Ratification of the covenant of the League of Nations was endorsed by 901 of the 1,100 students at Vassar.
Eighty-five members of the Vassar faculty joined the Poughkeepsie Trade and Labor Council in sending letters to the New York State Assembly protesting the ouster of five duly elected Socialist members on charges of “disloyalty.” During a period of international anxiety about a “rising tide” of socialism, the ensuing judiciary hearings and the final decision—a four-to-one vote on April 2 expelling the assemblymen—aroused varied comment: a17-year-old Brooklyn girl testified that she’d seen one of the men spit on the American flag, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt vehemently supported the men and New York Board of Aldermen President Fiorello LaGuardia succinctly advised, “seat them or shoot them.”
Ratified on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution went into effect, prohibiting the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for consumption.
Owing to the worldwide influenza epidemic, now entering its third year, students were told to remain on campus for the “mid-year” break. While not absolutely forbidden to leave for nearby cities, they were told that permission to travel would be given only in urgent circumstances.
The flu pandemic started in Europe and was first seen in the United States in January 1918. By that fall, at least 3,000 cases had been recorded in Poughkeepsie, and percautions were taken on campus, while campus groups reached out to assist local health agencies. In October 1918, money was raised on campus to aid local organizations, emergency accommodations were set up for ailing staff members, most of them campus residents, and two students with nursing qualifications left college for two weeks to assist with influenza cases at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
A month after the curtailment of the “mid-year” break Dr. Elizabeth Burr Thelberg ’13, the college physician reported that the number of flu cases on campus had dropped by half from the 113 the year before, and called on “all members of the community” to continue their vigilence.
The Folklore Foundation was established at Vassar by the gift of an anonymous donor. Anthropologist Martha Warren Beckwith, who had studied with Franz Boas at Columbia, joined the faculty as research professor on the Folklore Foundation, the first such post in the country.
Beckwith taught a folklore seminar each semester, and her students often gathered examples of Hudson Valley folklore, some of which President MacCracken used in Blythe Dutchess (1958). In all, the Folklore Foundation issued 14 volumes of research by Beckwith and others, and it sponsored lectures and programs including in 1932 a presentation by girls from Hawaii, one of Beckwith’s primary research areas.
The project’s donor, Beckwith’s childhood friend Annie Alexander, a naturalist and sugar heiress, had promised support for the classes, lectures and publications for as long as Beckwith was associated with Vassar. Despite efforts by Beckwith and President MacCracken to extend it, the foundation’s work ended with her retirement in1938.
American poet Vachel Lindsay read his poems.
“Vachel Lindsay was so exalted by the success of his reading of ‘The Congo’ and other poems that he serenaded the seniors afterwards, as they hung perilously from the corridor windows of Main. He made up his own cheer for Vassar, borrowing an apothegm from Josh Billings, whom he was delighted to find as local hero. He chanted:
Better not to know so many things.
Than to know so much that ain’t so!
Vassar! Vassar! Vassar!
It took hours to get him to bed, for he was intoxicated with a far more heady wine than mere alcohol.”Henry Noble MacCracken, The Hickory Limb
Lindsay was quoting from the Affurisms: Slips of the Pen (1865) by American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw, who lived for many years in Poughkeepsie, working as a journalist and auctioneer. His humorous pieces under the pen name “Josh Billings” brought him considerable fame in the later years of the 19th century.
The Mary Augusta Scott Chair of English was established by bequest of Mary Augusta Scott ’76. Dr. Scott, teacher of rhetoric and Anglo-Saxon at Vassar in 1882-1883, was the first woman to hold a fellowship at Yale University and one of the first group of women at Yale to receive the PhD, in 1894. An Elizabethan scholar, Dr. Scott was a professor of English at Smith College from 1902 until her death in 1917. Her most notable scholarly work, Elizabethan Translations from the Italian (1915), was published in the Vassar Semi-Centennial Series, and she spoke on “Spacious Days at Vassar College” at the college’s 50th anniversary observances.
The Scott chair was first held by Laura Johnson Wylie ’77, professor of English from 1895 until 1924.
“A trolley car loaded with Vassar College girls ran away down Main Street hill here today. It was stopped at the wharf at the Hudson River by a concrete bumper. The occupants were badly shaken up and frightened. Slippery rails caused the motorman to lose control of the car.
“Many of the girls tried to jump, but were prevented by the conductor, who would not allow the doors to be opened.”The New York Times
Dr. Winifred Clara Cullis, formerly at the London School of Medicine for Women and the first female professor of physiology at the University of London, gave a series of lectures on the Ellen H. Richards Fund.
The art department presented an exhibition of paintings by American realist George Bellows.
“So great is the interest in baseball at Vassar College this Spring,” The New York Times reported, “that it is likely that the Athletic Association will make the game a major sport to rank with hockey and basket ball.”
Scenes of its first observance were reenacted for Founder’s Day, and President MacCracken eulogized Matthew Vassar. The junior class won the annual singing contest, and students impersonated figures from Vassar’s history in an evening event.
Led by history professor Louise Fargo Brown, 20 seniors went to Albany to protest the “Lusk bills,” two bills introduced by Senator Clayton Lusk and passed by the State Legislature requiring certification of loyalty to “the institutions and laws” of the country from teachers in public schools and empowering the state board of regents to revoke the accreditation of any private school whose teachings were “detrimental to the public interest.” Primarily aimed at socialist and communist “infiltration,” the laws were called “pernicious” by Brown’s colleague in the history department Lucy Maynard Salmon, “because they put a premium on the concealment of ideas.”
New York Governor Alfred E. Smith vetoed these measures along with four similar bills on May 19, declaring that the teacher certification bill “deprives teachers of their right to freedom of thought. It limits the teaching staff of the public schools to those only who lack courage or the mind to exercise their legal right to just criticism of existing institutions.”
The New York Times
The sophomore class won the 26th annual field day with 44 points to 38 ½, 17 ½ and 16 for the juniors, freshmen and seniors. Rita Fuguet set a new college record of 31 feet, 3/8 inch for the hop, skip and jump.
Irish poet William Butler Yeats spoke and read from his poems in the Students’ Building. After reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” Yeats noted the early influences on him of Henry David Thoreau and the natural world. One learned to imagine, he said, from nature, while one learned to “observe” (which he defined as making “unnecessary observations”) from schools and colleges. Five-sixths of the world, he declared, saw apparitions, “only you don’t, when you get to college.”
A writer in The Miscellany News pondered the poetic presence of Ireland’s long social turmoil in light of Yeats’s remarks. “It is the visionary, impractical quality that the Irish possess and their passionate love of tradition that lead them to revolt constantly against England’s authority. A stranger manifestation of this traditional character of their thought is the existing mingling of the ideas of the pagan and Chrisitan Paradise, vividly brought out in the poems ‘The Happy Townland’ and ‘Running to Paradise.’” The Miscellany News
Yeats lectured at Vassar on “The Intellectual Revival in Ireland” in December 1903.
After being reassured at the baccalaureate service the previous day by the Rev. Robert Elliott Speer, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Missions, that he who “says that times are the worst that have ever been known…betrays an imperfect historical perspective,” the 257 members of the Class of 1920 were addressed at Commencement by President MacCracken, who spoke of “The Castle of Ladies,” a game at mediaeval courts where ladies sat enthroned in a miniature castle and were “assaulted” by rose blossoms. The game symbolized, he said, “that human trait which insists on making sport out of the tragic reality of life. They played in the Middle Ages at a siege…which [in reality] lasted for months and years and killed hundreds.” Then, reminding his audience of the recent bloody sacrifice of young Englishmen at the battle of the Dardanelles, MacCracken noted “the most popular fox trot of the year…’Dardanella,’” asking, “Is it possible for the spirit of play to commit a more grievous sin against the spirit of heroic youth? Have we changed so much after all?”
Gifts to the college of over $600,000 were announced including $110,000 from Harriet Trumbull Williams ’70 for a residence hall for members of the faculty. Three master’s degrees were awarded, and although The New York Times had earlier reported a shortage of daisies, the daisy chain was revived for the occasion.
By a one-vote margin, the Tennessee General Assembly became the 36th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution, thus enabling women to vote.
The annual fee for tuition and residence was raised to $880. Faculty salaries ranged from $1,200 for beginning instructors to $3,600 for full professors after five years’ service.
A reception welcomed members of the Class of ’24, and the college announced that ten nationalities were represented this year. Vassar students came from Canada, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, England, Hawaii, Porto Rico, Serbia, Sweden and Russia. The New York Times
Jan Masaryk, Czechoslovakian chargé d’affaires and son of Czech President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, urged international cooperation in an address in the Chapel. “A family of nations,” he said, “there must absolutely be.”
He was later entertained at the President’s House by five Czech students, members of the Class of 1922 brought to Vassar through President MacCracken’s efforts and those of Masaryk’s sister Alice and Ruth Crawford Mitchell ’12.
A keynote of the college’s observance of the 600th anniversary observance of Dante’s death was an address by Professor of Italian Bruno Roselli at the Nelson House, Poughkeepsie. Led by Professor Roselli, Vassar students took part the following June in a pilgrimage by 120 American students to Dante’s tomb in Ferrara, Italy.
The Salary Endowment Fund was inaugurated with the faculty’s request that the trustees accept $500,000 from the General Education Board—a philanthropic endowment founded in 1902 by John D. Rockefeller and his principal philanthropic advisor, Rev. Frederick P. Gates—on condition that an additional $1,500,000 be raised. Edna W. Brezee ’05 was campaign director for the alumnae.
The General Education Board contributed $200,000 to Vassar’s general endowment campaign in 1915. Rockefeller and Gates were former Vassar trustees.
The policies and platform of the Republican presidential nominee, Ohio Senator Warren Harding—particularly his “America first” rejection of the League of Nations and his repudiation of the progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt—gave rise to calls for Republicans to “bolt” the party. President MacCracken joined the presidents of Oberlin, Smith, Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke—all officers of the League to Enforce Peace—in declaring that he would vote “the straight Democratic ticket.”
MacCracken said, “As one who has voted the Republican ticket in years past, I should like to be able to vote for the Republicans…. There is a limit, however, to party allegiance, and the actions of the Republican Party, both as to nominees and platform, have stretched my loyalty to the breaking point. I feel justified, therefore, in asking to be counted on the side of State welfare and national honor.”
The New York Times
In the first election in which women were able to vote, Vassar’s straw poll gave the eventual winner, Warren G. Harding, 594 votes and 301 votes to Democrat James M. Cox.
On the anniversary of the Armistice, the college welcomed the “French tank” to the campus. The 40-ton, camouflaged Saint-Charmond tank had been put out of commission by a German shell in 1918 at the battle of Chateau-Thierry while leading American forces to an Allied victory. A gift from the French government, it commemorated the services of some 150 Vassar women in France during World War I and its aftermath.
In a “christening” celebration, the students marched around the tank carrying French and American flags and singing the “Marseillaise” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Among the speakers were Margaret Lambie ’07, the leader of the “Vassar Unit” that served near Verdun, J. A. M. de Sanchez, head of the Economic Division of the French Commission in the United States and President MacCracken. Mireille Holland ’22 spoke for the student body, in French.
The tank stood between Jewett and Josselyn halls, a memorial, landmark, hideout and faculty children’s plaything, until it was removed in the summer of 1934.
Having spent the afternoon coaching members of the Speech Class 87 in reading her new one-act play Aria da Capo, Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17 read from her poems in the Students’ Building. “The audience… was so large that it was necessary to adjourn to Students’ Building… Miss Millay read her poems with an informality which captivated the audience at once, and which seemed her especial prerogative as a very recent graduate. Her interpretation of her poetry, simple and unconscious of self, lent it especial charm.”
Vassar Miscellany News
Abbé Ernest Dimnet, French correspondent for The Saturday Review and faculty member at the College Stanislas in Paris, lectured on “What Americans Should Seek in France.” “Too many people,” he said, “go abroad prepared to find what they have left behind. Americans go to France and return disgusted because our telephone system is poor and because we have not so many mechanical inventions.” “M. Dimnet,” reported The Miscellany News, “compared such Americans with the Frenchman who came to America and was grieved at the lack of Chateaux…. He also stated that Americans will find Frenchmen delightful talkers, exhibiting a rapid play of mind around facts rather than taking the matter of fact attitude of Americans and Englishmen…. In concluding M. Dimnet said that were the barriers of language broken down, Americans would find that they had in them ‘a great capacity to feel French.’”
Visiting the Vassar Library, Abbé Dimnet asked his guides, “I wonder if you realize how fortunate you are?” “He especially,” said The Misc., “admired the open-shelf system and the accesibility of all the books. ‘You learn so much just by coming into contact with the backs of books as you search for the ones you want.’ There is nothing like this system in the French libraries. It is very hard to get books within a reasonable length of time. Even the professors have great difficulty.”
Speaking on “Hardy and Meredith—a Contrast,” British novelist and lecturer John Cowper Powys asserted that the two modern novelists were “fundamentally poets,” according to The Vassar Miscellany News, “and it is in their poetry that they betray their attitude toward life. Meredith is an optimist, Harday pessimist, both are philosophers. But Meredith’s philosophy is of the sort that passes away. It is an intellectual clue to the universe, a sort of ethical propaganda, which Meredith uses, exlploits and tries to convert us to.” Hardy conceived man, by contrast, the Misc. writer said, “as an instinctive, irrational being…the direct antithesis to Meredith’s intellectualism…. His pessimism springs not from bitterness caused by a personal misfortune, but from a sense of [the] personal injustice of the world; it is a deep pity for things that die hurt; it is a vision of things, and not a mere theory.”
A concert by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolai Sokoloff, was the first of six appearances by the orchestra at Vassar, gifts of Mary Castle Norton ex-’77. Maestro Sokolff’s program included the Rachmaninoff Symphony No 2, in E Minor, the prelude to Saint-Saëns Le Déluge featuring violinist Louis Edlin, the Danses Caracteristiques from Tschaikowsky’s ballet Casse-Noissette, and the prelude to Wagne’s Die Meistersinger. Writing in The Miscellany News, “L.K.” found Sokoloff’s “reading of the whole” of Rachmaninoff’s symphony “unusually sympathetic and convincing,” and she observed that the orchestra’s appearance “won the whole-hearted appreciation of all who heard it.”
The Cleveland Symphony was the culmination of the lifelong work of Adella Prentiss Hughes ’90, a music major at Vassar and a Cleveland native, who was the first woman in America to establish and manage a symphony orchestra. Beginning her impresarial career in 1898, she founded the Musical Arts Association in Cleveland in 1915 and the orchestra in 1918. “Mrs. Hughes,” “L.K.” reported, “has herself built up the orchestra within the last two years, though such an achievement seems almost incredible after listening to such finished work.”
Mrs. Norton, the wife of Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist David Z. Norton, continued the Vassar concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra until her death on January 3, 1928. “Her last visit,” said the notice of her death in The Miscellany News, “was last spring for the fiftieth reunion of her class. Illness prevented her presence at the concert last December.” Her husband is reported to have died twelve hours after Mrs. Norton’s funeral.
Professor Caroline E. Spurgeon of the University of London gave a series of five lectures on contemporary writers, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Ralph Hodgson and Harold Munro.
Juniors and seniors were allowed to go with men to the movies unchaperoned and could motor unchaperoned with them during the daylight hours. In every case, the driver had to have the approval of a warden.
Sponsored by trustee Edgar L. Marston and the Cleveland and Western New York branches of the Associate Alumnae, the Glee Club gave concerts in Buffalo and Cleveland on their first concert tour. The 32 singers and accompanists where joined by Professor of Music George Coleman Gow, their director, Mrs. Gow and harpist Frances Callow ’21. The Gows served as the group’s chaperons.
After two successful concerts on the following day at Twentieth Century Club and in the Assembly Hall at the Buffalo Seminary, the singers enjoyed a day off as thier alumnae hosts took them to Niagara Falls, followed by dinner at the College Club. “Informal singing followed the dinner,” The Vassar Miscellany reported, “and a few informal speeches helped to make everyone feel the unity of Vassar, past and present.”
