Given by alumnae and others in recognition of the service to the college of Ella McCaleb '78, McCaleb House at 71 Raymond Avenue was completed, Allen & Collens, architects. Dean-elect McCaleb, secretary of the college for 28 years, held the post of dean from 1913 until 1923.
Members of the senior class celebrated the conclusion of their course in ethics by serenading their professor, President Taylor, at his house. From Vassar's earliest days, the duties of the president included service as Professor of Moral Philosophy and Professor of Mental Philosophy, a tradition which ended with the inauguration in 1915 of Henry Noble MacCracken.
“The annual ice carnival…was held on Vassar Lake to-night and more than 500 girls took part, all attired in white robes with silver scarfs. Along the shores of the lake great bonfires were built, while over the lake hung scores of Japanese lanterns and colored electric lights. Musicians surrounded by bonfires to keep them warm played as the girls skated.” The New York Times
"From far off, bonfires lighted up the trees around the lake and the crowded paths, and the twinkling lights of the Japanese lanterns shone a welcome ot the mob of girls, hurrying along the paths from the chapel, skates clicking.... After much waiting on the part of the on-lookers, and preliminary skating, the long-anticipated whistle called the participants of the Grand March to the farther end of the lake. The fires, fed with demolished boxes, burned brightly, casting shadows on the ice and a red glow on the trees above; a few late skaters darted across the ice; the band struck up the "Barcarolle" from "Contes d'Hoffman' and from far away, down the lake, between the gleaming lights, came two lines, curving, endless, of white gliding figures. The scarfs, which, held by the skaters bound the long lines together, glittered in the light, not the silver and gold of the leaders, not the yellow, green, and red of the classes, and skates, striking the ice in even succession, sparkled, as the lines parted, came down in fours, met, parted again, formed now one sinuous, moving circle, now a large wheel with white, human spokes. After this figure, the lines broke, scattering skaters over the lake and the Grand March ended. Then followed more skating, dark coats mingling with the white sweaters...more music, until, with the rising of the moon and the anticipation of the ten o'clock bell, the skaters hurried up the path from the lake." The Vassar Miscellany
Social worker and reformer Julia Lathrop ’80, soon to be appointed the first woman to head a federal bureau, was elected as a new trustee, succeeding Florence Cushing '74, one of the first alumnae trustees. Speaking the following June at the alumnae reunion, after her appointment in April by President William Howard Taft as chief of the Children's Bureau in the Department of Commerce and Labor, she praised her predecessor, saying "Miss Cushing by virtue of being Ms. Cushing should be a permanent trustee." Turning to her new responsibilities to the nation's poor children, she called pity "a rebel passion, it does not respect the traditions of society, it does not respect the forces of society, but it is nevertheless the kingdom of God working within us." She urged her fellow alumnae to turn pity as an emotion into pity as a motive, saying it would do a great work. The Vassar Miscellany
Professor Marian P. Whitney and Associate Professor Lilian L. Stroebe of the German department walked across the frozen Hudson River and traveled south to meet the uncle of a Vassar student who, they had heard, collected Goethe material. Through their efforts, Yale University acquired in 1913 the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana, the largest private Goethe library outside Germany. A German-American pharmacist in Haverstraw, NY, Speck devoted his life to the collection, of which he became curator at Yale, tripling its size before his death in 1928.
Reporting on the inquiry into of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, that killed 146 garment workers, 123 of them women, The New York Times noted the assistance of students from Radcliffe and Vassar as "field inspectors" for the New York State Factory Investigating Commission. "Often," said The Times, "Vassar and Radcliffe Colleg girls volunteered for the work of inspection, and one Vassar girl turned in a report to the effect that when she asked a girl in a factory what kind of fire protection she enjoyed, the girl answered that she didn't know and didn't care, since the finest thing that could happen to her, she thought, was for some conflagration to come along and end her miserable work-a-day existence."
Between 1912 and 1914 13 of the 17 bills based on the commission's recommendations and submitted to the State Legislature became law, making New York State a leader in worker health and safety.
In an article on the groundbreaking for Connecticut College for Women in New London, The New York Times noted the increase in the number of women seeking higher education. “In 1890 there were in the United States 10,761 women enrolled in college. At present there are 84,909—an increase of nearly 800 per cent. …this increase is about three times as great as that of men students in the same length of time.”
The article quoted a recent study by Oliver Gildersleeve, a trustee of the new college, showing that Vassar had 1,100 students, Smith had 1,617, Wellesley had 1,378 and Bryn Mawr had 530. Vassar had a “limit” of 1,000 students and Bryn Mawr’s student body was “limited” to 500.
The schools’ “overflow of applicants” were: Vassar, 500; Smith, 392; Wellesley, 400 and Bryn Mawr, 300. Altogether, the four institutions were rejecting over 1,500 applicants annually.
