Abbé Ernest Dimnet, French correspondent for The Saturday Review and faculty member at the College Stanislas in Paris, lectured on "What Americans Should Seek in France." "Too many people," he said, "go abroad prepared to find what they have left behind. Americans go to France and return disgusted because our telephone system is poor and because we have not so many mechanical inventions." "M. Dimnet," reported The Miscellany News, "compared such Americans with the Frenchman who came to America and was grieved at the lack of Chateaux.... He also stated that Americans will find Frenchmen delightful talkers, exhibiting a rapid play of mind around facts rather than taking the matter of fact attitude of Americans and Englishmen.... In concluding M. Dimnet said that were the barriers of language broken down, Americans would find that they had in them 'a great capacity to feel French.'"

Visiting the Vassar Library, Abbé Dimnet asked his guides, "I wonder if you realize how fortunate you are?" "He especially," said The Misc., "admired the open-shelf system and the accesibility of all the books. 'You learn so much just by coming into contact with the backs of books as you search for the ones you want.' There is nothing like this system in the French libraries. It is very hard to get books within a reasonable length of time. Even the professors have great difficulty."


Speaking on "Hardy and Meredith—a Contrast," British novelist and lecturer John Cowper Powys asserted that the two modern novelists were "fundamentally poets," according to The Vassar Miscellany News, "and it is in their poetry that they betray their attitude toward life. Meredith is an optimist, Harday pessimist, both are philosophers. But Meredith's philosophy is of the sort that passes away. It is an intellectual clue to the universe, a sort of ethical propaganda, which Meredith uses, exlploits and tries to convert us to." Hardy conceived man, by contrast, the Misc. writer said, "as an instinctive, irrational being...the direct antithesis to Meredith's intellectualism.... His pessimism springs not from bitterness caused by a personal misfortune, but from a sense of [the] personal injustice of the world; it is a deep pity for things that die hurt; it is a vision of things, and not a mere theory."

A concert by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nikolai Sokoloff, was the first of six appearances by the orchestra at Vassar, gifts of Mary Castle Norton ex-'77. Maestro Sokolff's program included the Rachmaninoff Symphony No 2, in E Minor, the prelude to Saint-Saëns Le Déluge featuring violinist Louis Edlin, the Danses Caracteristiques from Tschaikowsky's ballet Casse-Noissette, and the prelude to Wagne's Die Meistersinger. Writing in The Miscellany News, "L.K." found Sokoloff's "reading of the whole" of Rachmaninoff's symphony "unusually sympathetic and convincing," and she observed that the orchestra's appearance "won the whole-hearted appreciation of all who heard it."

The Cleveland Symphony was the culmination of the lifelong work of Adella Prentiss Hughes '90, a music major at Vassar and a Cleveland native, who was the first woman in America to establish and manage a symphony orchestra. Beginning her impresarial career in 1898, she founded the Musical Arts Association in Cleveland in 1915 and the orchestra in 1918. "Mrs. Hughes," "L.K." reported, "has herself built up the orchestra within the last two years, though such an achievement seems almost incredible after listening to such finished work."

Mrs. Norton, the wife of Cleveland industrialist and philanthropist David Z. Norton, continued the Vassar concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra until her death on January 3, 1928. "Her last visit," said the notice of her death in The Miscellany News, "was last spring for the fiftieth reunion of her class. Illness prevented her presence at the concert last December." Her husband is reported to have died twelve hours after Mrs. Norton's funeral.


Professor Caroline E. Spurgeon of the University of London gave a series of five lectures on contemporary writers, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Ralph Hodgson and Harold Munro. 

Juniors and seniors were allowed to go with men to the movies unchaperoned and could motor unchaperoned with them during the daylight hours. In every case, the driver had to have the approval of a warden.

Sponsored by trustee Edgar L. Marston and the Cleveland and Western New York branches of the Associate Alumnae, the Glee Club gave concerts in Buffalo and Cleveland on their first concert tour. The 32 singers and accompanists where joined by Professor of Music George Coleman Gow, their director, Mrs. Gow and harpist Frances Callow '21. The Gows served as the group's chaperons.

