The students presented a petition to the faculty asking for permission to organize a "Student Association," something they, the trustees and the faculty hadn't anticipated when the college opened.  Speaking in Cleveland to the annual meeting of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) in 1914, Maria Dickinson McGraw '67, one of the four first graduates of the college, recalled unintentionally raising the question with President John Raymond a year and a half earlier, at the end of her first year at Vassar, when some money was left after the first Founder's Day.

"In settling up accounts the balance was on the right side and to be disposed of. It was suggested that we buy a flag, as the college had none. The recently closed war had made us acquainted with the Stars and Stripes, accustomed us to its sight, and not at ease without it. We decided to ask for a students' meeting to consider the matter. Some individuals of the Faculty thought we should give the money for some cause in New York for which there had been soliciting at the college. Permission was given for the meeting; and after prayers on a Saturday morning President Raymond turned to me and said, 'Now, Miss Dickinson, for your meeting!' I said the request was for a meeting of the students' association. (I had lately learned the phrase and not its technical meaning.) The President looked alarmed and said rather severely, 'I know of no such organization.' I explained that I simply meant a meeting of the students themselves, without the Faculty. He looked puzzled—such a thing had never been thought of—hesitated a moment, then, with a bit of a smile, looked up and said, 'The Faculty are devited.' Miss Mitchell and Professor Tenney rose at once and left the chapel. the others followed slowly, looking very doubtful. When the chapel door closed upon them, Dr. Raymond said cheerfully, 'Now, Miss Dickinson, you will need a chairman.' I replied, 'Yes, President Raymond, we will choose one as soon as you have gone.' Our good President's face was a study: he said nothing; gathered up his notes and 'other spectacles,' and slowly walked the length of the chapel amid the densest silence, while the awed students sat with bated breath."

The association’s constitution was approved February 3rd.  Informal meetings had been held previously.     The Vassar Miscellany 

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, the Quaker abolitionist and suffragist, spoke at Vassar on "Idiots and Women." Commenting on the lecture in a letter written on April 28, Matthew Vassar wrote Elizabeth Powell, instructor in physical training, "The subject of 'Woman's Suffrage' or 'Idiot and Women' was correctly quoted from the Law granting the right of them to the ballot Box, and when I first read the Law some years ago I was equaly supprised to find our Fair Sex placed in so shamefull a category as ‘criminals, paupers, Idiots &c,' which if the Law was right by this classification I think it is full time my 300 daughters at 'Vassar' knew it, and applied the remidy."     Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar

Founder’s Day: “In ’68, the last time Mr. Vassar was present, the chief event was an original cantata with music by Professor Ritter, entitled ‘The Crown of Life,’ proving later of especially beautiful significance.”     Frances A. Wood, Earliest Years at Vassar

The Class of 1868 planted a swamp white oak as their class tree on the south side of the driveway west of Main. This was the first class tree. The Class of 1867, in the first Class Day exercises, had planted ivy on Main Building. 

Matthew Vassar died as he addressed the Board of Trustees. "At 11 A.M. the Board convened, and, immediately after the organization of the meeting, Mr. Vassar proceeded to read his customary address. As his tone was somewhat feeble, and he read sitting, the members of the Board gathered closer around him and listened in profound silence. Suddenly, when he had almost finished, his voice faltered and ceased, the paper dropped from his hand upon the table by which he sat, his head fell back upon the chair and so he was gone! Without a struggle or sign of pain, his spirit had passed away; and after the lapse of a few moments, during which the machinery of life seemed gently running down, his body rested in its last repose.

"When, an hour later, the trustees reassembled to listen to the closing paragraph of the address, it was found to have an almost prophetic interest:

"'And now, gentlemen, on closing these remarks, I would humbly and solemnly implore the Divine Goodness to continue His smiles and favor on your institution, and to bestow on all hearts connected therewith His love and blessing, having peculiarly protected us by His providence through all our college trials for three consecutive years, without a single death in our Board, or serious illness or death of one of the pupils within the college walls. Wishing you, gentlemen, a continuance of health and happiness, I bid you a cordial and final farewell. Thanking you kindly for your official attentions and services, and not expecting, from my advanced years and increasing infirmities, to meet with you officially again, I implore the Divine Goodness to guide and direct you aright in all your councils.'"      John Howard Raymond, Life and Letters of John Howard Raymond, Edited by his Eldest Daughter

President John Raymond presented a paper on "Liberal Education of Women" at the fifth annual University Convocation of the State of New York, convened by the Regents of the State University of New York in Albany.  Accompanied at the convocation by Professor of English Truman J. Backus, Raymond emphasized the disparity in endowment support for women's education, specifically citing the struggle of Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary, for whose pioneering work an appropriation of $5,000 had been proposed and commended by Governor DeWitt Clinton but was never granted. Arguing, as reported in The New York Times, that "liberal education must be comprehensive, scientfic and careful," "harmonious" and without "haste," he said, the "school that gives this should be endowed, for liberal education is not governed by the laws of supply and demand, and if left to these rules alone our highest civilization would perish from the face of the earth."

"The Regents," The Times account continues, "had fixed the sum for the endowment of a college at $130,000, but how do the girls' seminaries compare to this? Only two in the State have a sum of over $15,000 or $20,000 over ther debts.... This lack of endowment means ill-paid Professors, insufficient appartatus and poor buildings.  No finished education can be gained with these."