The following evening, in Cleveland, the Glee Club members enjoyed a concert by the Cleveland Symphony Opera in boxes provided by its founder, Adella Prentiss Hughes ’90, and the next evening, after lunching at the Mayfield Country Club, the Glee Club gave its last concert in the ball room of the Cleveland Statler Hotel. The Vassar Miscellany quoted a review from The Buffalo Courier, which declared “It was a distinct novelty to hear a full-fledged college girls glee club, and the members acquitted themselves with as much success and ablomb as their male competitors.” “One of the decided hits,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, “was the performance of the ’Harmony Harpies’ who comprised eight members of the club, four of them plaing stringed instruments…. Three numbers of special interest were “The Rose and the Grey,” [”]Vassar in Beauty Dwelling” and “Down the Future’s Cloudy Ways,” composed by E. Townsend ’20 and which is melodious and suitable as a song of lasting qualities.”
With support from history professors C. Mildred Thompson ’03 and Eloise Ellery ’97, the Political Association was organized “to stimulate intelligent interest in public affairs—political, industrial, and social—and to help its members to form the habit of making sound judgments on controversial questions….”
The organization ceased with the reorganization of the College Government Association at the end of the academic year 1958-59.
Visiting Vassar with her daughter and speaking “On The Discovery of Radium,” Mme. Marie Curie noted that when ““radium was discovered no one knew it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of its direct usefulness. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science…. “There is always,” she concluded, “a vast field left to experimentation, and I hope that we may have some beautiful progress in the following years. It is my earnest desire that some of you should carry on this scientific work and keep for your ambition the determination to make a permanent contribution to science.”
Mme. Curie’s address was published as the Ellen S. Richards Monograph No. 2.
Walter P. Cooke, chairman of the University of Buffalo board of trustees, announced that Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken had been invited to become the university’s next chancellor. Speaking in Poughkeepsie, MacCracken said that he had not responded to the invitation and did not know what decision he would make.
The New York Times
At Commencement for the Class of 1921 President MacCracken announced that he would not accept the chancellorship of the University of Buffalo and would remain at Vassar. “ I must admit,” he told the 264 members of the class and their guests, “this call has meant much to me along the lines of constructive education, but this week the call of Vassar has been stronger than the call of Buffalo.”
In his commencement address, “A Citizen of the World,” President MacCracken urged better international cooperation and less national selfishness. He also announced that $1,009,951 had been raised toward the $3 million salary endowment goal and that the board of trustees was to be enlarged to include student and faculty representatives.
The New York Times
The Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) was held following commencement. On June 16 a morning “conference on education” at which President MacCracken spoke focused on broadening the curriculum and making it more flexible, and in the afternoon the group discussed student activities. The next day, Dr. Elizabeth B. Thelberg, head resident physician and Jean C. Palmer ’93, head warden, spoke, respectively, on “This Awful Generation” and “The Problem of a Warden.” In her remarks Dr. Thelberg, who came to the college in 1887, said of current students, “These students have been through deep waters. They have been under a hard, nervous strain, and many have suffered from family affliction during the war. They have passed through a national epidemic from which no one entirely escaped…. We here at Vassar could not have asked for better discipline, greater co-operation, loyalty or poise. The girls of this generation are splendid, capable, honest people. I love them.” To the older alumnae she confessed, “I love them even more than I do you.”
Head Warden Palmer concurred. “I firmly believe in this generation,” she declared, “I believe they are much finer than we were at their age. I find them more straightforward, logical, and reasonable, and therefore harder to satisfy.” The alumnae announced that the Class of 1921 gift of $50,000 brought the total raised toward the $3 million salary endowment goal to $1,159, 951.
The New York Times
A highlight of the alumnae gathering was a performance in the Out-of-Door Theatre of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s first verse play, The Lamp and the Bell, dedicated to the Class of 1917 and written for this occasion.
On March 18 Millay ’17 wrote to her sister Norma: “I am slaving now to typewrite & ship off my Vassar play, Snow White & Rose Red [later called The Lamp and the Bell] which I have just finished… It’s written in the first place for Vassar College, in the second place it’s written to be played out of doors, as spectacularly as possible, & in a foreign country & medieval times because in that way you can use more brilliant costumes, in the third place I haven’t had time to work it over at all, in the fourth place it’s full of anachronisms which I haven’t had time to look up & put right, & in the fifth place it’s a frank shameless imitation of the Elizabethan dramas, in style, conversation & everything, & of course does not show up so darn well in comparison.—You’ll think from all this that it’s a bum play. You’re wrong.—I expect the darned thing to make a great hit.”
Allan Ross Macdougall, ed., Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
At her death, in 1950, The New York Times credited The Lamp and the Bell (1921)—along with A Few Figs From Thistles (1920), Second April (1921) and Two Slatterns and a King (1921)—for Millay’s winning the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Vassar students accompanied by Professor Bruno Roselli formed the largest component in a group of 120 American students who sailed for Italy aboard the Leopoldina to represent the Italian-America Society and the National Dante Committee at the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the death of Dante. Arriving at Naples, the group was escorted to Rome where a reception committee headed by Princess Santa Borghese included the Lord Mayor of Rome and the students and faculty of the American Academy in Rome. Pope Benedict XV received students of the Christian faith.
The Lord Mayor of Florence welcomed the students to his city, and in Ravenna, augmented by the Harvard Glee Club, they laid an inscribed bronze wreath at the Italian master’s grave. The inscription read: “From the American Students of the Twentieth Century to Dante Alighieri, 1665-1321—Poet, Philosopher, Scholar.” A day in Bologna, three days in Venice and one each in Milan and Turin concluded the group’s visit.
—The New York Times
The first of its kind in the United States, the Dutchess County Botanical Garden, a field botanical laboratory, was financed for seven years by income from the Elizabeth Drinker Storer Memorial Fund, the gift of Gertrude Mead Abbey ’70, a classmate of Elizabeth Drinker Storer ’70, who taught at Vassar between 1878 and 1881 and who died in 1913.
Professor Edith A. Roberts directed the work. Miss Roberts was a member of the department of plant science from 1919 until 1948 and its chairman for many years.
The Vassar College Endowment fund in New York City announced a conditional gift of $500,000 for faculty salary endowment from John D. Rockefeller’s General Education Board, contingent upon the alumnae raising an additional $1.5 million within two years. Granting that Vassar “has been paying salaries far below those of any other college of like standard,” the statement announced the campaign goal of $3 million, declaring that “the whole country has been organized and the Alumnae are hard at work in every state…. The Trustees are financing the entire campaign, so that no money raised need be used for expenses.”
Within two weeks, the campaign was gaining broad support. On October 7, the fund announced a $100,000 gift from Edward S. Harkness, a Rockefeller associate, and President Warren Harding telegraphed his best wishes the following week, saying, “The assurance of adequate compensation to teachers is an important contribution to the development of our educational system….”
Several hundred alumnae learned at a luncheon at the Hotel Astor on October 14 that the Alumnae Association had agreed to raise all of the funding needed to match the General Education Board’s challenge. In his remarks, the venerable social reformer and writer, the Rev. Lyman Abbott, editor of The Outlook and a member of the fund’s National Advisory Committee, compared the funding appeal of men’s institutions with Vassar’s. “Vassar does not,” he said, “send out women to become great lawyers, doctors, scientists, business administrators or money makers. It has been doing something much better than that. It has been educating women to be great mothers…. It is Vassar’s problem to send out mothers and teachers who are noble, heroic and intelligent. I don’t know how to raise money…. But if I were working in this campaign I would say, ‘Do you want a country of brave, courageous, sensible, intelligent mothers and teachers who know how to think? Vassar is turning them out. Help her.’” The New York Times
The Barrère Ensemble gave a concert before a large audience in the Assembly Hall. The New York woodwind group was directed by renowned French flutist Georges Barrère, a member of the Symphonic Society of New York. “It was easy to believe,” wrote two seniors in The Miscellany News, “that Mr. Barrère is the foremost of flutists…. Two of the most delightful numbers of the program were the Adagio of the Mozart Serenade and the Rigadon for Poldowski’s Suite Miniature, in which the theme was carried from part to part bringing one instrument after another into prominence.” The student reviewers were also struck by “the rich harmony” of Leo Sowerby’s Quintet, which “was written five years ago when the composer was seventeen,” calling it “a particularly fine opportunity to hear modern music by a composer of our own age played as perfectly as it could be done.” “Mr. Barrère’s rendering of Bach’s Sonate in E Major,” however, was “the feature of the program, if one could choose.”
The ensemble—flute, oboe, horn, clarinet and bassoon—visited Vassar several times. It’s director’s fame was established in December 1894, when the 22 year-old Barrère played the opening notes on solo flute in the première of Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.
Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94, chairman of the New York metropolitan district committee for the college’s $3 million faculty salary endowment campaign, explained in The New York Times both why Vassar needed to double the endowment fund and why suggestions that it meet its needs by raising tuition were wrongheaded. Citing the “loyalty and self-sacrifice” of a faculty that had stayed at Vassar while all other comparable institutions had raised compensation well above pre-war levels, she said that under a new salary scale, competitive with the other colleges, “professors will be paid not less than $4,000 nor more than $5,000 [annually], and other teachers will share in like proportion.”
As to why the college wasn’t raising tuition to meet the need, she said “Only those familiar with Vassar can answer this. The reason is that with an increased tuition Vassar would soon become a college filled only with the daughters of wealthy parents…. This is absolutely contrary to the principles upon which Matthew Vassar founded the institution. Although limited to 1,000 students each year, wealth plays no part in the scholastic life. The girl in moderate circumstances is upon an absolutely equal footing with the millionaire’s daughter, and receives exactly the same benefits. There never can be any class distinction of wealth at Vassar.”
In an interview published in The New York Times President MacCracken spoke at length about the changing influence of colleges in American society. Noting many institutions’ burgeoning applications, he said that Vassar’s registration books were closed until fall of 1927 and that the number of graduates since 1865 barely equaled those now registered, but not yet entered or graduated. MacCracken attributed the increase in college applications partly to generally increased affluence but, more importantly, to the greater extent to which collegiate institutions were molding community and national institutions—invigorating democracy and supporting personality and character rather than wealth or position. This vitality, he said, came from college social systems rather than their curricula.
“The result has been,” he said, “that the faculty of almost every American college has been at war with the social organization within the college campus, because the faculty did not realize the value of the education which came to the student in an unorganized form from what we call the college spirit…. They were so close to the individual problems of college life that they did not see that right under their very eyes was developing one of the most interesting phenomena in American education—the creation of a civic laboratory in which the student body by the trial-and-error process of inductive science was slowly working out the problems of co-operation and development in the spirit of self-reliance and of action, which is characteristic of the American people.”
MacCracken observed that foreign visitors to American colleges had recognized this spirit as something unique and something, in the view of a recent visiting professor from the Sorbonne, “for which there was no translation in French.” Educators “may not like to admit it,” MacCracken continued, but “the curriculum is, after all, not the thing of primary importance either to the student or the parent. It is the college life, the environment, the companionship—the character, in a word, of the institution—that counts.” Defining this character as “the total reaction of a personality to its environment,” MacCracken concluded, “we have been brought to realize that we must seize the great opportunity inherent in the social organism of our colleges as the greatest of all opportunities for real education.”
The New York Times
Vassar received an unsolicited check for $25 from the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 180 with a note: “We believe in a fair rate of wages for all and because Vassar professors are receiving less than professors and teachers at other colleges, we consider that this is a worthy object and we are glad to make a contribution to it.”
After The New York Times revealed the gift, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the American Federation of Musicians Local 238, Paperhangers’ Local 155 and the International Molders Union contributed to the salary endowment fund.
The Adelaide Crapsey Lectures, presented by a group of alumnae in memory of Adelaide Crapsey ’01, consisted of seven lectures on Shakespeare by Florence Keys, formerly associate professor of English at Vassar.
A vibrant undergraduate, Crapsey developed tuberculosis shortly after graduating from Vassar. Although in steadily deteriorating health, she taught in the United States and abroad, retiring finally in 1913 from a position teaching poetics at Smith College and entering a sanatorium at Saranac Lake, NY. There, in her last year, she wrote many accomplished poems, several in verse forms of her own invention. A posthumous selection of her poetry appeared as Verses (1915).
Florence Keys joined the Vassar faculty in 1899 and resigned her position in 1914, largely to devote time to personal, literary and social welfare concerns. Her students commemorated her teaching in the 1914 Vassarion: “Few teachers anywhere combine as does Miss Keys, thorough, exact scholarship with profound poetic insight, and almost none maintains as she does a sense of the reality of social problems and of the relation scholarship bears to progress….”
Heather Murray, “Doubled Lives: Florence Valentine Keys, David Reid Keys, and the work of English Studies,” The University of Toronto Quarterly
President MacCracken, Helen Kenyon ’05, Julia Lathrop ’80 and Cornell University President Livingston Ferrand addressed the annual meeting and luncheon of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) in the Hotel Commodore. MacCracken spoke on “Modern Education in the College,” pressing his idea that the term meant “to the college that the subject matter of instruction is infused with life” and that the modern college was “trustee not only for the cause of learning, but for the youth who seeks to learn.”
“The purpose of modern education,” he concluded, was “not primarily the promotion of research, or even the transmission of the great tradition of knowledge from the past. The primary purpose is the development of a self reliant, independent, eager, questioning spirit, of a steady purpose and a resolute will, and, above all, an understanding of life which will leave the student in touch with his environment when the time comes for him to take his own part.”
Forty thousand dollars for the faculty salary endowment was raised at the luncheon in ten minutes’ time.
The New York Times
The board of trustees abolished life terms for its members in favor of ten-year terms with the possibility of reelection.
The first of two perfomances by the Class of 1915 of The Vassar Follies was presented before a large and appreciative audience in Town Hall in New York City. Written by Margaret Lovell ’15, Virginia Archibold ’17 and Lois Long ’22 and with a cast of nearly three-dozen alumnae and “an amateur orchestra, half women,” the production was a benefit for the faculty salary endowment.
Hailed in The Vassar Miscellany for its “sparkling lines, sprightly songs and varigated dancing,” the show offered “Vassar as it is and isn’t” and “Vassar as it does and doesn’t.” The audience, The Miscellany continued, “saw besides various dances including a Vassar prom from 1870 and of 1920 and the Vavotte Pavlova given by Billie Tichenor and Harry Tomaroff. ‘The Chorus Girl Blues,’ was sung by Miss Bobby Bessler and the well-known ‘Vassar Types’ again appeared, the marrying girl being judged the most typical.”
The New York Times reported that the “choruses were typical pretty girls, with abbreviated gowns and pink bare knees. The way Vassar girls get into the papers was illustrated in one chorus in which six of the plumpest and prettiest were literally in as many papers, morning and evening—ballet length skirts. The show wound up like an old-time novel, but not in an old-time way, with a wedding, ‘typical of the girls of old V. C.’”
In brief remarks, President MacCracken discussed the need for the $3 million endowment and announced that the campaign had reached the $2 million mark that day. “The Vassar girls would raise the final million, he said,“ reported The Times, “because they have such ‘winsome’ ways.” The evening raised $4,000 for its cause, and The Vassar Follies took briefly to the road on behalf of the Endowmtent Fund after the turn of the year.
The New York Times
“Hark Alma Mater” was adopted officially as the college Alma Mater. The lyrics, by Amy Wentworth Stone ’98, were set to music written around 1903 by George Coleman Gow, professor of music from 1895 until 1932, and the song was intended to replace “Vassar in Beauty Dwelling”—words by Professor of Greek Grace Mccurdy and music by Professor of Music Donald Tweedy—written in 1915 when Professor Gow asked alumnae, students and members of the faculty to offer songs suitable for an Alma Mater. While this song was apparently largely forgotten (even by its author) when it was revived by President MacCracken in 1934, it has since become a college tradition, and “Hark Alma Mater” has been largely forgotten.
The college announced that in canvassing Vassar alumnae for the endowment campaign it had discovered ten college or university deans: Ella McCaleb ’78, Vassar; Lida Shaw King ’90, Women’s College, Brown University; Bertha K. Young ’96, dean of women at Reed College; Margaret A. Knight ‘03, dean of women at Pennsylvania State College; Mary Yost ’04, dean of women at Leland Stanford University; Ruth Andrus ’07, Kentucky College for Women; Hazel N. Harwood ’08, dean of women at Iowa State College; Dorothy Stimson ’12, Goucher College and M. Frances Jewell ’13, dean of women at the University of Kentucky. The tenth dean was Major Julia Stimson ’01, dean of the Army Nurses Training School and the only woman with the rank of major in the United States military.