After two successful concerts on the following day at Twentieth Century Club and in the Assembly Hall at the Buffalo Seminary, the singers enjoyed a day off as thier alumnae hosts took them to Niagara Falls, followed by dinner at the College Club. "Informal singing followed the dinner," The Vassar Miscellany reported, "and a few informal speeches helped to make everyone feel the unity of Vassar, past and present."

The following evening, in Cleveland, the Glee Club members enjoyed a concert by the Cleveland Symphony Opera in boxes provided by its founder, Adella Prentiss Hughes '90, and the next evening, after lunching at the Mayfield Country Club, the Glee Club gave its last concert in the ball room of the Cleveland Statler Hotel. The Vassar Miscellany quoted a review from The Buffalo Courier, which declared "It was a distinct novelty to hear a full-fledged college girls glee club, and the members acquitted themselves with as much success and ablomb as their male competitors." "One of the decided hits," The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, "was the performance of the 'Harmony Harpies' who comprised eight members of the club, four of them plaing stringed instruments.... Three numbers of special interest were "The Rose and the Grey," "Vassar in Beauty Dwelling" and "Down the Future's Cloudy Ways," composed by E. Townsend '20 and which is melodious and suitable as a song of lasting qualities."

With support from history professors C. Mildred Thompson ’03 and Eloise Ellery ’97, the Political Association was organized “to stimulate intelligent interest in public affairs—political, industrial, and social—and to help its members to form the habit of making sound judgments on controversial questions….”

The organization ceased with the reorganization of the College Government Association at the end of the academic year 1958-59. 

Visiting Vassar with her daughter and speaking "On The Discovery of Radium," Mme. Marie Curie noted that when “radium was discovered no one knew it would prove useful in hospitals.  The work was one of pure science.  And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of its direct usefulness. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science….  There is always," she concluded, "a vast field left to experimentation, and I hope that we may have some beautiful progress in the following years.  It is my earnest desire that some of you should carry on this scientific work and keep for your ambition the determination to make a permanent contribution to science."

Mme. Curie’s address was published as the Ellen S. Richards Monograph No. 2.

Walter P. Cooke, chairman of the University of Buffalo board of trustees, announced that Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken had been invited to become the university’s next chancellor.  Speaking in Poughkeepsie, MacCracken said that he had not responded to the invitation and did not know what decision he would make.     The New York Times

At Commencement for the Class of 1921 President MacCracken announced that he would not accept the chancellorship of the University of Buffalo and would remain at Vassar.  “ I must admit,” he told the 264 members of the class and their guests,  “this call has meant much to me along the lines of constructive education, but this week the call of Vassar has been stronger than the call of Buffalo.”

In his commencement address, “A Citizen of the World,” President MacCracken urged better international cooperation and less national selfishness.  He also announced that $1,009,951 had been raised toward the $3 million salary endowment goal and that the board of trustees was to be enlarged to include student and faculty representatives.     The New York Times

The Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) was held following commencement. On June 16 a morning “conference on education” at which President MacCracken spoke focused on broadening the curriculum and making it more flexible, and in the afternoon the group discussed student activities.  The next day, Dr. Elizabeth B. Thelberg, head resident physician and Jean C. Palmer ’93, head warden, spoke, respectively, on “This Awful Generation” and “The Problem of a Warden.”  In her remarks Dr. Thelberg, who came to the college in 1887, said of current students, “These students have been through deep waters.  They have been under a hard, nervous strain, and many have suffered from family affliction during the war.  They have passed through a national epidemic from which no one entirely escaped…. We here at Vassar could not have asked for better discipline, greater co-operation, loyalty or poise.  The girls of this generation are splendid, capable, honest people.  I love them.”  To the older alumnae she confessed, “I love them even more than I do you.”

Head Warden Palmer concurred.  “I firmly believe in this generation,” she declared, “I believe they are much finer than we were at their age.  I find them more straightforward, logical, and reasonable, and therefore harder to satisfy.”  The alumnae announced that the Class of 1921 gift of $50,000 brought the total raised toward the $3 million salary endowment goal to $1,159, 951.     The New York Times

 A highlight of the alumnae gathering was a performance in the Out-of-Door Theatre of Edna St. Vincent Millay's first verse play, The Lamp and the Bell, dedicated to the Class of 1917 and written for this occasion.

