Samuel Parsons, an eminent landscape architect, was appointed by the trustees to make a plan for beautifying the entire campus. The Alumnae Association pledged half of the cost of the plan.
Poughkeepsie’s police chief was visited by a group of students engaged in “sociological studies” and led by Inez Milholland ’09, the president of the junior class. Inquiring into the system of probation currently applied to Poughkeepsie public school truants and after listening to some of their stories and excuses, the students astonished Chief McCabe and Judge Sherrill by personally taking charge of several of the most obstreperous urchins and changing their defiant attitudes to cooperation.
“The girls will act as probation officers, and the truants, as an earnest of their desire to reform, will have to report at the Y. W. C. A. at regular intervals.” The New York Times
The Goodfellowship Club House, a maid's clubhouse, was completed, Pilcher & Tachau, architects. Built with funds raised by the Students' Association from students and alumnae over a number of years, the clubhouse provided the maids with a place for gatherings and classes as well as for recreation and rest. In addition to $10,000 for the construction of the house, students, alumnae and club members eventually raised a $26,000 working endowment for the club.
A pamphlet published by the officers of the club in 1912 explained its purpose and operation: “The Good Fellowship Club is maintained for the use of all girls and women who work in the housekeeping department of Vassar, as well as for those who work in the homes of its teachers and officers.
“The Clubhouse is open every day—morning, afternoon and evening—and you are welcome to use the circulating library, the sewing machine, the laundry, the dining room and kitchen—and rest, work or play as you like. Classes are open to all members, with no charge after the club dues are paid, except for materials used in the cooking, sewing, mending, and fancy-work classes.”
The Steadfast Club (1890-91) was the first club of maids, students and faculty, and the Good Fellowship Club—later, Goodfellowship—for maids and students had been organized in 1902/03. Activities at the clubhouse—classes, dramatic productions, athletic teams and lectures—continued under the oversight of a house manager and a steering committee of faculty, students and alumnae through the 1930s and into the early 1940s.
"Late in May and early in June a group of suffragists led by Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch travelled by trolley up the Hudson Valley holding open air meetings. The most notable of these was held at Poughkeepsie near Vassar College." International Year Book, 1908.
Harriot Stanton Blatch ‘78 was the daughter of pioneer suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, with Lucretia Mott, organized the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.
Helen Clarke ’09 broke the running high jump record of Helen Babson ’05 at the annual Field Day with a jump of 4 feet 2 7/8 inches, 3/8 of an inch higher than Babson’s record, set in 1905. Miss Babson, assistant to the Vassar lady principal, ran across the field to present her with her grey championship sweater with a rose-colored “V” on it.
The sophomores won the day with 32 1/3 points to the 30 2/3 points of the juniors, the 28 2/3 points of the seniors and the 16 1/3 points of the freshmen.
Reviving a tradition, the junior class gave a moonlight sail on the Hudson to the graduating seniors. Travelling at the boat in trolley cars, the guests discovered on board a stage, complete with scenery and footlights. The play was “a travesty of Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House,’ the story being adapted to college affairs. It was called ‘A Poor House,’ and the Nora in Ibsen’s play was Bridget in the Vassar interpretation. The original story was cleverly satirized.
“The elevator boy at Vassar, angry because Bridget did not tip him while in college, brings her a lot of unpaid inn bills which he threatens to show her husband. Her husband and she have a quarrel, and Bridget leaves him because his neckties are always crooked.
“Miss Ruth [Elizabeth Presley ‘09] did clever action as Bridget, and her imitation of Nazimova was voted a great success. Miss Montgomery Cooper ‘09 as the husband was good, too.” The New York Times
Members of the Vassar branch of the Consumers League, starting to investigate conditions in Poughkeepsie shops and businesses, were forbidden to do so by President Taylor. The league, founded in 1899 by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, had been active at Vassar since 1900, and by 1908 The Vassar Miscellany was publishing the league’s manifestos and a “white list” of New York shops—those who met the league’s conditions for workers and practices.
Writing in The Vassarion, Helen Josselyn ’08, the president of the Athletic Association, explained her attraction to athletics. “Athletic games, as we aim to have them played… bring out the best that is in us. They develop keenness of perception, quickness of action, and, best of all, that large spirit of fairness which is the life of true sport. Class and college spirit each play their part, but this embraces and transcends them both, and is something to carry into our daily life and elsewhere.
Athletics are, moreover, one of the strongest unifying forces in college life, for they bring all classes together with a common aim.”
Preparing and reading his baccalaureate sermon with particular care and formality, President Taylor engaged his large audience in consideration of the radical tendencies he saw in the federal government and their auguries for the nation’s future.
“A startling change has come over American political thought,” he said. “I am not now referring to the vast increase, deplorable indeed, of war talk and war feeling, but to the more dangerous tendency to absorb legislative and even judicial powers into the executive department of the Government….
“It is a foolish, unwarranted faith in a Government, in its power to right the wrongs that only the people can right, and it is the cessation of government by the people and for the people, and…it is a death knell of democracy, a mortal stroke against the independence and the manhood of the citizen.” The New York Times
When President Taylor forbade a meeting on campus, Inez Milholland '09 held a suffrage meeting in a small cemetery adjacent to the college.
