of government by the people and for the people, and…it is a death knell of democracy, a mortal stroke against the independence and the manhood of the citizen.”The New York Times
When President Taylor forbade a meeting on campus, Inez Milholland ’09 held a suffrage meeting in a small cemetery adjacent to the college.
“The meeting consisted of about forty undergraduates, ten alumnae, two male visitors, and Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch ‘78, Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Miss Helen Hoy ‘99, corporation counsel for the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, and Miss Rose Schneiderman of the Cap-Makers’ Union. Mrs. Blatch, in order to allay the fears of any member of the faculty who might chance that way, bore aloft a yellow banner on which was inscribed in large black letters, ‘Come, let us reason together.’”Woman’s Journal, June 13, 1908.
The New York Times, on June 10, reported President Taylor’s indignation “over what he styles the bad manners of woman suffragists, who…persuaded about forty students to attend a meeting outside the college grounds in opposition to his known wishes. The students were led by Miss Inez Milholland, the only English girl in the college. She is an ardent suffragist.
“Dr. Taylor said…that Miss Milholland had given a frank explanation of the matter, but nevertheless the girls who offended will be disciplined. Last year an attempt to introduce suffragist notions was thwarted by Dr. Taylor, who said that Vassar did not propose to be exploited in the matter.”
Several thousand guests came to the campus for Class Day exercises for the Class of 1908, which began at 4 pm as the 211 members of the class proceeded from the Main Building to the south steps of the Library. Twenty-four sophomores bore the chain of daisies, gathered by the class, which was over 60 feet long and a foot in diameter and arranged on the Library steps in front of the seniors’ seats. Class president Martha Pattison Bowie ’08 welcomed the guests, and the class singing took place. The procession then moved to the south side of the Library, where the sophomores arranged the chain of flowers around the tree in a large circle, within which the seniors walked until each had thrown a flower into the pit in which the class records were to be buried. Matthew Vassar’s spade was passed by May Margaret Bevier ’08, who gave the senior charge, to Ruth Presley ’09, who gave the acceptance from the junior class. A dialogue between class historians Georgianna Tichenor ’08 and Caroline Gore Sheppard ’08 told of the class’s years at the college.
Earlier in the day, at the alumnae luncheon—held in the new residence hall, North Hall—Martha Bowie spoke about the class’s future relations with the alumnae, and the president of the Students’ Association, Mary R. Babbott ‘08, told the alumnae of the association’s work during the year.
Among the alumnae speakers were Mary P. Rhoades ’68 who spoke of Vassar as it was when she was in college, Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 who compared the values of coeducation with those of women’s colleges and Minnie McKinlay Smith ’88, who spoke about “the race-suicide prophecy and its chances of fulfillment by Vassar graduates.”
In the evening, President and Mrs. Taylor held a reception in Main Building between the hours of 8 and 11.
As the Class of 1908 entered the chapel for Vassar’s 42nd Commencement, the processional was played by Mrs. Gertrude Frothingham Williams of the Class of 1868, Vassar’s second graduating class.
Six five-minute essays were presented by honor students. Eleanor Bertine ’08 thought that “The Problem of the Street Gang” could be best addressed by expanding the development of boy’s clubs. Florence Bullard ’08 discussed “Nature Books and Outdoor Life,” suggesting that recent writings about nature were reacquainting many people to “the art of simple living out of doors” that was an American commonplace at the middle of the last century. Ruth Smiley True ’08 examined the ways in which yellow journals, moving picture shows and vaudeville were “Popular Substitutes for Art” and the ways in which they weren’t.
Jessie Margaret McGarr ’08 advanced reasons why Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” might be thought “A Modern Philosopher of Democracy.” In “Some Greek Ideals for the Twentieth Century,” Mildred Hardenbrook ’08 observed that “Leisure to the Greeks was not idleness, but a higher kind of activity, not relaxation, but an occupation that was joyous and self-imposed.” Taking as a theme the “solvent or effervescent” natures of laughter in “The Chemistry of Laughter,” Ruth Mary Weeks praised both merry mirth and “the more thoughtful solvent laughter which is the defense of the cultured nature against the incongruity of life.”
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 211 members of the Class of 1908, and in his remarks suggested the need for a new building for the English department, a museum and an art gallery.The New York Times, The Vassar Miscellany
On her return from the International Woman Suffrage Alliance meeting in Amsterdam, Professor of Astronomy Caroline Furness ’91 helped gather signatures for a petition to Congress in favor of woman suffrage.
Abby Leach ’85 Professor of Greek, received a gold cup from the Emperor of Japan in recognition of her services to education, the first such presentation made to a woman. In May, she had been a guest of honor at a dinner at the Astor Hotel given by Japanese Consul-General Midzuno. One of the other guests was Ambassador Takahira. The other guests were people who had received decorations from the Emperor, and Leach was told that he wished to recognize her similarly.
