Ellen Swallow ’70 wrote to her mother about the refusal of the trustees’ lecture committee to honor the Student Association’s request that the ardent reformist lawyer and orator, Wendell Phillips, be asked to deliver his speech on “The Lost Arts” at Vassar. Phillips had spoken at Vassar in 1867, and he had been delivering this address since at least 1852. It compared the excellence of ancient arts—Egyptian glass, frescoes and metal work, Damascus steel—with more modern examples, drawing the conclusion that “democracy” was the current civilization’s uniquely fine creation.

“The College has been in a ferment today….,” Swallow wrote, “[the committee] thought that a man so identified with extreme views ought not to come here as we were not to be exposed to radical doctrines of any sort. ‘The sacred trust of fathers and mothers,’ etc…. We are about tired of poky lectures.  This year has been better than last but we want the best.”     Caroline Louisa Hunt, The Life of Ellen H. Richards

Phillips spoke at Vassar on “The Lost Arts” on March 8, 1872.