The New York Times
Drawing on a paper she had given at the Yale Keats Centenary, Imagist poet and critic Amy Lowell traced the poet’s development as “the first of the color writers,” reported the Miscellany News, “and his language. . . is extraordinarily modern. In his set of Spenser, now owned by Miss Lowell, he marked many passages of vivid color or auditory imagery.”
“He is dead,” Miss Lowell concluded, “but once he lived—nay, I will go further—he still lives. We are here tonight because of the love we bear him.”
Professor John Livingston Lowes from Harvard University lectured on “Convention and Revolt in Poetry.”
Professor Lowes also visited the college in 1919 and 1932.
An early morning fire thought to have started by spontaneous combustion of hay leveled a large barn, killing 16 college horses and destroying the college farm equipment and sleighs. The loss was estimated at $30,000.
At their monthly meeting, the faculty approved changes in the requirements for graduation, specifically mandating study of English and history, a science requirement and exemption, depending on those offered at matriculation, from the requirement of a third foreign language. The new requirements went into effect with the 1922-23 academic year.
Professor of Latin Lily Ross Taylor explained the explicit requirement of study of English and history, said The Miscellany News, reflected the fact that “there was no substantial equivalent in any other course for the ability to express oneself given by English, and the foundation for social science and practice in library work given by history.” Five subjects from the remaining disciplines were required, with special emphasis given to classical and foreign languages and science courses.
“One of the chief reasons for changing the present system,” The Misc reported, “is the need for more science in these times when science is so conspicuous. Up to this time only about 50% of the students have offered science for entrance.” Students not entering Vassar with a study of science were expected in the new requirements to study either physics or chemistry and to elect another science coure in zoology, botany, geology, astronomy or physiology.
“In order to prevent an increase in the present requirements,” The Misc. explained, “it is necessary to make some adjustment of the rest of the curriculum. The new system will do this, making even fewer requirements for students wo have had special advantages in preparation.” Since about 20% of current year’s freshman class entered with a third foreign language, the new plan offered such students exemption from the graduation requirement of three foreign langugages.
The faculty voted that candidates for admission be accepted from the entire list of applicants according to fitness for college work, not priority of application. Since 1915 a certain number of places had been held for admission on fitness of “honor” candidates.
In a “fast and furious” game at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City, Vassar defeated Smith College 27 to 18 in the first intercollegiate basketball game between teams representing women’s colleges. Nearly 4,000 spectators, most of them sporting touches of either Vassar’s rose and gray or the white and gold of Smith, watched as teams of alumnae from the two colleges played a game that The New York Times called “fast and furious from the start.”
“Smith,” said the Times, “was possibly a bit better organized in the singing and had three cheer leaders to Vassar’s one. But the supporters of the Poughkeepsie college, on the other hand, were able to produce the greater volume of noise when it came to cheering on the players.”
Vassar’s team consisted of Elizabeth Harden ’16, Anne Goss ’21, Ruth Goss ’14, Emma Downer Hardin ’16, Gertrude Farnham ’16 and Margot Hesse ’21. Most of the players on both teams were from the New York metropolitan area.
The Class of ’22 was acclaimed for having the best song and the Class of ’23 were chosen as the best singers at Founder’s Day. The celebration honored the memory of naturalist and long-time friend of the college John Burroughs, who died the previous March. President MacCracken and Cornell university ornithologist, artist and illustrator Louis Agassiz Fuertes spoke.
President MacCracken unveiled a bust of Maria Mitchell at New York University’s Hall of Fame of Great Americans. Mitchell had been selected in 1905, along with Mary Lyon and Emma Willard, as one of the first women to be so honored. Other busts unveiled were those of two of the original designees in 1900, George Washington and Gilbert Stuart, one of the 1910 group, Edgar Allen Poe, and one from 1915, Mark Hopkins.
“Maria Mitchell had,” MacCracken said, “a rare combination of an enthusiasm for research as well in the in the inner mind and heart of immature pupils as in the remote spaces of the firmament. True teacher that she was, her spirit irked at the inevitable restrictions of marks and grades, semesters and requirements….”
The Mitchell bust, a replica of the 1877 work by Emma F. Brigham, was the gift of Maria Mitchell’s nephew, William Mitchell Kendall.
Annual Report of the Maria Mitchell Association (1923), The New York Times
The alumnae having raised $2 million of the matching challenge for the $3 million faculty salary endowment fund, the trustees voted that the Alumnae Fund Committee of the Associate Alumnae be recognized as an official endowment committee to cooperate with the Trustee Endowment Committee.
By Commencement on June 13, the total in the endowment was $3,011,476.48, and 95 percent of the alumnae, 98 percent of the students and 90 percent of the faculty had contributed. The direct result was a 25 percent budget increase for faculty salaries for the following year.
The Rev. Henry Evertson Cobb, pastor of the West End Collegiate Church in New York City and chair of the Vassar board of trustees, gave the baccalaureate address for the Class of 1922. Drawing on the text, “I am come that ye may have life, and have it more abundantly,” he said, according to The Miscellany News, the promised abundance “does not suggest the prim asceticism that Christianity has meant to some people—it suggests, rather, vision and enthusiasm for the young, the glory of going on for the old, the whole tide of energy and passion of power that cannot be denied.”
The service, “characterized by dignity and solemn loveliness,” featured processional music by César Franck, a solo, Franck’s “O Lord Most Holy,” sung by Inez Barbour ’22 in memory of Harriet Kelly ’22, who died from influenza in her freshman year, and an “impressively simple and well-rendered” baccalaureate hymn written by Irene Mott ’22 and Gladys Neff ’22.
The Miscellany News
Despite having Professor of Political Science Emerson D. Fite in center field, Superintendent of Grounds Henry Downer in left and Professor of English Burges Johnson available as a utility substitute, the Class of 1922 baseball team lost the Class Day matchup against their fathers by a score of eleven to three. Attempting to help the home team, the umpire, Poughkeepsie native Elmer Steele, a former Red Sox and Dodgers pitcher, picked up a father’s “sizzling line drive…threw it to first, and graciously called the runner out.“ But the “Dads…gleefully pounded the offerings of Miss Edith Fitch [‘22], Vassar’s pitching ace, scoring six runs in the third inning and five in the fourth.”
The New York Times
Two hundred and fifty-six members of the Class of 1922 received bachelor’s degrees at Vassar’s 56th Commencement. Six candidates received the master’s degree. In his address, “Making it Unanimous,” President MacCracken noted a dangerous realignment in the country, pitting ultra conservatives against ultra radicals. “Turn where we will,” he said, “among the interests of society we seem to be everywhere confronted by an endless wrangle of Fascisti and Communists.” While this might be a natural outcome of “the shell shock of the war period,” he said, “What would be unnatural…would be for us, while recognizing it, to settle down under it as the normal condition of our life henceforth, to accept it passively as the terms of existence in our generation.” He urged his auditors to press always for greater liberty of individual development and expression.
Gifts to the college in excess of the completion of the $3 million faculty salary endowment totaled $207,608. Included in the sum was a $150,000 bequest from the late trustee Henry M. Sanders for the erection of a physics building. The Rev. Dr. Sanders had given the college the Sanders Chemistry Building (1909) in memory of his wife and more recently had given the art gallery a number of important works. Ground was broken for the Sanders Physics Building immediately after Commencement.
The retirement was announced of the first dean of Vassar College, Ella McCaleb ’78, after 38 years of service to the college in a number of posts.
The New York Times
President MacCracken and his family sailed aboard the Cunard liner Scythia, beginning a six-month visit to Europe. MacCracken planned to speak to the Third International Moral Education Congress in Geneva on “The Social Laboratory” and to visit European universities, particularly those in Central Europe, to speak about American collegiate methods. Maria Podzimkova ’22, one of the five Czech students who matriculated in 1920, sailed with the MacCrackens.
College opened with 1,149 students, of whom 323 were freshmen, less than the 360 in the Class of 1925, owing to an unusually large sophomore class. Yale English literature scholar George Henry Nettleton, trustee since 1920, served as acting president for the first semester during President MacCracken’s absence in Europe.
The college announced that President MacCracken, currently visiting Europe, had been presented with the Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy by the Italian government in recognition of his knowledge and interpretation of the culture of Italy and of his support for the study of Italian at Vassar. The New York Times noted that the “award carries with it the right to wear the red and white ribbon of the order and to have the title “Cavaliere.”
Julia C. Lathrop ’80, former chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, preceded a conference on vocations for women with a lecture, sponsored by the Ellen H. Richards Lecture Fund, on women in social services.
Lathrop, President MacCracken and trustee Minnie Cumnock Blodgett ’84 were developing a new Vassar program around the ideas of Richards ’70 in the multidisciplinary field she named Euthenics. Richards first used the term in The Cost of Shelter (1905), giving its definition as both “the science of better living” and “the art of better.”
The Vassar Cooperative Bookshop opened, with a capital of $1,300 collected as membership fees from students, faculty and alumnae. Sixty books were sold the first day. Marion Bacon ’22 was Manager, Helen Voltz ’23 student chairman and Fanny Borden ’98 faculty committee member.
The Vassar Quarterly commented, “It shows an insidious cordiality to charge accounts.”
Darius Milhaud, French composer and member of Le Groupe des Six, gave a lecture-recital on “The Evolution of Contemporary Music in Paris and Vienna.” “Warning us,” reported the Miscellany News, “against hasty judgment he said that because the critics are lost and bewildered does not mean tha the music itself is lost. They will not admit that they do no understand but merely say the author is crazy. It is not true that any modern composer has reinvented music for there is nothing in modern music which is not the logical outgrowth of the past.” M. Milhaud contrasted the modern work of the school of Paris with that being done in Vienna, citing the earlier French composer Erik Satie as “the sleeping beauty who guessed at what was to come” and declaring his contemporary colleaague Francis Poulenc “music itself, simply expressive.”
Impressed by Milhaud’s explanation, the writer for the Misc was more dubious about the music: “Mr. Milhaud played a number of compositions by Satie, Poulenc and himself. He played expressively and with excellent technique though most of the numbers were simple as to technique. As a whole the music seemed to put dissonance upon dissonance, and left an impression of incoherence. The human ear will have to accustom itself before it finds them acceptable.” When, six years later, on January 23, 1929, the avant-garde French composers’ leader, Arthur Honegger—assisted by his wife, the pianist Andreé Vaurabourg and American coloratura soprano Cobina Wright—gave a recital of his compositions, the Miscellany News reviewer observed that “the devices used,” in Honegger’s music, “to produce a feeling of continuity were either too subtle for perception at the first hearing or the material was too thin.”
President MacCracken returned, aboard the Empress of Scotland, from his study of education in the new central European republics. Having visited and spoken at 18 universities in 15 countries, his most powerful impression was of the desire of young people abroad for education. “Everywhere in Europe,” he said, “new colleges and universities are being erected, as the existing institutions of learning are crowded to the limit of their capacity. All these peoples are desirous of learning more about America and our system of education.”
The New York Times
Returning to the college, MacCracken praised Yale Professor of English and Vassar trustee George Henry Nettleton, who had served as acting-president during his absence. “Dr. Nettleton’s great interest in both the life and organization of students was an important factor in the carrying forward and realization of a number of valuable projects.”
President’s Report, 1922/23
The trustees voted to limit enrollment to 1,150.
“An extremely interesting and valuable course in artistic anatomy, given by Miss Cora Beckwith of the biology department, has been added to the curriculum.”
The Vassar Quarterly
Judge Florence E. Allen, a Supreme Court justice of Ohio and the first woman to be appointed to a state supreme court, gave a series of lectures. When Franklin Roosevelt appointed her, 11 years later, to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Allen became the first woman federal judge.
On February 23, President Warren G. Harding sent to the U. S. Senate a special message asking its consent for U. S. participation in the International Court of Justice established under the auspices of the League of Nations at The Hague. On March 3, the Senate rejected participation in the court.
Responding to the Senate’s rejection on March 3 of President Harding’s request for U. S. membership in the International Court of Justice, President MacCracken sent a letter to The New York Times. “Yesterday, at Vassar College,” he wrote, “the Faculty Club, at a meeting which included the entire Faculty, took unanimous action as individuals requesting the Senate to favor [President Harding’s] proposal. The Students’ Association of the college, at a meeting, which included at least 1,000 of the 1,100 students, took similar action, and resolutions were forwarded to the United State Senators from the State of New York….
“No project of international co-operation ever presented to the American people has, I believe, such popular support as this. The opposition to it is now confined to the irreconcilable opponents of Wilson, to those who condemn the League for not having solved the problems of Germany and Russia, and to those who look upon the League and its court as the agency of imperialism. These altogether make a very small minority of American citizenship, and certainly politics never made stranger bedfellows….”The New York Times
Both Vassar and Barnard College won twice in a “home and home” debate involving teams from Vassar, Barnard, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe and Wellesley. A team from each college defended, at home, one side of the proposition, “Resolved, That the United States Should Own and Control the Coal Mines,” and another team defended the other side away from home. Taking the affirmative, Vassar defeated Wellesley in Poughkeepsie. President MacCracken presided, and the judges were: Charles Kelly, justice of the State Supreme Court; Elizabeth Boody, Radcliffe ’22 and Edna Z. Shepard, Mount Holyoke ’22. The New York Times
In their second annual intercollegiate basketball game, the Vassar alumnae again defeated the Smith alumnae, 30 to 23, at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,000. “The game,” according to The New York Times, “was aggressive throughout and every point Vassar scored was a point well earned, for Smith, although wanting in team work, was stronger individually. Had the passing ability of Smith equaled the individual playing ability of its six members the score might have been reversed.”
Barnard had offered a challenge to the winner of the game, which Vassar accepted. The Vassar team, again inspired by the play of the Goss sisters, Anne ’21 and Ruth ’14, defeated the Barnard team on April 6 at the Columbia University gymnasium by the score of 26 to 19.
The art department presented an exhibition of expressionist painters of Europe and America. “Many people considered the exhibition neurotic and inadvisable, yet it stimulated more discussion about art than anything else during the year,” commented a member of the department. The Vassar Quarterly
At Princeton’s senior class banquet the results of the annual class survey showed The New York Times to be the leading paper and Helen to be the favorite girl’s name. Yale was voted the best men’s college after Princeton, and “Vassar nosed out Smith by five votes for the leading woman’s college.”
The New York Times
Edith Wynne Matthison and Charles Rann Kennedy, assisted by the drama department of Bennett School, presented Antigone in the Open Air Theatre; the performance was for the benefit of Lincoln Center, the Christian Association’s community center in downtown Poughkeepsie for underprivileged children. The center was the idea of Marjorie MacCracken, President MacCracken’s wife.
Sir Israel Gollancz, fellow and secretary of the British Academy and professor of English language and literature at King’s College, London, lectured on “The Poet and the Pearl.” Professor Gollancz’s study of the anonymous 14th century alliterative poem in Middle English known as “The Pearl” began with his publication in 1891 of The Pearl: An English Poem of the Fourteenth Century/re-Set in Modern English and continued through two subsequent limited editions—in 1918 to benefit the Red Cross and in 1921, “with modern renderings, together with Boccaccio’s Olympia.” His facsimile edition of the poem and three contemporary works for the Early English Text Society appeared from Oxford University Press in 1923.
C. Mildred Thompson ’03, professor of history, succeeded Ella McCaleb ’78, becoming the second dean of Vassar College.
Under the headline “Where is the Girl of Today Bound?” The New York Times reported on a study of 200 Vassar students, “held with the sanction and aid of college authorities,” that sought to sample their opinions on contemporary questions. Religion was important to some 75%, and churchgoing was to 40%; 141 students thought their “most important job in life” was a successful marriage and family. Only eight of the students—drawn from all four classes—embraced socialism, and, while 30 more thought it had some good points, 70% called it “impractical.” Responses to the work of Sigmund Freud were unenthusiastic, with 11 students thinking it valuable, 17 opposing his theories and 50 considering him “overemphasized.” By contrast, the autosuggestive positivism of Emile Coué attracted 123 of the students, while 26 had a negative opinion of it.