“The cup is of solid gold, very heavy, and of graceful design. It came wrapped in a double square of Habutai silk, of a kind made only for imperial use, while the box is of chrysanthemum wood, which is also dedicated to imperial use. Inside the bowl is engraved a chrysanthemum, the imperial emblem.”The Evening Post (Wellington, NZ)
The gift of Dr. Henry M. Sanders, a trustee, in memory of his wife, Eleanor Butler Sanders, the Sanders Laboratory of Chemistry was completed, Ewing & Chappelle, architects. Dr. Sanders later presented to the Art Gallery an important group of etchings, and in 1926 Sanders Physics building, also given in memory of Mrs. Sanders, opened.
Alumnae attendance was large for the Vassar Students’ Aid Society’s “Old College Afternoon” at the Hotel Astor in New York. A highlight of the gathering was the small group of silver spoons from Vassar Female College. The silverware had been recalled and destroyed in 1867 after the college officially dropped the word “female” from its name, but President Taylor was pleased to send the few pieces that survived to be auctioned for a good cause, student scholarships. Also on the “cosmopolitan” program, reported The New York Times, was “a clever whistling of Fritze Scheff’s ‘Drum Song’” and an original play by Ethelyn Emery Keays ’95 presenting “a study of present-day conditions in Japan.”
Along with professors from Wellesley and the University of Chicago and several prominent Socialists, Inez Milholland ’09 spoke on the teaching of socialism at the second general meeting of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, in New York City.
Under the auspices of the Socialist Club of Poughkeepsie, Inez Milholland ’09 spoke about the radical methods of “suffragettes” in England, where she lived much of the time. “There are two camps of women favoring suffrage in England. One is composed of suffragists, the other of suffragettes. The first have been for sixty years ‘acting real ladylike,’ just asking for women’s rights, the latter demand and propose to get those rights…. So long as the injustice of one class ruling another is kept up, so long will the suffragettes keep up the fight, even if we have to do some very unladylike things in order to win. Ridicule us and we smile, put us in jail and we are received with demonstrations when we come out, a fine advertisement of our cause all along the line.” The New York Times
Suffragists held a meeting on campus. “A canvass of the college was made to collect every possible objection and all were discussed by suffrage partisans. There was much enthusiasm.” The students who had organized the meeting were joined on the platform by several members of the faculty.
The New York Times
The 400th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin was celebrated with a special program and an exhibition in the Library.
Joaquin Nabuco, Brazil’s first ambassador to the United States, spoke on the 16th century Portuguese poet Luís de Camoens in a lecture, “Camoens—The Poet.” Of the poet’s love poems, “M.O.T” wrote in The Vassar Miscellany, “the most beautiful of these, written while Camoens was in India, are very emotional. In them the idea of love lying concealed in the eyes is often expressed. In the frequent use of a Portuguese word containing the idea of memory, love, grief and longing, which expresses the loneliness and sadness of the whole race, Camoens shows how truly he expresses the race sentiment.”
After their largely polemical “discussion” in March, the campus suffragists were formally prohibited from holding further meetings. But they devised an event that, as The New York Times put it, while it “absolutely contravened the spirit of President Taylor’s prohibition, obeyed it to the letter.” Word had gone out during the day urging students to come to a certain room in Main Building that evening, and as it was the room of a suffragist leader, nearly three-quarters of the student body came.
There, they were invited to visit the “tableaux to answer the objections to suffrage,” which some 100 students set up in dozens of students’ rooms. Going from room to room and floor to floor, the viewers discovered no meetings, no speeches, but “wordless pictures,” students in tableaux vivants. A “barker” in each room described the scenes: “Those Who Do Not Want the Vote—Forty Years Behind The Times” showed old maids with pussycats; “Those Who Do Want the Vote” presented faculty girls; “The Polls as They Are Supposed to Be” presented sluggish pols in a dive; “Polls as We Found Them in Denver” revealed alert poll watchers, reading Paul Kellogg’s progressivist Pittsburg Survey. “Another tableau showed a most realistic field hospital tent scene, where very gory soldiers were being cared for by lovely women as Red Cross nurses. ‘Peace’ was standing in a little cubbyhole, which on ordinary occasions serves as a clothes closet.”
