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In recognition of the notable service of the alumnae, the trustees voted to increase by two—to five—the number of alumnae representatives on the board of trustees.

The committee on admission was formed with C. Mildred Thompson ’03, assistant professor of history, as its head.  The established process—admission of new classes through the dean’s office, primarily on priority of date of application—had troubled MacCracken when he was at Smith, and it had been part of the discussion that led to the formation of the four-college conference.  Many better-qualified students were being turned down or deferred for uncertain future consideration, and less able students were often admitted on the basis of registration at birth for a place at Vassar.

A new system was gradually introduced. Priority of application was still observed, with close faculty attention to Vassar’s entrance requirements, but a number of “honor students—ten in the class entering in 1916—were admitted from the deferred group based on academic merit alone. The next year, 25 such students were admitted, and by 1928 “the college was fully committed to competition for all places in the student body, and all students were admitted by the same method….

“[MacCracken] thought that the students who were most eager to enter Vassar and were sufficiently equipped mentally to succeed in the competition would undoubtedly constitute a clientele the likes of which the college had not previously known.”

—Elizabeth A. Daniels, Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College

At President MacCracken’s instigation, the Permanent Conference of Four Colleges—Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley—was established. MacCracken had proposed the collaboration to the presidents of the other colleges on October 16, 1915, when they attended his inauguration.

Pablo Casals, Spanish Catalan cellist, conductor and composer, gave a recital under the auspices of the Students’ Association.

John Masefield, British novelist and poet, lectured on “English Poetry.” Masefield’s first collection of poetry, The Story of a Round House and Other Poems, published in 1915, was followed the next year by Salt Water Poems and Other Poems and Philip the King and Other Poems.

He lectured at Vassar again in 1918.

Endorsing “force to enforce peace” and praising the Monroe Doctrine as the mainstay of US international relationships, former President William Howard Taft lectured on “World Relationships and Their Effect on National and International Policies.” The ex-president’s concern, reported The Vassar Miscellany Weekly, was that the “most valuable thing we have,” the United States government, was under threat from the natural cupidity of other nations. “Shall we permit this cupidity to be diverted towards our most precious possession? It is our duty to safeguard this possession and remove this constant temptation from them.”

Defeated in 1912 in a bid for a second term, Taft and a group of eminent Americans founded the League to Enforce Peace in June of 1915.

At President MacCracken’s instigation, Vassar opened an Occupation Bureau, later the Vocational Bureau and then the Career Development Office.

The Ellen H. Richards Memorial Fund was established through a gift from the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) in memory of Ellen Swallow Richards ’1870. Dr. Richards, a chemist and leader in the home economics movement, was dedicated to broadening the field of science for women. In 1873—having been admitted as a special student, as a test case—she was the first woman to receive the B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The founder of the National Home Economics Association, Richards was, at the time of her death in 1912, head of the Department of Social Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Beyond Vassar

The Battle of Verdun began. An attempt, according to the German general at its head, to “bleed the French white,” the inconclusive battle of attrition continued for nine months, costing 430,000 German lives and 540,000 French lives.

Commemorating the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s death, the Shakespeare Garden, suggested by President MacCracken, was laid out along the Fonteyn Kill by Shakespeare classes of Winifred Smith ’04 and Emmeline Moore’s classes in botany. The original plantings were seeds of pansies and other flowers from Shakespeare’s gardens in Stratford-on-Avon.

The following fall, based on research by Professor Smith’s students of plants in Shakespeare’s works, “Alumnae who have gardens” were asked “to contribute to the new Shakespeare garden at the college, bulbs, roots, plants or seeds of the kinds herein below mentioned. They will confer a favor on those who have the garden in charge if they will communicate with Miss Emmeline Moore, Vassar College, before sending in their contributions….” A two-page list of Shakespearean plants accompanied the announcement.

The Vassar Quarterly

The Shakespeare-Cervantes Tercentenary was celebrated on Founder’s Day with readings by the English actress Edith Wynne Mathison of scenes from Don Quixote and an evening production of The Tempest in the Out-of-Door Theatre. “President MacCracken,” observed The Vassar Miscellany Weekly, “reminded us that the celebrations were first of all a memorial to the Founder, although our special interest this year centered in Shakespeare and Cervantes.”

Edith Conant ’18 set a new Vassar record, 0:12 4-10, for the 100-yard dash at the annual Field Day, breaking the record of Fannie James ’04. The Class of 1916 won the day with 41 points to 36 for ’18, 23 for ’19 and 16 for ’17.

By vote of the senior class, the entire sophomore class carried the daisy chain on a rainy Class Day. Agitated alumnae argued that the departure from tradition represented a crime against art and an artificial democracy.

In a less controversial innovation, the senior class presented the story of its four years at the college in the Out-of-Door Theatre in the form of a costume pageant with dances, rather than with the traditional recitations.

The college announced that the total for the $1,000,000 alumnae endowment fund stood at $818,000. The Class of 1914 made a reunion gift of $12,500.

247 graduates received their diplomas at Vassar’s 49th Commencement, in the Chapel. President MacCracken’s commencement address, “Everyman’s Hamlet,” focused on the idea that “humanity” was Vassar’s essential object of study.

In the evening, at the senior class dinner, “one-quarter of the members of the class ‘confessed’ their betrothals.”

The New York Times

In the first wedding to be held in the Chapel, Martha Isadore White ’16, daughter of Professor of Mathematics Henry Seeley White, married Erwin Stuart Hubbard.

“Beginning tomorrow morning,” President MacCracken announced in the Chapel, “Vassar College, by vote of the faculty, will have a system of open marks.” Students had agitated since 1885 to know their marks, but until this time they had only been permitted to know their class standing.

Beyond Vassar

Woodrow Wilson was re-elected. In a campus poll students outvoted the faculty and staff to give Republican Charles Evans Hughes a large majority.

Beyond Vassar

Germany conducted its first air raid on London, hoping to turn British air activity toward defense and away from offensive action against German air forces.

As “Our Christmas Gift,” The Vassar Miscellany Weekly announced that students had raised over $2,000 for an ambulance overseas and about $4,600 to aid Edith Wharton’s tuberculosis hospitals in France. The American author, long resident in France, had declared in a letter to The New York Times in September 1916 her engagement with a “hardworking committee of French and American members,” who intended to organize “a formation of American sanatoriums where French soldier affected with tuberculosis will receive the most modern and scientific care,” under the direction of “an American specialist on tuberculosis.”

“A cable was received this week from Mrs.Wharton in response to our promise to aid,” The Miscellany Weekly reported, “thanking us for our interest and help.”

The Vassar Dramatic Workshop, a product of Vassar’s first class in playwriting, taught by Professor of English Gertrude Buck, gave its first production, a one-act play adapted from Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf’s short story, “A Christmas Guest.”

Vassar was the first college to offer a course in drama and to use the theater in the English curriculum.

The Years