Students’ actual responses to specific questions added texture to the statistics:
For What Tasks Are You Fitting Yourself?
“Marriage and family, but not immediately after college.”
“To practice medicine, vote intelligently, keep house efficiently and raise a family successfully.”
“I want to be able to do something worth while, if I don’t get married. I would rather do that, though.”
Can a Woman Marry and Have a Career? If Not, Which Would You Choose?
“Many can. I hope I am one of them.”
“Yes, if she had a large enough personality; but few have.”
“It takes an unusual husband to stand for it.”
“Most of us would choose a career, but the marriage habit is a rather well-established one.”
Do Your Believe in Flappers?
“Their self-reliance at least in commendable.”
“Flapperism is over. Girls are going to the other extreme now.”
“The independent, self-confident, innocent flapper is quite harmless. She will get over it and be all the better for the experience.”
“Just a passing type: receiving more notoriety than she deserves.”
The Board of Trustees adopted the Vassar College Statute of Instruction, later known as The Governance of Vassar College. The faculty’s assumption of the direction of educational policy, the definition of specific trustee responsibilities and the definition and the specific scope of academic freedom were among its key provisions.
“Section 1: Direction of Educational Policy
The Faculty of Vassar College is entrusted with the direction and control of the educational policy of the college. The initiative in educational matters may arise in the Faculty or in the Board of Trustees, but the Trustees will not establish new departments or change existing departments except after full conference and discussion with the Faculty and its representatives. The Trustees will not accept gifts upon terms which would alter the status or tenure of any members of the faculty without conference in advance with the Faculty.
“Section 2: Questions Requiring Trustee Approval
a) No educational legislation requiring for its enforcement any increase of the budget of instruction may go into effect until approved by the Trustees. b) No legislation involving radical departure from established and traditional requirements for the bachelor’s degree shall be adopted until after conference with or report to the Trustees’ Committee on Faculty and Studies. The determination of the term “radical” in this connection as applied to any legislation shall be made by the President.
“Section 5: Academic Freedom
a) Within the limits of national and state law, all teachers in the service of Vassar College shall enjoy complete liberty of research, of instruction and of utterance upon matters of opinion. The teacher’s exercise of the rights and obligations of a citizen and of a member of the community shall in no way be affected by academic tenure. b) No gift shall be accepted by the Trustees the terms of which would come into conflict with this statute. c) Utterances and discussions in the classroom shall be regarded as privileged, and may not be published by anyone without the authority of the officer concerned. d) In enjoying these rights, upon the principle of academic freedom, the teachers in the service of Vassar College recognize certain correlative obligations. The teacher will bear in mind that the good name of the college rests upon the reputation of its faculty. The teacher’s conclusions should be the fruits of competent and sincere opinion, set forth with dignity, courtesy, and temperateness of language. The teacher should accept full responsibility for all utterances. His essential function as a teacher is not to dogmatize but to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to the necessary materials.”
The first of its kind, this document became a model for other institutions.
Two hundred thirty-one graduates and their families heard President MacCracken’s address on “The Creative College” at Commencement. Declaring that the contribution of colleges to a creative national life was insistent and unwearied review of experience, the application of intelligence in the quest for better means and more desirable ends, MacCracken deplored the country’s decline into isolationism.
“This has been a year,” he said, “of marking time. Few issues of the world have been fully met. The far horizon holds out no promise of an early peace in the world of national and racial rivalry….
“One might borrow President Roosevelt’s word and call our present state a ‘chinafied’ one in the isolation with which we have built a wall of indifference around ourselves, surrendering the prestige of free association.”
The New York Times
With the appointment of Dr. Austen Riggs as consulting psychiatrist and lecturer on mental hygiene, Vassar pioneered in providing psychotherapeutic consultation for undergraduates. An innovator of mental hygiene through talk therapy combined with a regimen of work, play and rest, Riggs founded the Stockbridge Institute for the Psychoneuroses in Stockbridge, MA, which in 1919 became The Austen Riggs Foundation. His duties at Vassar included clinics, direct treatment of students and college lectures on mental hygiene.
Recommending the appointment to the trustees, President MacCracken said, “The number of cases of mental fatigue and of nervous diseases among students, while not large, is serious enough to warrant action….”
The constitution of the Students’ Association was revised to assure more representative government and the Faculty-Student Joint Committee was reconstituted.
The Vocational Bureau was established under the dean’s office, with its own secretary. Originally the Teachers’ Registry, it was later called the Occupation Bureau.
Speaking at Convocation, President MacCracken spoke of a signature he had seen in the registration books when visiting the University of Krakow—that, said The Miscellany News, “of Nicholas, the son of Nicholas, known to us as Copernicus. This name represents a world, said the president, to which every student at Vassar links herself by the simple act of registration.” MacCracken urged the freshmen to “know the professors, the employees, the village and the county—Remember you are citizens of the commonwealth of learning.”
The college opened with an enrollment of 1,150 students from 18 nations, of whom 299 were freshmen. Recent trustee action raised the total enrollment—set at 1,000 in 1905—to 1,150 largely to accommodate residents of Poughkeepsie and former students who left in good standing because of illness or for other personal reasons. Twenty-three such students resumed their studies this semester.
Speaking on “The Remoter Environment of Vassar” at Convocation, President MacCracken examined the dubious value given to academic judgment by the general public. “I must confess it does not always reassure us,” he said, “when we seem to vote on the unpopular side. Perhaps it is our fault that something derogatory attaches to the word ‘academic.’ We are going to rid ourselves of it and make academic judgments valued by our fellow citizens, so that they will turn to our judgments with at least as much attention as the people of a neighborhood valley over here to the East night before last turned to a flaming cross on a hillside and realized that the Ku Klux Klan was also in this environment, along with Washington Irving and Hendrick Hudson.”
The New York Times
Several students spoke to alumnae representatives about their activities on campus at a meeting called “Knowing Your Undergraduate College.”
The art department presented an exhibition of works by the pioneer Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky.
On her début tour of the United States, English pianist Myra Hess gave a recital at the college.
Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell, medical social worker in Labrador, gave an illustrated talk, “Among the Labrador Fishermen.” Sent originally to Newfoundland in 1882 by the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, he opened cottage hospitals along the Labrador coast. Extending his mission to include schools, cooperatives and social work, he eventually included aboriginal peoples in his work.
Dr. Grenfell visited Vassar several times, and between 1921 and 1926 he recruited some 25 students for summer work in Labrador.
Dr. Pitirim Sorokin, formerly professor of sociology at the University of Petrograd, gave a series of five lectures on “The Sociology of Revolution.” President MacCracken had met Sorokin in Czechoslovakia at a dinner given by President Tomáš Masaryk, and he invited the émigré sociologist to, as Sorokin put it, “be a guest of Vassar for a few weeks, to study English there, and to prepare my lectures…. The six weeks I spent at Vassar were indeed happy and full ones. Each day I attended several classes, learned a great deal about the American academic way of life…and fully enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the college, the President’s family, the professors and the students.” Pitirim A. Sorokin, A Long Journey: the Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin
While at Vassar, on December 31, 1923, Sorokin wrote to The New York Times, excoriating the expectations of Idaho Republican Senator William E. Borah that the Soviet regime in Russia would provide new markets for America. Declaring that Borah’s policies helped “the communistic criminals to ruin further their victims” and claiming that “the name of Senator Borah is one of the most unpopular among the Russian people,” Sorokin predicted that “If Senator Borah does not understand now the real situation in Russia and all the objective harmfulness of his…policy to the Russian people, I am certain that even he and his followers will understand it in two or three years.”
Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello lectured, in Italian, on the underlying themes of his plays and of the modern movement in drama. Contessa Irene di Robilan, head of the Italo-American Society, and Dr. Arthur Livingston, Pirandello’s official translator, interpreted the lecture, entitled “The Italian Theatre, Old and New.” The playwright maintained that the fundamental difference between the old drama and the new was less in form than in subject. “The old theatre,” reported The Miscellany News, “was preoccupied with social and moral problems, and with environment as their cause. This type of drama originated in France and was imitated in Italy. Then came younger writers who wished to treat intellectual and spriitual problems instead of social ones. This theatre of ideas concerns itself with such problems as what reality is and what makes it.” Asked if Bernard Shaw belonged to the old or to the modern theatre, Pirandello, said The Misc, proclaimed Shaw to be “an ultra-modern writer…. The new theatre does not mean only that which deals with new subjects. The modern writer is he who has a novel view and conception of his subject. Hence Shaw is a modern writer.”
Questioned about the degree to which a modern Italian drama can be interpreted by American actors, the Italian pointed out, said the reporter, that the new theatre “because it does not deal with local color, but with human thoughts and passions, may easily become international. Drama of the soul does not depend upon any nationality for interpretation.” The Vassar Experimental Theatre gave the American premières of Pirandello’s Each in His Own Way (Ciascuno a suo modo, 1924) in December 1929 and of his Tonight We Improvise (Questa sera si recita a soggetto, 1929) in December, 1936.
Innovative American anthropogeographer Professor Ellen Churchill Semple ’82 from Clark University gave a series of six lectures on the geographical aspects of the Mediterranean. A seminal theorist of “environmental determinism” and member of the first geography department in the United States—at the University of Chicago—from 1906 until 1921, Semple was among the distinguished alumnae speakers at the college’s semi-centennial in 1915.
At memorial services at St. Paul’s Church, Poughkeepsie, for President Woodrow Wilson, who had died on February 3, President MacCracken said, “Wilson exalted us and it was too much for us to bear. We fell away and reverted to our old selves, for our world is so constituted that it cannot support moral determinists, but the end is not yet. Wilson has passed on, but something of his moral power is left in men’s hearts and stirs them to new power under God.”
Wilson had supported MacCracken in his founding of the American Junior Red Cross, and MacCracken recalled sitting with his wife across the banquet table in 1916 when Wilson endorsed the League to Enforce Peace “the most historic moment of our lives.”
The New York Times, Elizabeth Adams Daniels, Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College
In a discussion by college presidents in The New York Times, of remarks attributed to Dr. Charles J. Smith, president of Roanoke College, about modern girls’ lack of seriousness and “unconventional attire and habits,” President MacCracken responded that “distrust of youth is ridiculous.”
“The modern girl sees all of life that she can see. She knows a great deal about her father and mother. More, perhaps, than they know about her…. The girls who come here are serious about their work. All of them are doing what they want to do most. They make study a major sport. It is the business of the instructors to see that students like this sport best….
“Faculties take themselves too seriously. The members are apt to be pompous, aloof, inaccessible. I am only an older brother to these students. I am not here to criticize. I’m here to help. And the only way to help is to listen to what they have to say.”The New York Times
Arguing both positions in a “home and home” debate held at each of six women’s colleges on the question: “Resolved, That the United States should enter the League of Nations,” Vassar, taking the affirmative, defeated Radcliffe at Poughkeepsie and, taking the negative at South Hadley, defeated Mount Holyoke.
The faculty recognized euthenics as a satisfactory field for sequential study (major). A Division of Euthenics was authorized to offer a multidisciplinary program focusing the techniques and disciplines of the arts, sciences and social sciences on the life experiences and relationships of women. Students in euthenics could take courses in horticulture, food chemistry, sociology and statistics, education, child study, economics, economic geography, physiology, hygiene, public health, psychology and domestic architecture and furniture. With the new division came the first major in child study at an American liberal arts college.
Ellen Swallow Richards ’1870 defined euthenics in The Cost of Shelter (1905) as both the “science of better living” and “the art of better living.” The program, stemming from Richards’s work, was primarily the creation of President MacCracken and Julia Lathrop ’70, with the support of Minnie Cumnock Blodgett ’84 and her husband, who donated $550,000 in 1925, primarily for the construction of the Euthenics Building, later called Blodgett Hall. When it opened in 1926 a stone dedication tablet in the entrance archway stated the building’s purpose: “To Encourage the Application of the Arts and Sciences to the Betterment of Human Living.”
President MacCracken subsequenty offered a further definition. “It is an endeavor to answer the criticism that women’s higher education does not have anything to do with her principal occupation, the family. We are not training cooks; we are not training welfare workers. We are giving women a liberal outlook upon the problem of the modern home in society…. ‘Euthenics’ is taken from the Greek, meaning ‘good adjustment of life…. ’ Other educators hailed the idea as a breakthrough in higher education. An article in Pictorial Review called the new program “one of the few modern attempts to differentiate women’s education from that of men without the slightest sacrifice of intellectual interest.”
But critics faulted the new program as a weakening of science and a slide into vocationalism. The influential educator and historian of education, Abraham Flexner—one of the founders of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study—attacked the program, along with other “ad hoc” innovations like intercollegiate athletics and student governments, in Universities, American, English, German (1930). “Well, what is euthenics? Euthenics is the ‘science of efficient living;’ and the ‘science’ is artificially pieced together of bits of mental hygiene, child guidance, nutrition, speech development and correction, family problems, wealth consumption, food preparation, household technology, and horticulture…. The institute is actually justified in an official publication by the profound question of a girl student who is reported as asking, ‘What is the connection of Shakespeare with having a baby?’ The Vassar Institute of Euthenics bridges this gap!”
Chemistry professor Annie Louise Macleod was appointed director of euthenics in June 1923. She was succeeded by Professor Ruth Wheeler ’99, who served from 1924 to 1944 and Professor Mary Fisher Langmuir ’20, who was director of the program from 1944 until 1951.
The college announced an anonymous $10,000 gift to establish an “international peace scholarship” for foreign students. “Through this method,” the donor wrote, “it is hoped to spread American ideals to other countries and thus aid in the establishment of international peace.”
Sir Bernard Pares, professor of Russian language and literature at the recently established School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, lectured in the Assembly Hall on “The Liberal Movement in Russia” and “Requirements of Russian Reconstruction.” “There are two currents which may be traced,” Sir Bernard said, according to The Miscellany News, “in the reform movement in Russia, namely the Individualistic and the Socialistic, though throughout, is was a Liberal movement.”
“At present,” The Misc. summarized about the conclusion of Sir Bernard’s second lecture, “in Russia there are Communists but no communism. The Bolsheviks, contrary to their purposes, ended in ruralizing an decentralizing Russia and strengthening religion. But in time, thinks Sir Bernard, the results of all these movements will be found in a federated union and a United States of Russia.”
A close associate of liberal Russian reformers, Pares was on the staff of the British Embassy in Petrograd at the time of the 1917 revolution. Made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) in 1919 for his service in Russia, he was banned from Russia by the communist government until 1935.
Pares’s History of Russia (1919) and its several subsequent versions were key documents in the understanding of Russian history, politics and culture in the first half of the 20th century.
In a debate with Princeton on the question: “Resolved, That a Democratic Administration would be of benefit to the country,” seniors Harriet Kernan ‘24 and Maxine Goldmark ‘24, taking the affirmative, defeated William Webster Hall ’25 and Lawrence Hunt ’26, who, The New York Times noted, “struggled valiantly and went down fighting, but polite.”
Miss Kernan “wore a black gown and a corsage bouquet of orchids. Miss Goldmark was in blue with pink roses. The Princeton men did not attempt floral competition even to the extent of a boutonniere.” Miss Kernan “recalled that during the national campaign of 1920 speakers from Princeton had been sent to Vassar to argue the issues of the election before the students. ‘I am glad to see the world has progressed far enough since then,’ she said, ‘so that we may now come here and return the compliment.’”
As the debate proceeded, the Vassar debaters frequently consulted small card index boxes to “bring out one containing information calculated to knock hostile arguments into a cocked hat.” On the matter of tariffs, Vassar’s Goldmark declared that a “low tariff will, in addition to its other benefits, bring the solution of the farm problem. It will allow Europe to buy here and thus give the farmer a market where he may make his profit and at the same time it will reduce prices here and thus allow him to do his own buying to advantage.” On the same subject, Harriet Kernan drew a laugh from the audience when she observed, of the tariff bill enacted by the Republican Taft administration, that it failed to put on the free list “the ordinary commodities of life that every one wanted, like whisky, sugar and oil, while they did put on the list false teeth, Chinese joss sticks and things like that.”