President Raymond was invited by the Regents to supply "a sketch of the late Matthew Vassar, the founder of Vassar College," who had died on June 23, 1868, for inclusion in the published procedings of the convocation.     The New York TimesProceedings of the Fifth Anniversary of the University Convocation of the State of New York.

Having begun her formal education at 16 and entered Vassar at 26 as a third-year student, Ellen Swallow '70 provided her family with reflections of life at the college in its earliest days.  Selections from her letters, edited by Georgia Avery Kendrick, Lady Principal at Vassar between 1891 and 1913, appeared in The Vassar Miscellany in January and February 1899.

Early in September 1868, Swallow wrote, "Miss Lyman [the Lady Principal] said yesterday, 'You know people will persist in calling this a school, with it is not a school at all, but a college really.'  She also said, 'The Faculty do not consider it a mere experiment any longer that girls can be educated as well as boys.'"

On September 6, she reported, "The only trouble here, is that they won't let us study enough.  They are so afraid we shall break down, and you know the reputation of the College is at stake, for the question is can girls get a college degree without injuring their health?"  The Early Days of Vassar, Series I," The Vassar Miscellany, January 1, 1899

Graduating from the college in 1870, Swallow was the first woman to be granted provisional student status at the Massachesetts Institute of Technology. The recipient of the bachelor of science degree from MIT in 1873 and, simultaneously, Vassar's master of arts degree, she was the country's preeminent water scientist at the time of her graduation.  Continuing at MIT in the laboratory of Professor William Ripley Nichols, the head of the chemistry laboratory, in 1876 she joined the staff of the institute's new laboratory for women.  She is credited as the founder of the field of home economics, being, in the words of Vassar's Professor History Lucy Maynard Salmon, "among the very first to realize that the home affords an opportunity for scientific investigation and she became our first great pioneer home missionary."     Lucy M. Salmon, "Ellen Swallow Richards," Journal of Home Economics, January, 1915

On September 25th, Ellen Swallow '70 supplied her family with a detailed description of a typical college day: "I have now got so far settled that I will give you a sketch of my daily occupations.  The bell strikes at six. At quarter to seven we have breakfast.  Each one can leave the dining room as soon as she is finished, and thus I get time to make my bed, which is all we have to do in our rooms.  In chapel we sing and Miss Lyman [the Lady Principal] offers prayer.  We have ten minutes then for arranging our rooms, or if it is done, for study, then we have twenty minutes alone for devotion and meditation in perfect quiet.  Study hours do not begin until nine.  At quarter of ten I go down to philosophy.  I like Professor [of chemistry and physics] Farrar very much. There is an intellectual power about him.  All recitations are forty minutes.  At twelve we have trigonometry, at one comes dinner which occupies three-quarters of an hour, then I go out of doors for an hour, write an hour, and if my lessons are nearly ready for the next day, go into the Library directly after French and perhaps read or study a little before dressing for tea, which is at six.  Then chapel and another twenty minutes as silent time; from 7.30 to 9.45 for writing, reading or study.  I find that I have much time to myself and it seems so pleasant to be able to read and write with much comfort and without danger of interruption, which used to disturb me so much.  I have not been homesick for a moment.  I have nothing to complain of.

"It would seem that there is an immense amount of travel in this great building, but on counting up, I find that my regular work requires my going up and down about two hundred and fifty steps daily, and I have to walk nearly a mile on the corridors."     Georgia Kendrick, "The Early Days of Vassar, Series I," The Vassar Miscellany, January 1, 1899

Graduating from the college in 1870, Swallow was the first woman to be granted provisional student status at the Massachesetts Institute of Technology. The recipient of the bachelor of science degree from MIT in 1873 and, simultaneously, Vassar's master of arts degree, she was the country's preeminent water scientist at the time of her graduation.  Continuing at MIT in the laboratory of Professor William Ripley Nichols, the head of the chemistry laboratory, in 1876 she joined the staff of the institute's new laboratory for women.  She is credited as the founder of the field of home economics, being, in the words of Vassar's Professor History Lucy Maynard Salmon, "among the very first to realize that the home affords an opportunity for scientific investigation and she became our first great pioneer home missionary."     Lucy M. Salmon, "Ellen Swallow Richards," Journal of Home Economics, January, 1915

Ellen Swallow '70, wrote to her mother: "I send you a bit of our college colors, rose and silver gray.  They have not had any before.  These shades were manufactured expressly for us.  One and one‑half yards each we have to wear in some form on public occasions." The colors signified the dawn of women's education, "the rose of sunlight breaking through the gray of women's intellectual life."     Georgia Kendrick, "The Early Days of Vassar, Series I," The Vassar Miscellany, January 1, 1899

Until the development of an effective vaccine in the early 1900s, the threat of typhoid fever was a constant matter of public concern.  Ellen Swallow '70, wrote home on October 25, "The papers are getting up terrible stories about us….  There are three or four cases of typhoid fever in the College, some cases of chills and some bad colds. All sorts of exaggerated reports are afloat. …Common report says that half of us are sick.  It is not so.  …The have excellent accommodations here for the sick, and people are foolish to get so nervous."

 Georgia Kendrick, "The Early Days of Vassar, Series I," The Vassar Miscellany, January 1, 1899