English poet Wilfred Wilson Gibson, who had written about the war from the view of the foot soldier and who was the literary executor of Rupert Brooke, gave a reading from his work. Gibson's appearance was seen, in and unsigned article in The Miscellany News the following week as emblematic of "a new departure in the lecture line at Vassar."
"'Gibson? No, we're all out of Gibson—sold fifty copies today!' This remark, overheard by a beneficiary of Lindmark's booksale the morning after Wilfred Wilson Gibson's reading at the college, drove home the conviction, already latent, that the three readings by contemporary poets that the whole college has enjoyed in the last year [Wilson, John Masefield, Walter De la Mare] have had no small effect in stimulating an interest in contemporary literature.... We have had noted men here of course, but the emphasis heretofore has been upon the critical rather than on the creative."
Lincoln Center, a community center for underprivileged children sponsored by the Christian Association, was opened in downtown Poughkeepsie. The idea for the project originated with Mrs. Henry Noble MacCracken and Miss Mary E. Reid, secretary of the YWCA in Poughkeepsie.
Around 30 children were expected on opening day, but nearly 140 lined up an hour early.
The college announced that it was in a state of “practical readiness” for war, should it come, “with nearly all of its 1,120 girl students signed for war service in the National League for Women’s Services as nurses, wireless telegraphers and clerks. Hospital classes of the American Red Cross are ready to be graduated at once. Sewing and knitting classes have been at work for months.”
Wellesley and Smith reported similar preparations. The New York Times
Ground was broken for two L-shaped wings on the north and south sides of Thompson Memorial Library. The gift of Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson, donor of the original building, the additions were designed by Allen & Collens, the library’s original architects, who retained the English Perpendicular Gothic style. Uneasiness on the campus about the new additions' effect on the Library's character and its beauty proved unnecessary. As Librarian—and later professor of English—Amy Reed '92 observed the following October when the two wings had been erected. Those, she wrote in The Vassar Miscellany, who feared that the additions "might prove merely unsightly excrescences on a beautiful building must have been pleasantly disappointed at their first sight this fall of the exterior now almost completed. To many of us the change seems to supply a lack which we have always felt, though perhaps vaguely, the lack of that variety or irregularity which is one characteristic note of Gothic art." She particularly praised the new courtyard formed by the two wings. "Here," she observed, "in pleasant weather students may sit and read, surrounded somewhat as they are at Oxford or Cambridge by lovely Gothic detail."
In response to the sinking of American vessels, the United States declared war on Germany, thus entering World War I.
At Vassar, 638 students were already enrolled in 12 preparedness courses: first aid, home nursing, surgical dressing, motor repair, wireless, relief work, home economics, shorthand, bookkeeping, typing, cataloguing and filing.
On this day Maria Dickinson McGraw ‘67 presented an American flag to the college, along with a fund of $1,867 to endow it. Her son, Capt. Stanley McGraw, raised the flag.
Economist and social theorist Irving Fisher from Yale University, an early eugenicist, spoke on "Life Extension" under the auspices of the Ellen S. Richards Memorial Fund. In December 1913, Dr. Fisher, along with wealthy businessman Harold Ley, founded the Life Extension Institute, intended to extend healthy human life by the systematic application of modern science. Fisher was the chair of the new philanthropy's hygiene reference board, and its president was E. E. Rittenhouse, conservation commissioner of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, who resigned that position to lead the new venture. The institute's aim, President Rittenhouse told The New York Times, was "to bring about a closer relation between as larga a portion of the public as we can reach and the medical advisors and to spread knowledge to promote health and prevent disease.... In the promotion of health and longevity there are two distinct fields. One is treatment. That is filled by the physicians and the institute will in no wise encroach upon it. The other is prophylaxis. This is our field, and we intend to bring to our work in that field the ripened fruits of sicentific discovery and experience for the preservation of health and the prevention of disease."
Dr. Fisher's talk was published as the first Ellen S. Richards monograph.
Pressed by students, the board of wardens reconsidered the status of students’ fathers. Henceforth they would be permitted to "see rooms unchaperoned and...be considered sufficient chaperons on automobile rides and other parties." In addition, "Upper classmen in parties of three shall be allowed to go down town at night unchaperoned, but if men are in the party a chaperon shall be required." The Vassar Miscellany News
British actor and theater manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, speaking at Founder’s Day, admitted to changing his mind about women’s suffrage. “It seems to me that during this war women have risen to the greatness of their responsibilities. If this is a time of heroism for men, it has been no less a time of heroism in women. The war is giving them new activities.