In addition to winning two points to their opponents’ one, audience polls taken before and after the debate showed that the Vassar team had changed the opinions of a number of people in favor of the Democrats. The New York Times
Vassar debaters had contested against men from Oxford and The University of Pennsylvania, but this was the first coeducational debate for Princeton.
The student self-government board resigned in a body, in order to force a new constitution that would meet the needs of a larger college. The constitution as adopted provided for a legislative assembly and executive council to replace the former mass meetings. A new elected office, chief justice, was created when the charter of Students’ Association was ratified by the student body on May 14, 1924, and approved by the faculty. The duty of the chief justice was “to call and preside at all sessions of the Court, and to perform all other duties pertaining to the office of Chief Justice.”
Referring to himself as an “observer of men and ways” and speaking on the “Trend of Modern Industrialism,” English mathematician, logician, social critic and philosopher Bertrand Russell urged the internationalization of raw materials, means of production and credit. Industrialism in the United States and abroad, Russell claimed, had increased the productivity of labor, leading to a competitive struggle for material goods, and it had intensely organized national and world markets, leading to a crushing loss of regional and personal individuality.
“Unfortunately,” reported The Miscellany News, “the organization resulting from industrialism has been national and not international, because of the entrance of sentiment and national feeling. The only remedy for the situation, said Mr. Russell, is to internationalize the control of raw materials, the other means of production and credit so as to divide them among the countries according to their several needs.”
Born into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain and a founder of the 20th century school of thought known as analytic philosophy, Russell, a staunch socialist, was imprisoned twice during the First World War for pacifist activities.
Bertrand Russell lectured again at the college in 1943.
The Alumnae House opened, Hunt & Hunt, architects. Erected on the “rock lot” at the corner of Raymond and College Avenues and given by Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94 and Queene Ferry Coonley ’96, the house was intended, according to the deed of gift, to “establish a center for the activities of the alumnae of the college….”
Harriet Sawyer ’07, former executive secretary to the alumnae association, was appointed the house’s “educational secretary,” in charge of learning from the alumnae, she told The New York Times, “what courses of study we have here, and in what manner those courses will be given…. There will be round table discussions, lectures on current topics &c. Some will want advanced French, others story-telling and so on.”
Student use of the house was limited to seniors, who were allowed have meals in the dining room. In 1937 Gertrude Garnsey ’26, the executive secretary of the alumnae association, worked with the college warden, Eleanor Dodge ’25 to reinterpret the building’s statement of purpose to include all students, their families and friends of the college.
The trustees authorized the art department to conduct a life class with professional models “to be carried on under the surveillance of Mr. Chatterton.” Painter Clarence K. Chatterton, a contemporary student with Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Guy Pene DuBois at Robert Henri’s New York School of Art, came to Vassar in 1915, intending to teach there only briefly. “Chatty” retired from the college in 1948, having taught some 3,000 students.
Despite concerns about a particularly wet and overcast spring, a late crop of daisies was available for Class Day. The New York Times reported that the “famous daisy chain was carried by the twenty most beautiful sophomores in the Outdoor Theater during the afternoon while the seniors filed between, attired in Summer dresses.”
At their meeting, the trustees elected former Secretary of the Navy and vice presidential nominee Franklin Roosevelt from Hyde Park to the board.
The following day 250 graduates received diplomas, and gifts totaling $407,000 were announced, including $10,000 from an anonymous donor for a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship and $300,000 by the will of Mrs. Frederick Ferris Thompson. Mrs. Thompson, who had given the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library (1905), its renowned Cornaro Window (1906) and its subsequent wings (1917), died on July 28, 1923.
President MacCracken welcomed the Institute for a Christian Basis of World Relations to Vassar. Over 200 delegates represented the League of Women Voters, the YWCA, the American Association of University Women, the Foreign Policy Association and other organizations. The first women’s gathering to be held for this purpose, the institute was “speechless” by design. No formal addresses were scheduled. Delegates voted instead at the outset for the ”areas of thought” they wished to have discussed.
The topics chosen ranged from “Race Relations in the United States” and “The Immigration Policy of the United States” to “The Outlawry of War as a Way to Peace” and “The Humanitarian Problems of the World.” Instead of lecturers, the delegates, from 19 states and 11 foreign countries, had on hand over a dozen experts on political and cultural conditions in countries around the world, who served as a “human reference library…ready to give advice on knotty problems.” This group included Professor James Shotwell from Columbia—a member of “The Inquiry,” Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy brain trust who had attended the Paris Peace Conference—Dr. John Hope of Morehouse College—whose knowledge of American racial issues was drawn upon—and two young members of the American YWCA, recently returned from the Near East and Russia. The only college students invited to the institute were Vassar foreign students from Finland, Czechoslovakia, Poland and China, under the “chairmanship” of Caroline Wolfstein ’24.
As the conference went along, participants were reported to be asking that the three daily session, stretching over nearly six hours, be lengthened, and an observer commented that the women “put aside personal opinions. It is facts they crave, irrespective of creed, politics or racial barriers. They are here to open their minds to all sides of every question.” He added, “I came here to remain a day, and I have stayed the whole week.”
The institute culminated with a “town meeting,” the topic for which was “What shall we as individuals do about it?”
The New York Times
The trustees appointed the college’s first general manager, Keene Richards, authorizing him to reorganize its business administration. Aided by Paul Cassat, Vassar’s first comptroller, Richards instituted a centralized purchasing system, putting an end to what was known as the “charge it to Vassar” tradition.
The Student Curriculum Committee, organized in the second semester of 1923–24, conducted its first time-survey. About half of the students kept a record of all time spent on studies, extra-curricular activities and exercise. Similar surveys were also made in 1939 and 1955.
The Vassar Bank was incorporated and opened in the Wagner Inn. Concerned by the inequity between men students’ ability to hold their college funds in bank accounts while women received allowances that the college held and disbursed, President MacCracken had established early in his presidency a bank for students in Main Building. Open to the Arlington community and a site for much of the college’s financial activity, the new bank was set up so that the college would no longer serve as students’ de facto bank and to enable students to learn more about personal finances.
The bank’s officers included Dr. William Bancroft Hill, professor of religion, Professors of Economics Mabel Newcomer and Herbert E. Mills, President MacCracken and Olive M. Lapham ’17.
The bank stayed afloat during the Great Depression and continued in operation until 1947, when it was consolidated with the First National Bank of Poughkeepsie.
Vassar debated Cambridge on the question “Resolved, that Modern Democracy Is not Compatible with Personal Liberty.” The judges awarded the debate to Cambridge, with Richard Austen Butler and his colleagues upholding the affirmative. The audience voted, however, two to one in favor of the negative. Members of Vassar’s team were Mary Virginia Heinlein ’25, Ruth Driver ’26 and Winifred Comstock ’25.
In 1954, British Chancellor of the Exchequer “Rab” Butler recalled: “We found the earnest, logical Yankees easy to flummox, except for the Vassar girls, who ran circles round us.”
Republican Calvin Coolidge defeated John W. Davis in the presidential election. Vassar’s straw vote gave Coolidge 321 to 180 for Davis. Progressive candidate Robert La Follette polled 86 votes.
In the Chapel, the Vassar College Choir gave the first performance in America of Three Carols (1923): “Tyrley Tyrlow,” Balulalow” and “The Sycamore Tree,” by English composer Peter Warlock (Philip Arnold Heseltine). Arranged for women’s voices by E. Harold Geer, professor of music and the choir’s director, the three carols were, said The Vassar Miscellany News, “stamped with modernity; they called for choir, organ, piano and solo voice; and the combined all into colorful harmonies, syncopated rhythms, chromatic melodies, to give a richness and sophistication.” Soprano Adele Parkhurst sang the solo parts.
Based on old English carols, Three Carols was first performed in London the previous year under the direction of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Professor of Italian Bruno Roselli announced he had solved the mystery of a marble head of Augustus Caesar recently sucked up from the bed of the Hudson River by the War Department dredger Raritan. Viewed by many experts and dignitaries, including Episcopal Bishop William Manning, the battered head was proclaimed original and its provenance baffling.
Dismissing the theory that the head—and perhaps an entire statue—had been used as ballast in a sailing vessel, Professor Roselli cited an essay written in 1836 by the French consul in Tripoli describing a collecting trip he had made in an American sloop in 1809 to the old Roman city of Leptis Magna with the American consul and a Captain Porter. Roselli posited that Porter had brought home some of the antiquities the party gathered as souvenirs of Stephen Decatur’s triumph over the Barbary pirates in 1804 and that this piece had accidently fallen into the Hudson.
A few days later, Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, president of the Patriotic New Yorkers, recalled a nursery rhyme from her childhood about “Julius Caesar at the bottom of the Hudson” which referred to a family story about a ferry-boat fire around 1830 that had sent a buggy, laden with four ancient sculptures en route from Manhattan to the New Jersey collection of her grandfather, John C. King, to the bottom of the river. The New York Times
French composer, conductor and teacher of music Nadia Boulanger gave a lecture recital on “The Development of Modern Music” in the Assembly Hall. Visiting the United State as a guest of a committee of composers and conductors, Mlle. Boulanger made her American début on January 11, with the New York Symphony Orchestra, as the soloist in the prèmiere of the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra by her former student Aaron Copland.
She told her Vassar audience, according to The Miscellany News, that it was necessary to be “familiar with the vocabulary of modern music in order to understand its message since the change on the technical side, no less than in the spirit of music, has been extraordinarily rapid in recent years. Everywhere the tendency is the same, a reaction against established laws.” Exemplary, she said, of such iconoclasm was Stravinsky, “the most representative man today muscially speaking,” as The Misc. reported. “Instead of using the measure as a unit and dividing it always into the same number of beats, he uses a smaller unit and shifts the accent with extraordinary freedom…. The physical shock of unexpectedly recurring accents causes pain at first hearing.” Mlle. Boulanger illustrated her remarks by playing Dreams by the French composer Florent Schmitt and excerpts from Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps and singing melodies by her mentor Gabriel Fauré and by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.
Mlle. Boulanger visited Vassar again in 1937 and 1962.
Seven observatories in its line of totality—at Toronto, Buffalo, Cornell, Vassar, Wesleyan, Yale and Nantucket—collaborated to record the first total eclipse of the sun since 1823 visible in New York and New England—the last until 2144. Vassar’s observatory was near the central line of the 100-mile wide shadow that swept from Minnesota to Rhode Island between 9:02 and 9:15 in the morning.
Extensive preparations for the event began a year earlier when the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Association, at Vassar, was devoted almost entirely to the eclipse. In preparation for the event, “four students in the mathematical class” at Vassar prepared “improved” tables of the moon, critical data for timing and tracking the eclipse. Telescopes at Vassar and Yale were fitted with special color screens and cameras, and dedicated long distance telephone lines and telephone and telegraph operators contributed by AT&T connected five of the participating observatories.
Scheduled for the morning of the event, the first round of final examinations was rescheduled, and, with Alumnae House filled nearly to capacity, the alumnae association announced that the “portion of the hill north of the house now used for parking space will be reserved for the use of the guests of the House, and special arrangements are beng made…to facilitate the viewing of the phenomenon. A charge of $1.00 per person will be asked for the use of this section. All other space surrounding the House is at the service of the college without charge.” The executive committee of the board of trustees authorized a work stoppage on campus—“except that necessary for safety”—to be announced by “three blasts…by the fire whistle…in order to allow the employees time to see the total eclipse.”
On campus, loud speakers from Bell Telephone provided information from observers in the Observatory. Designated clocks were synchronized by a special radio operator from the Variable Star Association and an array of smaller telescopes with particular responsibilities were deployed at campus sites. Observations were made from the Observatory, Richmond Hill, Sunrise Hill and the top of the library tower.
Among the distinguished visitors who came to Vassar to view the eclipse was Japanese Prince Oyama, the son of Stematz Yamakawa ’82. Others included the reknowned Harvard stellar classifier Annie Jump Cannon and atomic theorist Dr. Irving Langumuir, who was among a group of distinguished scientists that, The Miscellany News reported, “viewed the eclipse from the dahlia farm and reported that this was a remarkably good place from which to see it.”
In The Miscellany News for February 7 Caroline Furness ’91, professor of astronomy and director of the Observatory, wrote “an account of what went on in the Observatory, where lay the real heart of the scientific work of the event…. The signal for totality was to be given by Mrs. Harriet Parsons Hall, A. B. Vassar, Ph. D. Chicago, who was seated at a low table at the south window of the Observatory office, where she could easily look out and watch the progress of the eclipse with her field glasses. On the table in front of her was placed the telephone mouthpiece which carried her words all along the line of observatories and the microphone which was connected with the loud speakers placed at various spots on the campus. The signal for the totality was the word ‘dash’…. At a quarter before eight the principal actors of this part of the eclipse pageant were already in the office of the Observatory, the telephone and telegraph operators, Mrs. Hall and myself.
“At 8, three of us went on the roof with smoked glass to see if the eclipse was really coming off. Yes, there it was, almost on time the little black dent on th edge of the sun, showing plainly. All was going on according to predicition. Into the house again…. It gradually grew darker, the unnecessary people left the room, from the last window I could see groups of people walking toward the east field where many of our students were stationed. The two operators moved their tables so that they, too, could look out the window…. Finally at 8:50 the wires were cleared and there was silence, only the ticking of the sidereal clock and the whirring of the chronograph could be heard.”
After the Harvard director, Dr. Harlow Shapely, had signed off in Buffalo and Professor S. L. Boothroyd announced “Ithaca says goodbye,” Furness reported, “our operator began his clicks, while it grew quiet and dark. Mrs. Hall called out ‘It is coming soon.’ The fascination of the scene had held me up to this time…but when she called ‘Stop’ I came to myself, sprang from my station, seized a pair of field glasses, dashed to the southeast window in time to see the wavering shadow bands, heard the word ‘Stop.’ Then silence came, then ‘Dash’ and ‘Poughkeepsie says goodbye,’ and the corona was there. It was a wonderful moment, worth all the work put into it, and all the years of waiting to see it.” The duration of totality of the eclipse in Poughkeepsie was 1 minute and 57.5 seconds. Eight photographs were taken during the eclipse and its immediate aftermath. “Those of the cornoa,” she wrote, “show it to be very beautiful.”
Concluding her account, Professor Furness paid tribute to her predecessor as professor of astronomy and director of the Observatory, the late Mary Watson Whitney ’68, “whose bequest left to the College for research work at the Observatory made it possible for us to provide the apparatus and the help necessary to carry out our rather ambitious plans. This is Vassar’s third eclipse campaign. The first was led by Professor Mitchell in 1869 who went to Burlington, Iowa, with a party of eight Vassar graduates, one of whom was Mary Whitney. Two of our small telescopes now at the Observatory were made for that expedition. In 1900 Professor Whitney took a small party consisting of herself and myself to Wadesboro, N. C., and her telescope again made the trip. In 1925 the eclipse came to Vassar, and our party consisted of the whole College. I wonder when the next Vassar eclipse party will come off, and in what part of the world it will be stationed. Who can tell?”
The Miscellany News
“College Hears First of Series of Radio Concerts,” announced The Miscellany News, as music from the Victor Concert Orchestra and two noted Italian singers on New York radio station WEAF was heard in Vassar Brothers’ Laboratory. The program featured performances by two noted Italian singers, operatic soprano Mme. Toti Dal Monte (Antonietta Meneghel), on the crest of her triumphant American debut in late 1924, and the leading baritone of the Metropolitan Opera, Giuseppe De Luca.
New York City’s first radio station, in 1922, WEAF was owned by Western Electric AT&T. At the time of this series of broadcasts, the station announced a “super radio” arrangement, sending its programs between 8 and 10 each night over underused telephone lines to stations in 18 cities as far west as Minneapolis and Davenport, IA, for simultaneous broadcast and reaching some 12,500,000 listeners—the first network. The station was also interested in transmitting more “good” music and in stemming the tide of jazz.