"The meeting consisted of about forty undergraduates, ten alumnae, two male visitors, and Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch ‘78, Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Miss Helen Hoy ‘99, corporation counsel for the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, and Miss Rose Schneiderman of the Cap-Makers' Union. Mrs. Blatch, in order to allay the fears of any member of the faculty who might chance that way, bore aloft a yellow banner on which was inscribed in large black letters, 'Come, let us reason together.'" Woman's Journal, June 13, 1908.
The New York Times, on June 10, reported President Taylor’s indignation “over what he styles the bad manners of woman suffragists, who…persuaded about forty students to attend a meeting outside the college grounds in opposition to his known wishes. The students were led by Miss Inez Milholland, the only English girl in the college. She is an ardent suffragist.
“Dr. Taylor said…that Miss Milholland had given a frank explanation of the matter, but nevertheless the girls who offended will be disciplined. Last year an attempt to introduce suffragist notions was thwarted by Dr. Taylor, who said that Vassar did not propose to be exploited in the matter.”
Several thousand guests came to the campus for Class Day exercises for the Class of 1908, which began at 4 pm as the 211 members of the class proceeded from the Main Building to the south steps of the Library. Twenty-four sophomores bore the chain of daisies, gathered by the class, which was over 60 feet long and a foot in diameter and arranged on the Library steps in front of the seniors’ seats. Class president Martha Pattison Bowie ’08 welcomed the guests, and the class singing took place. The procession then moved to the south side of the Library, where the sophomores arranged the chain of flowers around the tree in a large circle, within which the seniors walked until each had thrown a flower into the pit in which the class records were to be buried. Matthew Vassar’s spade was passed by May Margaret Bevier ’08, who gave the senior charge, to Ruth Presley ’09, who gave the acceptance from the junior class. A dialogue between class historians Georgianna Tichenor ’08 and Caroline Gore Sheppard ’08 told of the class’s years at the college.
Earlier in the day, at the alumnae luncheon—held in the new residence hall, North Hall—Martha Bowie spoke about the class’s future relations with the alumnae, and the president of the Students’ Association, Mary R. Babbott ‘08, told the alumnae of the association’s work during the year.
Among the alumnae speakers were Mary P. Rhoades ’68 who spoke of Vassar as it was when she was in college, Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 who compared the values of coeducation with those of women’s colleges and Minnie McKinlay Smith ’88, who spoke about “the race-suicide prophecy and its chances of fulfillment by Vassar graduates.”
In the evening, President and Mrs. Taylor held a reception in Main Building between the hours of 8 and 11.
As the Class of 1908 entered the chapel for Vassar’s 42nd Commencement, the processional was played by Mrs. Gertrude Frothingham Williams of the Class of 1868, Vassar’s second graduating class.
Six five-minute essays were presented by honor students. Eleanor Bertine ’08 thought that “The Problem of the Street Gang” could be best addressed by expanding the development of boy’s clubs. Florence Bullard ’08 discussed “Nature Books and Outdoor Life,” suggesting that recent writings about nature were reacquainting many people to “the art of simple living out of doors” that was an American commonplace at the middle of the last century. Ruth Smiley True ’08 examined the ways in which yellow journals, moving picture shows and vaudeville were “Popular Substitutes for Art” and the ways in which they weren’t.
Jessie Margaret McGarr ’08 advanced reasons why Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” might be thought “A Modern Philosopher of Democracy.” In “Some Greek Ideals for the Twentieth Century,” Mildred Hardenbrook ’08 observed that “Leisure to the Greeks was not idleness, but a higher kind of activity, not relaxation, but an occupation that was joyous and self-imposed.” Taking as a theme the “solvent or effervescent” natures of laughter in “The Chemistry of Laughter,” Ruth Mary Weeks praised both merry mirth and “the more thoughtful solvent laughter which is the defense of the cultured nature against the incongruity of life.”
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 211 members of the Class of 1908, and in his remarks suggested the need for a new building for the English department, a museum and an art gallery. The New York Times, The Vassar Miscellany
On her return from the International Woman Suffrage Alliance meeting in Amsterdam, Professor of Astronomy Caroline Furness '91 helped gather signatures for a petition to Congress in favor of woman suffrage.
Abby Leach '85 Professor of Greek, received a gold cup from the Emperor of Japan in recognition of her services to education, the first such presentation made to a woman. In May, she had been a guest of honor at a dinner at the Astor Hotel given by Japanese Consul-General Midzuno. One of the other guests was Ambassador Takahira. The other guests were people who had received decorations from the Emperor, and Leach was told that he wished to recognize her similarly.
“The cup is of solid gold, very heavy, and of graceful design. It came wrapped in a double square of Habutai silk, of a kind made only for imperial use, while the box is of chrysanthemum wood, which is also dedicated to imperial use. Inside the bowl is engraved a chrysanthemum, the imperial emblem.” The Evening Post (Wellington, NZ)