“There can be no doubt about woman’s position after the war. All right-thinking people have made up their minds that women will be the guardians of the world’s peace.” The New York Times
Beginning a distinguished career, Julia C. Stimson '01 sailed for France to serve as chief nurse of Base Hospital #21 of the Washington University Unit in Rouen. In April 1918 she was assigned to the American Red Cross in Paris, where she became chief nurse of the Red Cross Nursing Service. In November she was appointed director of the Nursing Service of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.
For her service in France, Stimson received the United States Distinguished Service Medal; the British Royal Red Cross, 1st Class; the French Médaille de la Reconnaissançe Française and the Médaille d’Honneur de l’Hygiène Publique and the International Red Cross Florence Nightingale Medal.
Coming to Washington in July 1919, she was appointed acting superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps and dean of the Army School of Nursing. On December 30, 1919, Stimson became superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. The amended Defense Act of June 4, 1920, gave her the relative rank of major, the only woman in the army in that grade at the time.
Major Stimson continued as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps until 1937. In 1942 she was recalled to active service to recruit nurses for the Army Nurse Corps. She died in St. Francis Hospital, Poughkeepsie, in September 1948.
The Vassar Dramatic Workshop presented “The Princess Marries the Page,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay '17, with the author in the leading role.
Banker and philanthropist Edgar L. Marston, a trustee of Vassar from 1905 until 1923 and chairman of the committee on music, established the Marston Graduate Fellowship in Music. The first recipient was Edith S. Woodruff '09, a member of the Music Department from1914 until 1950.
After consideration in a special meeting of the faculty, Doris Drummer ’17 became the first student to be granted permission to return to the college after marriage and resume her studies. She was engaged to George Ray, a reserve officer in the army who had been called to serve.
The couple married in Hamburg, NY, and Mrs. Ray graduated with her class on June 12.
“After a baccalaureate devoted to war topics and a class day shorn for economy’s sake of its historic daisy chain and resplendent gowns, Vassar College today graduated its 237 seniors with plainest program ever witnessed in its fifty years.”
In his commencement remarks, President MacCracken addressed the calls for press censorship in wartime America. “It will,” he said, “be an ill day for a nation when restraint upon discussion of broad issues, whether of this war or any other part of national policy, is held to be essential to its military strategy.” The New York Times
At the instigation of New York Commissioner of Education John H. Finley, a dozen students, led by Alice Campbell ’17, remained at Vassar after Commencement to form the Vassar Farm Unit, replacing the men usually working on the Vassar farm. They chopped wood, milked cows, ploughed fields and hoed the rows. Nicknamed “farmerettes,” the students worked 45-hour weeks at 17 1/2 cents per hour doing all the farm work except the cleaning of the stables. They paid for their board out of their earnings.
“There they are in the fields, brown, strong and busy. In neat uniforms of middy-blouse, bloomers, and wide-brimmed straw hats, they march to the potato patch, or strawberry patch…and set resolutely to work with hoe and fingers.” The Poughkeepsie Eagle
Because of its novelty, the Vassar Farm Unit was invited to present a "live exhibit" at the first Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition, a ten-state agricultural fair held in West Springfield, Massachusetts, October 12-20, 1917. Five students were excused from classes for ten days to demonstrate their farming skills before some 138,000 visitors. Noting the group's "demonstrations" at the exposition, The Miscellany News, on October 20, quoted a notice from "a Springfield Paper": "11:30 A. M. Harrowing exhibition by Vassar Farm Unit."
In the summer of 1918, more than 200 students stayed to milk and mow, plant and weed and run the farm machinery. Milking was, explained one farmhand, “just like learning the play to piano.” Marion Bacon, Life at Vassar
New York Governor Charles S. Whitman announced the formation of mobilization bureaus within the State Council of Defense, the heads of which would “deal with war situations as they may arise in the State and act as advisors to the Executive in the determination and carrying out of war policies.” President MacCracken was named chief of the Division of Instruction.
The 1917/18 academic year promised new courses in Far Eastern affairs, the Near East, modern Russia, modern governments, diplomacy and international law. The curriculum also “came home indeed,” as The Vassar Quarterly put it, with courses in horticulture and landscape gardening, food analysis, the family, hygiene of the child, history and principles of education and educational and abnormal psychology.
The college also granted credit for performance courses in music, one of the first liberal arts colleges to do so.
The annual fee for tuition and residence was raised to $550.
The chairman of the American Red Cross War Council announced the formation of a Junior Red Cross, open to all 22,000,000 school children in the country at a membership fee of 25 cents, to be raised by schools, cities or states. Participating schools became auxiliaries of the Red Cross, associated with local Red Cross chapters, and the funds collected were used to buy materials for children to turn into articles useful to the war effort. President MacCracken, who had developed the concept in consultation with teachers and the Red Cross, was named national director of the Junior Membership Bureau of the American Red Cross, a post in which he served until December 1918.