Polish pianist Wanda Landowska gave a piano and harpsichord recital, including in her programme works by Scarlatti, Daquin, Handel, Bach and Mozart. “Mme. Landowska’s art,” a writer in The Miscellany News said, “has reached that stage of perfection where comment ceases to be applicable, and the highest praise one can bestow is that she has so freed herself through a flawless technigque and sympathetic understanding of the period she interprest, that the music seems to flow of itself and as it would from the minds of its composers.”
A primary force in the revival of the harpsichord, Landowska established the École de Musique Ancienne in Paris in 1925, having made her American debut in 1923 with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
The eminent and prolific American etcher, illustrator and author Joseph Pennell gave a demonstration of etching in connection with the Taylor Hall exhibition of etchings. With his wife Elizabeth Robins Pennell, the authorized biographer of their friend James McNeill Whistler, The Life of James McNeill Whistler (1909), Pennell published dozens of books illustrating cities—London, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia—and regions—France, Italy, England’s Lake District—as well as studies of the building of the Panama Canal, of “the wonder of work,” of “war work in England and in America” and of The Jew at Home: Impressions of a Summer and Autumn Spent with Him in Russia and Austria (1892).
At the time of his death in 1926, The New York Times quoted the appreciation of Pennell’s studies of English munitions factories during World War I by English author and man of letters H. G. Wells: “He sees these forges, workshops, cranes and the like as inhuman and as wonderful as cliffs or great caves or icebergs, or the stars. They are a new aspect of the logic of physical necessity that made all these older things, and he seizes upon the majesty and beauty of their dimensions with an entire impartiality.”
The executive committee of the board of trustees voted to bring all off-campus students not residents of Poughkeepsie on campus. Off-campus housing had been in use since 1893.
The Students’ Association, “recognizing that smoking among women is not established as a social convention acceptable to all groups throughout the country, hereby affirms that smoking is not approved at Vassar and requests the members, in a spirit of courtesy and loyalty to the best interests of the college, to use their own sense of personal obligation in complying with public opinion as herein expressed. Because of the danger of fire, smoking in any college building is forbidden to faculty, students, employees and guests by order of the administration.”
The Vassar Miscellany News
Irish novelist and poet James Stephens read from his work and spoke about the several “speeds” in verse—those of mountains, birds, boys, girls, anger, joy and the sea. “Then,” commented The Miscellany News, “there is the speed of the boy of eighteen who is constantly falling in and out of love. And his speed is shown in a little conversation with a bee. It was a short poem and Mr. Stephens remarked that ‘if a poem may be said more briefly in prose, it is a bad poem.’…. It was with difficulty that he managed to escape from the crowd of those seeking autographs.”
The author of The Crock of Gold (1912), The Demi-Gods (1914) and Deirdre (1923), Stephens published In the Land of Youth in 1924. He visited Vassar again in October 1933.
Professor of History Violet Barbour was among 15 recipients of the first fellowships granted by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The only woman fellow, Professor Barbour received the $2,500 grant for “the study of Anglo-Dutch relations during the period of the Protectorate and Restoration.” Also on the list was the young Aaron Copland, “composer of music—New York City—for creative work in musical composition.”
The New York Times
The trustees accepted the largest gift to be given to the college since the Founder’s original $408,000 in 1861, $500,000 from Mr. and Mrs. John Wood Blodgett (Minnie Cumnock ’84) for a euthenics building and an additional $50,000 as an endowment for its maintenance.
Mrs. Blodgett wrote to the board, “I have come increasingly to feel that women’s education must be thought through in modern terms if it is to affect deeply the oncoming generations. This means a re-routing of its course, accenting women’s need spiritually, intellectually, and politically, and a correlation in the curriculum of scientific knowledge and its practical application.”
“The daisy chain,” The New York Times reported, “was still the feature of Vassar’s Class Day, when it was carried today across the stage of the outdoor theatre by twenty-four of the best-looking sophomores. In the procession there was one brunette, a few well-defined blonds and a number of ash blonds, who seemed to be the most popular…. Even the white shoulder-pads provided to lessen the burden did not prevent some of the chain-bearers from looking distressed beneath their load of flowers.”
Earlier in the day, “the fathers of forty-four seniors played a baseball team composed of their daughters and defeated them by a score of 21 to 17…. The fathers were divided into four nines, each of which played one inning and for the final inning, eight extra parents were placed in the field and the daughters had six outs.” After luncheon “the scene shifted to the outdoor theatre,” where the seniors in Czechoslovakian folk-costumes “executed a variety of steps to Czechoslovakian folk-melodies.”
The New York Times
“…the sophomores continue to get thinner and thinner, and the Daisy Chain heavier and heavier.”
The Miscellany News
Two hundred seventy-four graduates received their diplomas at commencement exercises in the Chapel, where, in his commencement address, President MacCracken urged them to recognize the importance of “leisure.” “The word is, of course, Latin and means ‘It is permitted.’ It implies a positive, constructive, free life. It is the response to the free spirit. And, strange as it may seem, to the college graduate, at least, the answer to the quest for leisure is study.”
Dr. MacCracken also announced gifts to the college totaling $677,629.50, including the previously announced Blodgett gift.
A few hours after her graduation, Margaret Parker Neilley ’25 married Dr. A. Wilbur Duryee in the Chapel.
The New York Times
The annual fee for tuition and residence was raised to $1,000. Eighty-two percent of Vassar students came from private schools, and 9 percent received financial aid.
Mary McLeod Bethune, founder in 1904 of the Daytona [FL] Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, spoke about her work and her school in the Assembly Hall in the former Calisthenium. In what “J. B.” [Josephine Barclay] referred to in The Miscellany News as “one of the few lectures given at Vassar by a colored woman,” Mrs. Bethune found the facilities and opportunities at Vassar “a great contrast to those of her own people, who, she said, had scarcely gained any ground since the Civil War…. She said the negro simply wants the chance of an ordinary citizen to educate and develop himself, to live on terms of equal opportunity and respect with whites…. The negro feels that he has great possibilities and he believes in them.
“After the lecture, Mrs. Bethune answered questions about her work, and showed that the Daytona school is now a flourishing institution. It has 346 members, a faculty of 32, and takes its students through two years of college…. An institute of this kind is especially necessary in Florida because the laws do not allow negros to be taught by whites, and there is no standard high school for negros in the state.”
American socialist Norman Thomas, director of the League for Industrial Democracy, spoke on “What Is Industrial Democracy” under the auspices of the Vassar branch of the League for Industrial Democracy.
This was the first of a number of visits to the college by Thomas, whose daughter Rebekah matriculated as a freshman in 1936.
An archeological institute was held with lectures by Professor Rhys Carpenter of Bryn Mawr, Gisela Richter of the Metropolitan Museum, Professor David M. Robinson of Johns Hopkins University, Edward T. Newell of the American Numismatic Society, Professor Tenney Frank of Johns Hopkins University and members of the Vassar College faculty. Similar institutes were held for modern languages in April 1927, art and music in November 1927 and history and political science in February 1928.
Fresh from defeating the 1923 All-American field hockey team 5-0 in Philadelphia, the all-Irish hockey team defeated the Vassar varsity team, 2-1. Called in The Miscellany News “Perhaps the best team which has come to this country since the undefeated visit of the All-England in the Fall of 1921,” the Irish team was “faster,” but Vassar “made up for their lack of speed by quick interchange and good stick-work.”
Chosen by the Irish Ladies Hockey Union, the world’s oldest women’s hockey associationd, the irish team was scheduled for matches in New York, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Boston, Chicago, Madison and Richmond.
“The father of modern anthropology,” German-American anthropologist Franz Boas, spoke on “The Aims and Methods of Anthropology.” The founder, at Columbia University, of the country’s first integrated department of anthropology and the first doctoral program in the field, Boas was instrumental defining the methodology of anthropological presentation at Harvard’s Peabody Musem, the Field Museum in Chicago and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. A key organizer of the American Anthrolpological Association, he also defined “four fields” approach of the nascent social science, consisting of physical anthropology, linguistics, archaeology and cultural anthropology.
Dr. Elizabeth Burr Thelberg, college physician and professor of physiology and hygiene, was decorated by the French government for her war work. She was one of the originators, toward the end of World War I, of the American Women’s Hospitals and served for many years on the organization’s board.
Writing home in October 1887, a freshman had said: “There is the prettiest little doctor I ever saw; she is so sweet and so unlike the usual doctor.”
Alumnae and other friends of John Leverett Moore, professor of Latin from 1891 until 1923, established the J. Leverett Moore Research Fund. Dr. Moore, who came to Vassar upon receiving his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1891, was for many years on the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. He was the referee at the first college field day for women, at Vassar on November 9, 1895.
The college announced that the Student Association had voted to permit smoking in a room designated for the purpose in the Students’ Building. This reversed a longstanding policy forbidding smoking in college buildings and discouraging it anywhere on campus.
In a letter to The New York Times, President MacCracken entered an ongoing argument about the place of “vocationalism” in the collegiate curriculum. Citing a Times editorial of February 14, MacCracken said it “would leave the undergraduate student with the impression that if the branch of learning with which he is associated is to be directly useful in later life, it is, therefore somewhat degrading. If it has no utility in this world or the next, it is to be regarded as something ennobling and sublime.” Declaring that the “result of such arguments is to accentuate the intellectual snobbery already prevalent in colleges of the arts,” he said those places had “relinquished the right to be called liberal in their attitude toward the rest of learning.” Praising the teaching of “cookery” as he saw it in the 1918 Vassar Training Camp for Nurses as “taught with a purpose so high as to make it a cultural subject,” he suggested “typewriting…another of the pariah studies…may be made a start toward a liberal training in etymology, pure diction, a nice use of style” and could “become quite as useful an aid toward scholarly precision as the bibliographical lists…copied down in the name of culture from the lips of professors.”
In conclusion, MacCracken said, “Let us have done once and for all with this debate about vocationalism. It gets us nowhere. Any student at any time can make any subject vocational…. The obligation of the college reaches only so far as to secure teachers who believe that their subjects are the best in the world; that from them a way leads on to more advanced study, and that the values of liberal culture reside, not alone in the subject matter, but rather in a perception of the beauty of the laws controlling [it]: in a single minded devotion to the matter at hand, and in the mystical combination of truth and personal honor that is bound up in the word scholarship.”
Sophonisba Breckinridge, professor of social economy and dean of the College of Arts, Literature and Science at the University of Chicago, gave the Phi Beta Kappa lecture on “The Public Profession of Social Work.” The first woman to graduate, in 1904, from the University of Chicago law school, Breckinridge and Julia Lathrop ’80 founded, with others, the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, of which she became dean, in 1908. The school merged with the University of Chicago in 1920, forming the university’s Graduate School of Social Service Administration.
Hallie Flanagan, associate professor of English in charge of dramatic production, was one of five women among the 37 fellows appointed in the Guggenheim Foundation program’s second year. The previous grant to Professor of History Violet Barbour was renewed.
The faculty won the Founder’s Day student-faculty baseball game by the score of 19 to 18, but they lost their star left fielder, Professor of Political Science Emerson David Fite, who suffered a broken ankle sliding into third base.
The New York Times
Professor of English Christabel Forsyth Fiske edited the first number of the Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies. Her foreword stated that the volume, a pioneer work of its kind, was intended to answer charges of superficiality in American college work, adding that the articles chosen for publication “offer, at least, a fair mark at which to aim the slings and arrows of public criticism of college methods today.” The New York Herald Tribune commented, “Certainly these papers quite disarm that criticism so far as Vassar in concerned,” and reviewing the journal in Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, the eminent literary historian Professor George R. Havens called it “a very interesting step which may ultimately prove of far-reaching importance.”
To be considered, an essay needed, in Professor Fiske’s words, to “either make an original contribution, however modest, to scholarship; or, for the convenience of the specialist, it must furnish a synthesis, from various and more or less technical sources, of hitherto uncollated material; or it must present, in it dealing with its subject, a new, fresh, and interesting point of view.” The first volume included a critique of Bernard Shaw as economist and playwright, essays on George Meredith, Mother Goose and medieval symbolism, a paper on “Stars With Bright Lines in Their Spectra” and another on “Crystal Structure of Metallic Tellurium and Selenium and of Strontium and Barium Selenide.”
The New York Times noted that the new journal “is in scope, size and seriousness modeled upon the publications of the postgraduate learned societies. Nearly twenty contributions represent a broad field of intensive study by undergraduates carrying advanced work.” The publication appeared annually until 1944, was suspended during the paper shortage in World War II and was revived in 1950. It appeared since then from time to time.
In essay in The New York Times, President MacCracken, whom the editors identified as “one of the most understanding of observers among the college authorities,” offered a comprehensive analysis of the current “student movement,” the growing recognition on American campuses of the longstanding role of students and graduates in shaping their institutions. From the early fraternities to athletics to alumnae associations and now, even to undergraduates’ examination of their curricula and their social rights, this influence was being felt and being resisted by the faculties. The situation, he said, was “like the expression of dismay of the ‘wets’ on the morning after prohibition. The professor engaged in his Addison walk of contemplation has bumped into the stadium and cannot imagine how it came into existence. Fear, which is the child of ignorance, cries ‘Down with it,’ but second thought suggests that the institution is here and that the sooner it is brought into line with the general purpose of the college, the better it will be.”
“In a word,” he wrote, “the American college is no longer a college in the old sense of the word. It is a great social organization operating most powerfully in a democracy, where class lines are not yet strictly drawn, and where vast numbers of people possess leisure. The professor may grumble about it, he may actively oppose it, but he will accommodate himself to the situation as the facts become clear; and he will be all the better for the change.”
In its issue for June 4, the Harvard Crimson reprinted, in its entirety, MacCracken’s analysis of “the present student movement toward greater self-government and self-expression.”
Following selections on the organ by Professor Harold Geer, the 243 graduates in the Class of 1926, led by Loraine Leeson, the president of the Class of 1928, entered the Chapel for Commencement exercises. President MacCracken addressed the class through a parable, “There Came One Running,” in which he examined the values in life of youth and of experience and of action and of contemplative silence. “Allegro con Fuoco,” from Trio in G Minor by Carolyn Paxton ’26 was performed by Miss Paxton, piano, Charlotte Hageman ’26, violin and Alice Allen ’25, violoncello, master’s degrees were conferred on Maria Antinori ’26, Leah Anna Davis ’26 and Bertha M. Ruef ’15.
After the conferring of degrees, President MacCracken said, “I hold in my hand a list of young graduates of Vassar College now engaged in postgraduate study and research. The list exceeds one hundred and sixty in number and is by no means complete since it was rapidly compiled from our best information…. This may be called the advance guard of our army which has set out to attack ignorance everywhere…. Some of you, not less than sixty, will join them, in addition to the fifty who, among you, have made plans next year yourselves to teach. We are proud of such a contribution…. And we are equally proud of that larger group who have chosen to live, not a life of learning, but the learning life, and who, in other occupations…will carry a trained mind, skilled hand and well governed will into every part of America and into every occupation. You have received our last gift, which is only putting under hand and seal your own achievement in four years at Vassar.”
President MacCracken announced that the college have received gifts amounting to nearly $450,000 during the year, including $75,000 for the new nursery school and more than $93,000 for scholarship aid, including two gifts designated for foreign students. The Miscellany News
The first Euthenics Institute, later called the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living, welcomed parents and children, teachers and social workers to the campus for six weeks. Forty-five married and unmarried women, 25 children and three husbands made up the first class. The Summer Euthenics Institute differed from the undergraduate college program in that it was intended for both men and women and was generally aimed at people older than college-age. An emphasis in this summer’s program was on the role of the father in the family unit. The father was expected to be an active and equal participant, not merely an observer. President MacCracken described it as a “…graduate program designed to supplement the undergraduate curriculum along the lines of euthenics.”
One component of the first institute, a radio address entitled “Racial Betterment” by birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, drew particular attention. Citing the two “major problems” facing civilization, population pressure on food supply and “reconciliation of humanitarian practices with race betterment,” Sanger dismissed the former for the purposes of her remarks to the institute, focusing rather on the latter, in an appeal for “a new world, a conscious civilization.” Praising recent strictures on the immigration of “undesirables,” she declared, “while we close our gates to the so-called ‘undesirables’ from other countries, we make no attempt to discourage or cut down on the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home….These types are being multiplied with… breakneck rapidity and increasing far out of proportion to the normal and intelligent classes.” Sanger looked to legislation encouraging voluntary, government-subsidized sterilization of “obviously unfit parents,” seeing it as the only practical way of increasing the proportion of American citizens born to “college men and women…. all the professional classes, doctors, clergymen, lawyers and skilled workers.”
