President Caldwell conferred the baccalaureate degree—“that mystic ceremony which transforms the chrysalis Senior into the brilliant butterfly, the alumna,”according to the Vassar Miscellany—on 35 members of the Class of 1881. The "Oratio Salutatoria," given by Maria Abbott, was followed by seniors' essays on "Dogmatism in Science," "The Utility of the Study of Philosophy," "The Province of Mathematics in the Curriculum," "The Papacy in the Fifth and the Ninth Century" and "The Emotional Element in Religion." 

The question in the traditional debate, "Is the Negro Doomed?" was argued by Alida Katharine Fitzhugh in the affirmative and, in the negative, by Annie Lowry Lyon. The "short but impressive" validictory address was given by Mary Lora Freeman.