“The work for the Red Cross,” he said when his appointment was announced, “will teach service for others and unselfish giving; it will stimulate interest in our National Government and its policies during the war, and it will afford a useful release for the youthful energy which is stimulated by the violent and morbid aspects of war conditions….” MacCracken cited the pilot program undertaken in some schools in New York State the previous spring as evidence of the new program’s potential. “The vocational classes…last spring made over 40,000 articles during the last few weeks of the school year for the Red Cross. …Mrs. [Anna Hedges] Talbot, director of vocational education for girls in the State, says that in many cases…their work was, if anything, better than that in the adult work.” The New York Times
This new responsibility obliged MacCracken to resign as chief of the Division of Instruction in New York State’s Council of Defense on September 5. One of his final projects as chief of the division, announced September 8, was “Loyalty Week.” Ten teams of speakers were preparing to speak on “Why the Nation Is At War,” “The Military Needs of the Nation” and “The Patriotic Services of the Civilian.” Targeting pacifist objectors and new immigrants, in particular, each team visited ten New York counties during the week of September 17. “It is time,” MacCracken said, “that some great demonstration, like ‘Loyalty Week,’ should prove to the world that the enemies of the Government and of American ideals are the smallest fraction of the population.” The New York Times
As American entry into the world war became more and more likely, anti-German sentiment expressed itself in many ways across the country. Berlin, MI, became Marne, MI, and notable German-Americans ("hyphenated Americans," in Theodore Rossevelt's deprecatory term) were obliged to profess anti-German views, prompting a note in The New York World: “In connection with the opening today of Vassar College, announcement was made that German will not be dropped as a study.”
President MacCracken reported that, at the date set for closing out subscriptions to the million-dollar endowment fund, the amount in hand was $1,019,011.37. Subscriptions to buildings and other delayed gifts were expected to bring the total amount to $1,047,969.67. The New York Times
Five student "farmerettes" from the Vassar Farm Unit who worked the previous summer on the Vassar farm to aid the war effort demonstrated their work at the first Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts. The students were excused from classes for ten days to demonstrate their farming skills before some 138,000 visitors.
An appreciation of the students' participation in the exposition by its publicity manager, W. A. Parcelle, appeared in The Miscellany News in November. "The project," he wrote, was a tremendous success. Though the show was given in about the worst run of weather any such enterprise ever had to contend with, the girls each day had a large part of the attendance as spectators, both in the field and in the Exhibition Building. Several times I took occasion to spend a few minutes mingling with the crowd, to overhear the comments, and these were of just the character we hoped for."
Noting earlier the group's demonstrations at the exposition, The Miscellany News, on October 20, had quoted a notice from "a Springfield Paper": "11:30 A. M. Harrowing exhibition by Vassar Farm Unit."
The United States having entered the world war in April,a second group of preparedness courses began, offering extra-curricular study for limited credit in Personal Hygiene, Shorthand and Typing and in conversational German, French, Italian and Spanish with particular applicability to wartime work. Devised and overseen by a student-faculty Committee on Preparedness Courses, the courses had varying goals. The personal hygiene course covered "the physiology, sanitation and allied subject prerequisite to the second semester Red Cross Courses; shorthand and typing courses—two "points" and one "point," respectively—offered study not present in the curriculum; and, with the prerequisite of a year's study of the language, the conversational language courses trained students "for work in connection with the supervision of our alien population, in translation and censorship."
A preparedness course in home economics was postponed until after President MacCracken had visited the recently-appointed Federal Food Administrator, Herbert Hoover, in Washington, DC, "to learn more definitely the Food Administrator's ideas on the subject. With this knowledge, the course...given here can then take the form of a more scientific presentation of the plans.... Special training will be given for Canteen Service."
Tentative Preparedness Courses for the spring term included: home nursing, surgical dressing, and first aid; agriculture; and relief, the latter course open only to "seniors who are taking [Professor Mills's] Charities and Corrections and who are willing to give the time the instructor my demand." The Miscellany News
Dr. Preserved Smith lectured on "Luther and the Reformation after Four Hundred Years." The author, in 1911, of The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, Smith, said The Miscellany News, "characterised Luther in such a way that we can well imagine why this was the man to light the fuse that set the religious world, and that was the whole world, of the sixteenth century aflame."
A lecturer in history and specialist in the Reformation at Harvard, Smith was the son of Rev. Henry Preserved Smith—who had famously faulted the inspirational infallibility of parts of the Old Testament—and the brother of Winifred Smith ’04, Vassar professor of English.