Esther Katz, ed., The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, vol. 1
Margaret Sanger’s grandson, Alexander Sanger, spoke at Vassar in 1991, in recognition the 75th anniversary of the birth control movement.
The summer institutes continued until 1959.
The Rev. Dr. Henry E. Cobb, chair of the board of trustees, offered the invocation and President MacCracken gave the address at Convocation, marking the beginning of the college’s 62nd year. Professor of Economics Herbert E. Mills spoke on aspects of college life.
A symposium on “Vassar and the Changing World” held during the council meeting of the Associate Alumnae (AAVC) was open to the public. Political scientist Sarah Wambaugh, an authority on referenda, spoke on “The Changing World” and six Vassar alumnae: Marion Coats ’07, principal of the Bradford Academy and newly chosen president of the nascent Sarah Lawrence College; Katharine Rogers ’24; Marjorie Dempsey ’15; orthopedic surgeon Barbara Stimson ’19 and suffragette and political activist Lucy Kennedy Miller ’02, spoke briefly on their specialties, and Margaret Jackson Allen ’01, defended the smatterer in “A Defense of the Discursive Life.”
This was the first vocational conference at which accomplished alumnae talked to students. An open conference the following day on “The International Mind” featured Dorothy Stimson ’12, dean and associate professor of history at Goucher College, Ruth Morgan and Dr. Ernst Jäckh, director of the Deutschen Hochschule für Politik in Berlin.
An Institute of Physics was held to celebrate the dedication of the Henry M. Sanders Laboratory of Physics, Allen & Ewing, architects. The building was erected in large part with a bequest from Dr. Sanders, trustee of Vassar from 1895 until his death in 1921. The guest of honor, the Serbian-American physicist and inventor, Mihajlo I. Pupin, professor of electro-mechanics at Columbia University and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, spoke on “Physics and Its Place in Modern Scientific Idealism.”
In his remarks, Dr. Pupin spoke of the interactions of the sounds of bells and of music and the light of the stars with human consciousness, and in conclusion he invoked the “voice” of a young star, beyond the earth’s stellar system, as it might be detected by spectroscopic means:
“I am an astral baby now, and will be a baby still when, a million years hence, you will receive this message. Many billions of years will pass before the ardor of my youth has cooled down to the moderation of your central star, the sun. Heaven only knows when I shall be as old as your old Mother Earth. But when I reach that age I shall be a beautiful cosmic bell just like your earth and, responding to the clappers of the luminous stars, I shall add my voice to the celestial choir which is declaring the glory of God.”The New York Times
Other institute participants were Columbia embryologist Thomas H. Morgan, Dr. Willis R. Whitney, founder of the General Electric Research Laboratory, Professor Henry Norris Russell, director of the Princeton Observatory, Nobel Prize physicist and president of Caltech, Robert A. Millikan and Professor of Physics Frederick A. Saunders of Harvard University.
Summarizing the institute, on October 20, in “Vassar and Science,” The New York Times concluded that the “provision which Vassar has made through the gift of Dr. Sanders is significant in the history of the education of women. Not that American colleges for women have not made noteworthy contributions to science in the past, and notably Vassar, but that this marks a definite effort to lead women toward the higher ranges of science where a few of their sisters now make researches along with their brothers, who, as Dr. Millikan, inquire into the ultimate sources of matter, or, as Dr. Pupil, seek to give physics its place in modern scientific idealism.”
Returning from a lecture tour in the United States, the Irish writer Shaw Desmond offered advice in London’s Evening Standard to other writers considering a visit to America. “If you want the most exclusive audience of all,” he wrote, “you will have to go to Boston.” The Midwest, he said, was “the home of soft sentiment and pink-eyed Puritanism,” but foreign lecturers should expect to meet, at Vassar and Wellesley, “some of the most adorable girls in the world,” who would make “a great fuss” over their visitors, while providing a critical, intelligent audience.
The New York Times
The college announced the trustees’ acceptance of a plan offered by a student and faculty committee to end compulsory chapel attendance. For two years students had advocated voluntary religious services, and the trustees accepted the principle at their meeting on June 1, provided the joint committee prepare a plan for maintaining voluntary religious services on Sundays and weekdays.
As of Monday, November 15, the new, completely voluntary plan was in effect. Fifteen-minute services were held Tuesday through Friday, and the president could call a meeting of the whole college for Monday evenings, as he saw necessary. The weekday services consisted of prayer, a hymn, a reading from Scriptures and an optional short address. The only religious feature in the occasional Monday meetings was the singing of a hymn. Sunday services were continued.
The Board of Trustees inaugurated “Invest in Vassar,” an annuity plan for alumnae.
Sarah Lawrence College, an experimental junior college for women, was granted a provisional charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. Founded by a gift of $1,250,000 from William V. Lawrence, in memory of his wife, it was the first two-year college in New York and one of the first in the country. The gift included Mr. Lawrence’s estate, Westlands, in Bronxville, NY. The innovative curriculum of the new college was planned in consultation with President MacCracken, who served as chairman of the Sarah Lawrence board of trustees, and Marion Coats ’07, head of the Bradford Academy in Massachusetts, who became the new college’s first president.
Miss Coates told The New York Times that the college’s aim was “to provide higher education for girls who have been graduated from secondary schools but who are not the type sought by the four-year women’s colleges.” With the four-year colleges filled to overflowing, she said, many students with “real qualities of leadership were unable to get the college training best suited to their requirements.”
By agreement with the Vassar board of trustees, the Vassar board chose five members of the Sarah Lawrence Board, of whom at least four were of their own number. The official connection with Vassar ended in 1932, but Dr. MacCracken remained ex-officio a member of the board of trustees until Dec. 9, 1936, the tenth anniversary of the founding of the college. The interlocking boards were intended to allow the new college, should it falter, to become part of Vassar.
President MacCracken announced the appointment of Dr. Smiley Blanton, director of the Child Guidance Clinic of Minneapolis and lecturer on child guidance at the University of Minnesota, as Vassar’s first professor of child study.
Dr. Blanton joined the Vassar faculty at the start of the 1927-28 academic year.
Professor of Latin Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 was elected chairman of the advisory council of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, the first woman to hold the position.
“An airplane circled over Vassar College today,” the New York Times reported, “and dropped a letter for Madeline Prentiss, a granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller. The letter was from Miss Prentiss’s father and was picked up by two students, who delivered it.” Madeline [Mary Adeline] Prentice ’29, the daughter of Alta Rockefeller Prentice, was a history major at Vassar.
Silk draperies caught fire when a freshman rushing for breakfast left an electric curling iron on a celluloid tray on her dresser in Main Building. Smoke filled two rooms and a corridor before college staff extinguished the blaze with hand-operated chemical tanks.
The next day, college authorities banned the use of curling irons in any of the college buildings, and a few days later Keene Richards, the college’s manager, had the charred curling iron framed and hung on a wall in Main “near busts and paintings of famous men and women” as an admonition to students.The New York Times
William Rose Benét, Padraic Colum, Marguerite Wilkinson, DuBose Heyward and Leonard Bacon were among the prominent younger poets assembled by Professor of English Edward Davison—himself a poet—to discuss the effect of the modern American city on contemporary poetry. Bacon deplored the city’s tendency to encourage schools; Heyward said “the modern city has done something terrible to people trying to be artists;” Benét feared too much intellectuality, and Colum said no poet could “express the scientific advance of today—interpret the chemist and the engineer and Einstein’s work—in human terms.” But Wilkinson was more hopeful, citing Robert Frost as an example of a new ability “to produce poetry with fine local flavor, rising straight from the soil” and praising Edward Arlington Robinson’s ability “to express personality and character and to interpret them so well that some of the characters we meet in poetry are more real than chance acquaintances…in real life.” And, she noted, “We have also begun to make sincere lyrics of womanhood, telling naturally, simply and without affectation the things in the hearts of women.”
The New York Times
President MacCracken announced the completion of a $25,000 fund in honor of the most senior professor at Vassar, Lucy Maynard Salmon, the chair of the history department. After postgraduate study at her alma mater, the University of Michigan, and at Bryn Marwr, Salmon joined the Vassar faculty in 1887, charged specifically with the foundation of the history department. An innovative teacher and scholar from the outset of her long career, she pioneered in the use of statistics and the evidentiary materials of every day life in the study of social history. An early proponent of woman suffrage, she was among the faculty leaders who shaped the modern Vassar curriculum.
Professor Salmon was to have received the income from the fund during her lifetime, but she died a few days after this announcement, on February 14. The Salmon Fund was subsequently used to promote faculty research, and in the subsequent settlement of Salmon’s estate, a sum of $30,200 was bequeathed to the college for a fund to be used at the discretion of the librarian.
Eight students, representing the Vassar dramatic association Philaletheis, were among the 300 college, university, community, church and other delegates from non-professional theatrical organizations in the United States and Canada attending the National Conference on the Theatre in New Haven, sponsored by the recently established Yale department of drama and its Yale Drama School. Among the speakers on topics ranging from set design and lighting to the operation of outdoor theaters were the founder of the Cornell Dramatic Club, Alexander M. Drummond and Professor George Pierce Baker, the lengendary teacher of Harvard’s “English 47,” a course in the art of the theater, and its “47 Workshop,” a famed laboratory in play-writing, recently arrived at Yale to lead the new department.
Philaletheis presented Urfaust, translated by Mary Prentice Lillie ’27, the first translation into English and the first production of the earliest extant version of Goethe’s Faust.
The Vassar College Choir gave the first American performances of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger’s Cantique de Paques and of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ motet, O Vos Omnes.
American sculptor and teacher Lorado Taft delivered a comprehensive illustrated lecture on “American Sculpture and Sculptors.” Tracing American sculpture back to the early 18th century, Taft identified the New Jersey wax works of Patience Wright and the later work in wood by William Rush and in marble by a “gravestone man from New Jersey,” John Frazee as the beginnings of American sculpture, saying that “America in particular needs the fine arts because this country has so little background of tradition.”
Taft discussed the work of Augustus Saint Gaudens at length. Claiming Saint Gaudens as the greatest American sculptor, Taft praised most highly his memorial to Clover Adams, the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek cemetery in Washington, D. C.
“At the close of his lecture, Mr. Taft showed again the picture of Saint Gaudens’s draped figure which has symbolized so much to the different persons who have seen it, as the greated acheivement of American sculpture.”The Miscellany News
Taft’s Modern Tendencies in Sculpture (1921), a compilation of his lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago, was a landmark survey of the medium in America and Europe in the 20th century.
After a two-year study involving faculty and student forums, the faculty adopted a new curriculum, limiting the required courses and stressing the development of a larger single major field, chosen at the end of the first year, with a stricter definition of the purpose of study.
The new process, in which students consulted members of the board of elections and sought approval of the department in which their chief interests lay, was intended to lead to concentrations that had more unity of purpose and that would hold more interest for each student.
Two members of the first graduating class, Harriet Warner Bishop ’67 and Helen Woodward ’67, joined some 15 members of the Class of 1877—celebrating the 50th anniversary of its commencement—and other alumnae at reunion.
The Rev. Dr. Henry Hallam Tweedy of the Yale Divinity School preached the sermon at baccalaureate exercises for the Class of 1927. Drawing his text from 2 Kings 18:23 “I will give you 2,000 horses—if you can put riders on them,” Rev. Tweedy compared the Biblical horses to the many future undertakings of the graduates—in the home, the community, their work, the Church and in educating others—and he urged the class to draw not only on their privileges and opportunities but also on their natural talents and capabilities in their myriad future actions. The baccalaureate hymn was composed by Alice Williams ’27, with lyrics by Alice Hubbard ’27.
A scarcity of daisies on the Vassar grounds led to a daisy chain made of thousands of New Jersey daisies for the Class of 1927’s Class Day. The New York Times reported on the annual father-daughter baseball game: “No one knew the score at the end of the game, but it was generally agreed that the fathers won.” A tableau, “The College Town of Hamelin,” was performed in the Out-of-Door Theatre, which was also the site of a production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Duenna, directed by Olivia Jenkins ‘27.
“The task of culture in the civilized world,” President MacCracken told the 248 members of the Class of 1927, the faculty and their guests in his address at Commencement, “is first to obtain a real community or commerce of thought and then to concern itself with its value.” Speaking on “One Equal Temper”—words, he confessed, “purloined from a mid-Victorian source”—MacCracken contrasted this task with the “selective” task of education, which “bears upon its shoulders the burden of the communicable past. The symbols in its treasured pack must be taken out, dusted off and exhibited before our youths, like the symbols of a tribe…. Generation by generation the symbols become more dim in meaning, and the sense of reality is transmitted into unreality.
“We have failed…in our life here with you,” he continued, “if you have not to some extent cultivated the habit of fuller communication. We shall fail more signally if in the years that succeed college life you do not resist the tendency, so common with us, of skimming on the surface.”
Helen Kenyon ’05, secretary of the board of trustees, announced that, in addition to the gift of $97,000 from Charles A. Wimpfheimer for the building and maintenance of the Mildred Rosalie Wimpfheimer Nursery School, Mary Morris Pratt ’80 had given $50,000 for the enlargement and restoration of the organ in the Chapel.The New York Times
The Lucy Maynard Salmon Research Fund was established by friends and former students of Professor Salmon “in appreciation of her outstanding achievements here at Vassar and in the community at large.” Miss Salmon was professor of history from 1887 until 1926.
Florence Cushing ’74 died at her summer home in Norwell, MA. One of the original three alumnae trustees in 1887, she served on the board from 1887 until 1893 and from 1906 until 1912, at which time she was elected to life membership on the board. Retiring in 1923, Miss Cushing became the college’s only trustee emerita, a title created especially for her.
The revised curriculum approved in May went into effect as the college opened with 1,150 students, 330 of them freshmen. Comprehensive annual fees remained at $1,000, some $200 less than the annual per student cost of operation.
President MacCracken and Professor of Political Science Emerson D. Fite spoke at Fall Convocation. MacCracken spoke on “A New Map of Vassar,” saying the recent additions of Kendrick Hall, Wimpfheimer Nursery School, Kenyon Hall and the soon to be completed Blodgett Hall—a million cubic feet of new space—had changed Vassar’s topography.
Welcoming the Class of ’31 on behalf of the faculty, Professor Fite spoke on “Methods of Scholarship,” describing the interaction of teaching and learning at the college and the faculty’s view of students’ pursuit of knowledge. Fite said, according to The Miscellany News, “A teacher is not always necessary to an advanced student, who, having learned the proper method, can sometimes work alone.”
Cushing Hall, a freshman dormitory, was dedicated. Named in honor of Florence M. Cushing ’74, who served as alumnae trustee—1887-1894 and 1906-1912—and as a life trustee, 1913-1923, the $400,000 building designed by Allen & Collens had two dining rooms and accommodated 140 students. The campus could now accommodate 1,050 residential students.
The building was completed in September, but its dedication was deferred owing to Miss Cushing’s death on September 20. Her classmate, Laura Brownell Collier ’74, Marion Coats ’07, the president of Sarah Lawrence College, and President MacCracken spoke at the ceremony.
The Georgia A. Kendrick Hall, given to the college by Mrs. Kendrick’s sister, Myra H. Avery and designed by York and Sawyer, was dedicated. Mrs. Kendrick had lived at Vassar in 1885-85 during the acting-presidency of her husband, Rev. J. Ryland Kendrick, a Baptist minister and Vassar trustee. Rev. Kendrick died in 1889, and Mrs. Kendrick became lady principal in 1891, succeeding Abby Goodsell ’69. She retired in 1913 and died on December 14, 1922. Miss Avery’s gift—$210,000—was, she said, “a visible memorial of my sister’s…many years of devoted service.”
The faculty residence hall, an early example of off-campus housing for women faculty members, contained apartments in several configurations, housekeepers’ quarters, a central dining hall and a living room. Miss Avery, President MacCracken and Mabel Hastings Humpstone ’94, a friend of Mrs. Kendrick, spoke at the dedication.