Responding to an article in The New York Times for April 7 stating, “In Vassar the Socialists claim three members of the faculty, headed by Prof. Mills,” Economist Herbert Mills said “If the Socialists claim me they do so quite without warrant…. I have declined several times to assist in starting a chapter of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in Vassar on the ground that, if its object is the study of Socialism, the courses given in the department make it unnecessary, and if the object is propagandism, (which is really the case,) I cannot work for that to which I do not assent.”
The Socialist Club, a branch of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, was formed at Vassar in 1915.
Julia C. Lathrop ’80, a colleague of Jane Addams at Hull House, and “a graduate and trustee of Vassar College was appointed today by President Taft as chief of the Children’s Bureau in the Department of Commerce and Labor. Miss Lathrop is the first woman to be made chief under the government.” The Poughkeepsie News-Press
In an analysis of the Children’s Bureau on September 29, a writer for The New York Times commented: “Miss Lathrop was chosen by President Taft. She is the first woman to be made head of a Federal commission in this country, and she will be paid the highest salary of any woman in Government employ. Hers will be unquestionably the most important position held by any woman in this country.”
With President Taylor’s permission, a mass suffrage meeting was held on campus. The meeting and the subserquent inclusion of a suffrage meeting on the commencement schedule marked a reluctant reversal of the president's long-standing position that the suffrage debaters, on both sides, were "for the most part not teachers, but agitators, not expounders by advocates," and that the debate was thus not part of Vassar's educational discourse.
Four hundred seventy-eight students had signed a petition in April calling for an open discussion of woman suffrage on campus, and 120 members of the graduating class petitioned for a Vassar chapter of the College Equal Suffrage League. In December 1912, 13 faculty members, among them most of the avowed proponents of woman suffrage, drew up a resolution critical of President Taylor, declaring that the faculty should be in charge of decisions about campus and academic affairs. The following February, Taylor, in his 29th year as president of the college, announced his intention to retire in February of 1914.
20,000 women and children and 500 men marched down Fifth Avenue in a Suffrage Parade in New York City. Under the sponsorship of the Women’s Political Union, whose president was Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78, the marchers represented many suffrage organizations. The youngest of them, two-year-old Harriet Blaten DeForrest, rode with the eldest, Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, 87. Many of the women wore academic dress, and although Vassar graduates had yet to adopt caps and gowns, Blatch wore the rose and gray cowl that signified her master's degree from Vassar.
Banners bore slogans: “Never Will Peace and Human Nature Greet ‘Till Free and Equal Man and Woman Meet;” “The Right to Follow Duty Far and Wide, to Live as Nobly as Our Men Have Died” and “All This is the Natural Consequence of Teaching Girls to Read.” Blatch’s “Final Word to Marchers,” issued as the march got under way, blended pragmatism with idealism in its conclusion: “March with head erect. Eyes to the front. Remember, you march for the mightiest reform the world has ever seen. The final word is, obey your Marshall. Remember you march for equality not privilege, for law, for order.” The New York Times
Outdoor electric lights on the Vassar campus were turned on for the first time.
Responding to concern among the faculty for the simplification of extra-curricular activities, the senior class voted to abolish the annual senior boat ride on the Hudson. Instead, at the beginning of the “senior vacation,” during which the underclasses took their examinations, the class picnicked on Sunset Hill, engaged in impromptu dramatics and late in the evening renewed a lapsed tradition, carving their class numerals on a wooden fence by the tennis courts, and then “serenaded the college afterward, going from dormitory to dormitory.” The New York Times
The college revealed the plan prepared by landscape architect Samuel Parsons for the development of a new 15-acre campus to the south and east of Vassar lake, which the trustees had commissioned in 1908. A ten-acre “nature garden” featuring four pools along the Casper Kill separated the new campus, which envisioned nine new buildings, from the existing campus. Raymond Avenue passed through the center of the new campus, widening to a plaza about halfway through.
President Taylor reported the trustees’ enthusiasm for the plan, and students and alumnae appeared also to approve. The “nature garden” drew the most attention, and the president said that work on it would begin shortly. The New York Times
Deploring lawlessness and class strife, President Taylor’s baccalaureate sermon urged the Class of 1912 to use their education to teach restraint and deliberation. “What do we gain,” he asked, “by impatient zeal? Striving for immediate results in education seems to result either in narrower training or in the cramming of children with knowledge which is confusing and a hindrance to normal development. In legislation it seems to result in leading us to trust to laws instead of educating the people in principles of life, and our haste in law-making is revenged upon us by reactions that leave us in worse condition than before.” The New York Times
On Class Day night the seniors handed down their songs to the sophomores. The first Lantern Festival was held at Vassar Lake, for the "even" classes—'12 and '14.
President Taylor conferred the bachelor’s degree on 243 members of the Class of 1912 at Commencement. The largest graduating class in the history of the college, 1912 had also the greatest number of honor graduates.