A week later, “Exaggeration,” a response to the event in The Vassar Miscellany, admitted that all were “entertained and some of us set to thinking seriously” by the tableaux, but questioned their efficacy in bringing about the inevitable “toleration” of women in the public sphere. “To show that her heart is in the measure she is backing,” the writer asked, “does woman have to be disorderly and hot-headed? Is is thus that she hopes to prove to stubborn husbands and brothers her mental superiority, and her fitness to handle the reins of government? Remember the toast of an English gentleman just after a disagreeable episode in his household: ‘Here’s to Woman, once our superior, now our eaqual.’ Don’t delay the end in view by actions dissapointing and doubt-arousing.” The New York Times, The Vassar Miscellany
At the annual Field Day, senior Inez Milholland, in setting two Vassar records, broke a national one as well. She threw a basketball 77 feet 9 inches, bettering the record set in 1902 by Harriet J. MacCoy ’03 by 4 inches. Milholland topped her own mark when she put the 8-pound shot 31 feet 9 ½ inches, an American women’s record which stood until it was broken in 1913 by Elizabeth Hardin ’16.
The seniors won the day, with 48 ½ points to 30 for the juniors, 16 2/3 for the sophomores and 12 for the freshmen.
—The Vassar Miscellany
Baroness Uriu—a student in the School of Music from 1878 to 1881—and her husband, Vice-Admiral Baron Uriu Sotokichi visited Vassar. Speaking at the alumnae banquet, the baroness extended greeting to them from Princess Oyama—Stematz Yamakawa ’82. Noting that while the spirit of the college hadn’t changed, she observed that Vassar had obviously changed. “We, too, have changed,” she said, “Japanese women have come forward, and each year finds new and great advances. There is no Vassar among us, yet, but education for women and educational methods are progressing…. Many of your own women have good schools in Japan for our girls, helping them to become good and influential wives.”
The New York Times
At a rainy commencement, President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 217 members of the senior class, five members of which presented senior honors essays “marked by humor, which caused more merriment than has ever been seen before at Vassar [Commencements].”
At the commencement luncheon, the Baroness Uriu and her husband presented Vassar with a silver bowl which Emperor Mutsuhito and Empress Haruko of Japan had given them in appreciation of their furtherance of Japanese-American relations at home and abroad. The gift to the college, a token of gratitude, was made with the permission of the Emperor and Empress.
“The bowl is made of solid silver as thick as a silver dollar. It is about twelve inches across and stands ten inches high. The bowl is decorated in enamel and hammered representing in color the flowers of Japan, the wisteria and chrysanthemum, also the heron, the bird of that country, and the official mark of the royal house.”The New York Times
The college took part in the Hudson-Fulton celebration, a joint recognition of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the Hudson River and the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s grant of exclusive right to steam navigation of the Hudson. (Fulton and his father-in-law, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, had started regular runs of their “North River Steamboat” in 1807.)
The Poughkeepsie phase of the celebration began on October 2, when the “Clermont” and the “Half Moon” arrived with an escort of government ships. Aboard Col. John Jacob Astor’s yacht Nourmahal, the Poughkeepsie committee took command of the ceremonial vessels and brought the officers of the fleet to the Poughkeepsie landing where large crowds of citizens welcomed them. In the evening, thousands lined the riverfronts on both sides of the Hudson to see the brilliantly illuminated fleet and the city’s largest fireworks display ever. During the fireworks, Emily Hull ’12 suffered a broken arm when a section of a grandstand collapsed.
On October 3, a Sunday, religious ceremonies and a sacred concert were held on College Hill. The largest crowd in the city’s history, estimated at 20,000, attended a mass meeting in the afternoon. The Celebration Committee, the 21st Regiment Band and a male chorus of 150 voices shared the platform with President Taylor and Dean Patrick Daly of St. Mary’s Church, the featured speakers. Several hundred sailors and seamen from the fleet were among the audience.
During the afternoon, the officers of the fleet visited the college, and 800 Vassar students were entertained on board the several warships assembled on the river. Illustrated lectures were given by Professor Lucy M. Salmon and Professor Laura J. Wylie, and Governor and Mrs. Charles Evans Hughes were guests of President and Mrs. Taylor.
In the evening special services were held in the city’s churches. At the Washington Street Church, an address was given by the Rev. C. S. Bullock, an impersonator of Robert Fulton, who spoke about Fulton’s life and accomplishments.
A half holiday was given the students on October 4th, when the state celebration centered in Poughkeepsie. A parade featured many of the floats from the earlier parade in New York City, and Governor Hughes presided over a reception at Eastman Park. The New York Times
A delegation of Vassar suffragist students met Inez Milholland ’09 at the Poughkeepsie train station. Rejected, in the past week, by a majority of the Harvard trustees and the new president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, after convincing a majority of the faculty at Harvard Law School to admit her, Milholland visited Vassar before seeking—and gaining—admission to the law school of New York University. Asked by a reporter at the train station how the suffrage cause at Vassar was faring after her graduation, “she replied that she didn’t know. ‘I left it in the hands of the most prominent girls there,’ she said. ‘I can tell you when I come back.’”
The New York Times