In the first production of the Vassar College Experimental Theatre, Hallie Flanagan’s class in dramatic production presented an innovative staging of Anton Chekhov’s A Marriage Proposal, using conventional, expressionist and constructivist styles consecutively in the three acts.
The production was subsequently presented at the Yale University Theatre and again at Vassar the following March.
The Mildred Rosalie Wimpfheimer Nursery School was completed, Allen & Collens, architects. Importer Charles A. Wimpfheimer gave it in honor of his daughter’s graduation in 1927. The day nursery was opened Nov. 1 1927.
The Mostellaria of Plautus was presented in Latin by the classes in Latin comedy.
As part of a plan to devote one week each term to a departmental “institute,” the History and Political Science Institute offered a series of lectures under the auspices of the departments of history and political science. Speakers included Baron Alexander Meyendorff from the London School of Economics and the School of Slavonic Studies, London; economic historian Professor Edwin F. Gay, the first dean of the Harvard Business School; Professor Edwin M. Borchard, a specialist in international non-intervetion from Yale Law School; American historian Edward P. Cheyney from the University of Pennsylvania; Professor David Saville Muzzey, the author of highly influentual texts on American and Latin-American history from Columbia University; future Supreme Court Justice Professor Felix Frankfurter from Harvard Law School; Professor James T. Shotwell from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Frank Tannenbaum, author and penologist and medievalist Professor Thomas Frederick Tout from the University of Manchester, England.
At the invitation of Professor George Pierce Baker, director of the Yale University Theatre, Hallie Flanagan’s class in dramatic production presented the Experimental Theatre’s production of Chekhov’s A Marriage Proposal, in which the three acts were staged, sequentially, in the conventional, expressionist and constructivist styles. In opening the Yale theater for the first time to a guest production, Professor Baker wrote: “Our productions at Yale so far have been in the main realistic, with an occasional venture into expressionism.” Referring to Davis’s recent Guggenheim fellowship to study European theater, he noted, “I should welcome an opportunity to see constructivism as it is tried on Russia’s Revolutionary stage.”
The New York Times
President MacCracken appeared in the Out-of-Door Theatre in the title role of the third hall play, “Lorenzo the Magnificent,” written by Helen Riesenfeld ’28 and directed by Rosalind Howe ’28. Other players in the 25-scene study of the 15th century Florentine ruler included Professor of Political Science Emerson D. Fite, Professor of Philosophy Durant Drake, Associate Professor of Greek Philip Davis and Assistant Professor of Art Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Among those playing Lorenzo’s children were Joy and Calvin MacCracken and Frederick Flanagan, the son of Hallie Flanagan, director of the Experimental Theatre.
The production was staged again at Commencement.
William Skinner, Holyoke, MA, announced a $40,000 gift to the college, honoring the memory of his three sisters. $10,000 for study of Franco-American relations went to augment a $15,000 scholarship established earlier by Belle Skinner ‘87 for graduate study of history in provincial France, $16,000 established a scholarship for study of the Bible honoring Elizabeth Skinner Hubbard ’80 and $16,000 established a scholarship for the study of botany honoring Nancy Skinner Clark ’75.
In November 1929, Mr. Skinner gave the college $600,000 for the construction of the Belle Skinner Hall of Music, which was dedicated in November, 1831.
Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of Union Theological Seminary, challenged the Class of 1928 in his baccalaureate sermon to ask themselves if they were “carrying” their religion or “is your religion carrying you.” A burdensome religion, he said, was a false religion. “There are many nominal Christians,” he warned, “and possibly some in this graduating class have no sense of being lifted or up-borne by a mighty power.”
“My mission today,” President MacCracken announced in his commencement address, “is to repel the baseless charge that the colleges for women are lawless, that they teem with a subversive life, that we train students against law and government and that we are, to quote the unretracted words of a high official, ‘enemies of the commonwealth.’”
Pointing to the publication in The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies of “the products of our class rooms for public inspection” and the reporting of “the life of our student body” in The Miscellany News, MacCracken said it was “from those who know us least that the criticism comes…. Were it not so we should indeed have suffered in recent years both in the number and the quality of our clientele. That we have not so suffered….is due to the fact that there are those who know us well.”The New York Times
President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 237 members of the Class of 1928 at Commencement in the Chapel. Six master’s degrees were also awarded, and it was announced that annual gifts to the college totaled $891,686, including $300,000 from Samuel W. Baldwin and a bequest from Mary Evelyn Colgate ’27 of $75,000, half of the residuary estate of Miss Colgate, who died May 22, 1928.
The first airmail from Europe to the United States, carried by the Graf Zeppelin, included three letters to Vassar.
Republican candidate Herbert Hoover won the presidential election, defeating New York Governor Alfred E. Smith.
“Student Vote Won by Hoover. Smith Poor Second Gets Only 209 against 506.”Poughkeepsie Eagle
Under the auspices of the Vassar Cooperative Bookshop, Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17 read, before a large audience, from both her published and unpublished work in the Students’ Building. Reading “Passer Mortuus Est,” from Second April (1921), Millay noted that it was written while she was a student and that, according to The Miscellany News, it was “influenced by her study of Catullus.” “The Ballad of the Harp Weaver,” the Misc. reviewer continued, “stirred the audience through its effective rhythms and its moving simplicity, beautifully expressed in Miss Millay’s reading.” “Memorial to D. C,” five elegies written also at Vassar in memory of Millay’s close friend, Dorothy Coleman ’18, who died in 1918 during the ‘flu epidemic, was read “with an intensity of feeling which gave a sense of their significance.” And the reviewer found Millay’s complex sound-poem, “Counting-out Rhyme—‘Silver bark of beech, and sallow/ Bark of yellow birch and yellow/ Twig of willow….—’a fascinating experiment in the combination of words for sheer loveliness of sound, and in the use of a sort of assonance instead of rhyme.”
Informally, Millay commented on “changes which she noticed on her return to Vassar, particularly the passing of the nightly rush to Chapel.” Compulsory chapel attendance, a dreaded daily event in Millay’s day, was discontinued in November, 1926.
The Minnie Cumnock Blodgett Hall of Euthenics was completed, York & Sawyer, architects. It was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Wood Blodgett. Mrs. Blodgett was a member of the Class of 1884, a trustee from 1917 through 1931, and the mother of Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, trustee, 1942-1954, and chairman of the Board, 1945-1952.
Arthur Honegger, French composer-pianist and the leader of the avant-garde Le Groupe des Six, gave a recital of his own compositions. Assisting M. Honegger were his wife, the French pianist Andreé Vaurabourg and American coloratura soprano Cobina Wright. “There is little question” wrote “H.J.” in a review in The Miscellany News, “that Mr. Honegger is inspired by ideas new and very unique. The first piece, a Toccato and Variations, showed a faint suggestion of the jazz rhythms that wend their way into a great deal of modern music. There being no melody of a tuneful sort to give the listener a straw to grasp in a melee of unfamiliar harmonic progressions and combinations, the unity of the piece was hard to understand. The devices used to produce a feeling of continuity were either too subtle for perception at the first hearing, or else the material was too thin, for the piece seemed to lack the balance of well-rounded composition, although sections of it were very invigorating and fresh. Andreé Vaurabourg played it excellently.”
M. Honegger’s colleague in Le Groupe Des Six, Darius Milhaud, gave a lecture-recital of his music at Vassar in January 1923.
The first automatic electric Victrola was installed, in Main Building’s Room J.
Speaking at the annual luncheon of the New York Vassar Club, President MacCracken said a recent gift made Vassar’s scholarship endowment, over $800,000, the largest of any at a women’s college, giving needy applicants a better chance than ever for a Vassar education. “We must,” he declared, “remove the impression that Vassar is increasingly a rich girls’ college, for it certainly is not true. Never before has so much attention been given to helping girls who are handicapped by lack of funds. In 1914 only 4 percent of the total budget was devoted to scholarships, while in 1928 10 percent was given over to scholarships.”
For 1929-30 $105,000 was granted to some 200 students, and the average grant was $500. Comprehensive fees remained at $1,000.
The third intercollegiate model assembly of the League of Nations was held at Vassar under the auspices of the Political Association. Nineteen colleges were represented. Economist and former Commissioner of the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Royal Meeker from Yale University and Dr. James G. McDonald of the Foreign Policy Association spoke. A Vassar-Yale debate, “Resolved, that the Governments Should Adopt a System of Compulsory Arbitration,” was won by Vassar, supporting the affirmative.
The requirement of unanimous consent foiled subsequent attempts at “international” legislation as questions on a range of topics, from “the international character of the Secretariat” to “forced and compulsory labor” and League “intervention…in disputes to which American…members of the League are parties” were defeated by three or four votes. The assembly ended in unanimity, resolving “That President-elect Hoover upon taking office be petitioned to do all in his power to bring about the entrance of the United States into the League of Nations.”
The first model assembly was held at Syracuse in 1927, and the second was at Cornell the following year. It was hoped that the event would occur annually.The New York Times
Economics Week was observed with six lectures. William Green, President of the American Federation of Labor, was one of the speakers.
Summarizing the changing interests of college women since 1900, economics professor Herbert Mills reported that from courses related to human and social problems—socialism, labor problems, charities and corrections—student selections had shifted to courses dealing with business economics, finance, money and banking, statistics and the stock market. “Even students with the old missionary zeal are attracted not to 95 Rivington Street [home of the New York College Settlement house since 1889]…but to the offices and libraries of the League of Nations in beautiful Geneva. Wall Street, Macy’s or one of the great agencies in which modern advertising has raised mendacity to an art has more appeal than Hull House or the United Charities Building.” Mr. Mills thought that the main reason for the shift in interest was that “entrance into the business world is but the last assertion of equal rights of women to those privileges and duties that men have had.”
Midwestern poet and author Carl Sandburg gave readings of poetry, selections from his children’s book Rootabaga Stories (1922) and songs with guitar accompaniment, under the auspices of the Cooperative Book Shop. His Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926), conceived as a work for children, grew into a very successful two-volume illustrated study of Lincoln for adults. Its two-volume successor, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years (1940) won Sandburg is first Pulitzer Prize.
Mme. Sarojini Naidu, the first woman president of the Indian National Congress, India’s largest political party and the party of Mahatma Gandhi, lectured on “Interpretations of Modern Indian Renaissance.” India acheived independence from Britain on January 26, 1930.
The evening motoring hour was extended to 10 pm. Parents’ permission for unchaperoned motoring was no longer required.
The annual silver cup, donated anonymously, for the best class contribution in music was awarded to the Class of 1929 for the andante for violin, violoncello and piano by Mary Duncan ’29 and the baccalaureate hymn by Beatrice Ripley ’29 with lyrics by Katherine Kosmak ’29.
Alumnae celebrated Alumnae Day with the traditional parade of the classes. Eleanor Goss ’16, four-time women’s doubles winner of the US National Tennis Championship, defeated President MacCracken in an exhibition match, 6-1 and 6-0.
In his baccalaureate sermon, the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of the Park Avenue Baptist Church, spoke on “The Philosophy of Play.” “We never get the most out of life,” he said, “until the element of play enters…. Even religion is humdrum unless the spirit of play enters into it. Jesus Christ was no pale Galilean. He loved nature and little children and it was there that the play entered into his stern life. The best work in the world is that done not for money nor necessity but for fun.”
The New York Times
Class Day ceremonies included the traditional Daisy Chain, carried by 24 sophomores, and the father-daughter baseball game, which ended in a 12-12 tie. For the second year, an open faculty-parent forum was conducted. The discussion topics ranged from the new curriculum’s goal of better meeting students’ individual needs to the place of extra-curricular activities, the growth of religious life on campus and Vassar’s relation to trends in American life.
Speaking to the 238 members of the Class of 1929, the faculty and guests at Commencement, President MacCracken attacked a false sophistication and artificiality in contemporary American life and urged a return to honest discussion and frankness of opinion. The artificial quality of discourse extended, he said, to all areas of the culture—colleges, churches, music, social arts and politics. “The result,” he proposed, “has been a new artificiality, which makes culture, home and education peppy…. Sophistication takes refuge in virtuosity and makes a stunt of expression. It’s mechanism is that of dictation and inflation…. Trivial thoughts are spun out in familiar bunk.” Deliberative thought, expressed in plain and lucid language, MacCracken urged, needed desperately to be again practiced and valued.
Master’s degrees were awarded to Margaret Cornelison ’27 and Lydia Ilse Hecht ’29. Annual gifts to the college totaled $210,000.The New York Times
Economic depression started.
A Vassar student was sent to Spain for her junior year. Vassar was the first college to have a junior year in Spain.
Owing to the enrollment limit at 1,150 and fewer students leaving, the college opened with 288 freshmen, the smallest entering class since 1920. Twelve students entered Vassar with advanced standing, including two from Germany and one each from Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Ninety-four of the freshmen were from New York State, and 32 were daughters of alumnae.
The New York Times
“Black Thursday,” the stock market declined sharply, continuing its fall until “Black Tuesday,” October 29. The New York Times industrial index had lost half its value.
In a debate between Yale and Vassar freshmen on the question, “Resolved, That the emergence of the woman from the home is one of the regrettable features of modern life,” Vassar, arguing the negative, won by a vote of 2 to 1. The judges were Professors Herbert Mills and Eloise Ellery and the audience, which cast one vote.
The New York Times
Helen Kenyon ’05 was elected the first woman chairman of the board of trustees, with indeterminate tenure. She served as president of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College from 1918 until 1921 and as an alumnae trustee from 1923 until 1928. In 1921 and 1922, Kenyon was treasurer of the Salary Endowment Fund, helping to raise a record $3 million for the fund.
In 1935, the college and the trustees expressed their gratitude to Helen Kenyon in the construction the exemplary Helen Kenyon Hall of Physcial Education, embodying, in President MacCracken’s words at its dedication, “the transition of physical education from its earlier function as a calisthenic drill to is incorporation as a social institution in daily life.” Miss Kenyon retired from the board in 1939, subsequently devoting her time and energies to other philanthropic interests. She died in 1978.
The New York Times reported on the geographic distribution of the some 7,000 living alumnae of the college. Dispersed over every state in the Union, four Territories and 42 foreign countries, 2,540 of them lived in New York State—nearly half, 948, in New York City—735 lived in Massachusetts, 581 were in New Jersey, 393 lived in Illinois and 315 were in California.
The Board of Trustees elected its first woman chairman, Helen Kenyon ’05. She previously served as alumnae trustee, 1923-1928.
Upholding the affirmative, a Vassar team consisting of Constance Williams ’30 and Mary McInerny ‘31 defeated debaters from Amherst by a 2-1 decision. The question was, “Resolved, That the present national political alignment in the United States has outlived its period of usefulness.”
The Experimental Theatre gave the American première of Luigi Pirandello’s Each in His Own Way (Ciascuno a suo modo, 1924). An anonymous reviewer in The Miscellany News found the “expressive technique” of the production “well-suited to the play” as well as to the particularities of the venue. “In naturalistic plays,” she wrote, “when girls must impersonate men, a violation of our aesthetic senses is inevitable. But in such a play as Pirandello’s, where we see men and women who are mere toys of the great life force which makes puppets of them, our intrest has shifted. The emphasis is no longer on the differences of men and women, but [on] their underlying similarities.”
The reviewer also praised the effect and “simplicity of the surroundings…. The black and white color scheme is suggestive of the inner meaning of the play. The costumes of the characters who stalk about unconscious of the life force…express their puppet natures—Donna Livia all grey, the old gentlemen, the friends, Doro clad in conventional black. Even the fluffy, fussy girls are practically colorless. We hear that blood has been shed, and we…see the color of red exactly in proportion to the individuals’ awareness of the force of life within them. Delia, in whom the feeling is strongest, steps through the black curtains all in red velvet. Even her hair is red.”
Pirandello spoke at Vassar on “The Italian Theatre, Old and New” in January 1924, and The Experimental Theatre presented another American première, that of his satiric drama Tonight We Improvise (Questa sera si recita a soggetto, 1929), in December 1936
Non-sectarian communion services were instituted in the Vassar College Chapel.