The president announced more than $200,000 in gifts to Vassar. The alumnae raised $40,000 for the endowment and pledged $1,200 a year for the next five years for campus improvement. The Class of 1887 gave $11,400 for a large iron gate in honor of the president, to be erected on Raymond Avenue, at the entrance to the pine walk.
Mrs. Russell Sage gave an additional $75,000 to complete Olive Josselyn Hall, and an anonymous donor—erroneously believed to be the quixotic heiress Helen Gould—gave $100,000 for a students’ building, for which plans and specifications had already been drawn up. The president reported that contracts for this building, which would stand just east of North Hall, would be let at once. He also announced that it was “desirable and necessary to raise $1,000,000 as an educational endowment.”
The class dinner was held in the evening in North Hall and the calling of the roll took place. This recent custom obliged each member of the class to answer “guilty” if she were engaged and “not guilty” if not. The New York Times
Lucy Maynard Salmon, professor of history at Vassar, received the first Colgate degree to be awarded to a woman, the doctorate of humane letters. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Salmon had come to Vassar after postgraduate study at Bryn Mawr College with the explicit charge to found the college's history department. Earlier in her career, as a teacher at the Indiana State Normal College at Terre Haute, she had taught Elmer Burritt Bryan, who, as president of Colgate, presented her with the honorary degree. Chara Haeussler Bohan, Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History
Associate Professor Lilian Stroebe of the Vassar German Department conducted a German Summer School in Lakeville, Connecticut, thus originating summer language schools in America. In 1915, she established the Middlebury German Summer School, introducing 41 students to the “total-immersion” system. “One of the chief objects of the courses,” she wrote, “is to enable the students to understand and speak German with ease. This can only be attained by constant practice; for this reason the school must demand a promise from its students to avoid the use of their own language, and to speak German only, outside as well as in the house…. The house will be generously provided with German books, pictures, periodicals and newspapers, and everything possible will be done to create a German atmosphere. There will be one teacher for every six or seven students.”
The success of Stroebe’s method led to the establishment at Middlebury of the French and Spanish summer schools in 1916 and 1917. Stephen A. Freeman, The Middlebury College Foreign Language Schools (1915-1970): The Story of a Unique Idea
A new skating pond was completed, from plans drawn up by landscape architect Loring Underwood for an earth dam behind the Chapel on Casperkill Creek. Originally referred to simply as “the artificial pond,” it became known, briefly, as Pratt Lake, after trustee Charles M. Pratt who had donated the $4,200 necessary for the project. Eventually, because the pond was bounded on the east by Sunset Hill, it became Sunset Lake.
Olivia Josselyn Hall, a residence hall given by Mrs. Russell Sage in honor of her father's mother, was completed, Allen & Collens, architects.
Woodrow Wilson easily defeated President Taft and Theodore Roosevelt in Vassar’s mock election.
Billed as "a modern farce," James Maddison Morton's 1847 one-act play, Box and Cox, was presented at the Goodfellowship Club House. The club members in the cast had rehearsed for four weeks, coached by a student group, and the “final production was extremely successful.” The New York Times
National Home Economics Day commemorated nation-wide the achievements of Ellen Swallow Richards ’68, who died in March. The American Home Economics Association, which she founded in 1908, pledged to raise $100,000 in her memory to be used to forward the development of domestic science. In 1994, the organization became the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Emile Legouis, professor of English at the Sorbonne and Hyde lecturer at Harvard, lectured on December 13 on “Dorothy Wordsworth” and on December 14 on “Ce que la Critique Anglais Pensant de la Poésie Française avant l’entente Cordiale.” On the 13th, the French Club sponsored a reception in honor of Professor Legouis in Senior party, and his lectures on Dorothy Wordsworth and on l'entente cordiale were reviewed in English and French, respectively in The Vassar Miscellany for February 1, 1913.
Professor Legouis returned to Vassar in November of 1922 to speak on "William Wordsworth in the Light of New Documents," focusing on the revelation, through letters of the poet's sister Dorothy, of his affair in 1792 with the young Frenchwoman, Annette Vallon, who subsequently bore his child.
Two choirs performed at the annual Christmas music in the Chapel, a gallery choir singing responsively with the choir below.
For the first time the choir sang Christmas carols from the Library tower. "The students assembled below, replied in chorus, led by Dorothy Smith '14, who from the top of the tower swung a large light for a baton. Stille Nacht, sung from such a high altitude was most effective, and at the end all broke forth in a triumphant Nowell." Poughkeepsie Enterprise
The Music Teachers’ National Association held its 34th annual meeting at Vassar, the first meeting to be held at a women’s college. The business of the conference included an open meeting of the American branch of the International Musical Society, and the attendees were entertained on December 31 by an afternoon organ concert in the Chapel by Wallace Goodrich, the dean of the New England Conservatory of Music, and an evening recital by the prima donna contralto of the Metropolitan Opera, Carrie Bridewell.
Professor of Music George Gow was the association's president for 1912.