On March 18 Millay ’17 wrote to her sister Norma: "I am slaving now to typewrite & ship off my Vassar play, Snow White & Rose Red [later called The Lamp and the Bell] which I have just finished... It's written in the first place for Vassar College, in the second place it's written to be played out of doors, as spectacularly as possible, & in a foreign country & medieval times because in that way you can use more brilliant costumes, in the third place I haven't had time to work it over at all, in the fourth place it's full of anachronisms which I haven't had time to look up & put right, & in the fifth place it's a frank shameless imitation of the Elizabethan dramas, in style, conversation & everything, & of course does not show up so darn well in comparison.—You'll think from all this that it's a bum play. You're wrong.—I expect the darned thing to make a great hit."      Allan Ross Macdougall, ed., Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

At her death, in 1950, The New York Times credited The Lamp and the Bell (1921)—along with A Few Figs From Thistles (1920), Second April (1921) and Two Slatterns and a King (1921)—for Millay’s winning the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Vassar students accompanied by Professor Bruno Roselli formed the largest component in a group of 120 American students who sailed for Italy aboard the Leopoldina to represent the Italian-America Society and the National Dante Committee at the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the death of Dante.  Arriving at Naples, the group was escorted to Rome where a reception committee headed by Princess Santa Borghese included the Lord Mayor of Rome and the students and faculty of the American Academy in Rome.  Pope Benedict XV received students of the Christian faith.

The Lord Mayor of Florence welcomed the students to his city, and in Ravenna, augmented by the Harvard Glee Club, they laid an inscribed bronze wreath at the Italian master’s grave.  The inscription read: “From the American Students of the Twentieth Century to Dante Alighieri, 1665-1321—Poet, Philosopher, Scholar.”  A day in Bologna, three days in Venice and one each in Milan and Turin concluded the group’s visit.     The New York Times

A comparison showed that the number of courses taught each semester had grown to over 400 from under 50 in 1870.  The only courses dropped since 1870 were those in Sanskrit and logic.  There were currently 22 departments of instruction, compared to nine.

The faculty voted to place the responsibility for class attendance entirely with the student, warning that they considered attendance “a moral obligation.”  At the opening of the college in 1865, missing class required the permission of the president.

"There is some disagreement in facility opinion as to the permanent value of the recent extension of freedom in elections and in class attendance at the college."     President's Report, 1921/22. 

The first of its kind in the United States, the Dutchess County Botanical Garden, a field botanical laboratory, was financed for seven years by income from the Elizabeth Drinker Storer Memorial Fund, the gift of Gertrude Mead Abbey '70, a classmate of Elizabeth Drinker Storer '70, who taught at Vassar between 1878 and 1881 and who died in 1913.

Professor Edith A. Roberts directed the work. Miss Roberts was a member of the department of plant science from 1919 until 1948 and its chairman for many years. 

The Vassar College Endowment fund in New York City announced a conditional gift of $500,000 for faculty salary endowment from John D. Rockefeller’s General Education Board, contingent upon the alumnae raising an additional $1.5 million within two years.  Granting that Vassar “has been paying salaries far below those of any other college of like standard,” the statement announced the campaign goal of $3 million, declaring that “the whole country has been organized and the Alumnae are hard at work in every state….  The Trustees are financing the entire campaign, so that no money raised need be used for expenses.”

Within two weeks, the campaign was gaining broad support.  On October 7, the fund announced a $100,000 gift from Edward S. Harkness, a Rockefeller associate, and President Warren Harding telegraphed his best wishes the following week, saying, “The assurance of adequate compensation to teachers is an important contribution to the development of our educational system….”

Several hundred alumnae learned at a luncheon at the Hotel Astor on October 14 that the Alumnae Association had agreed to raise all of the funding needed to match the General Education Board’s challenge.  In his remarks, the venerable social reformer and writer, the Rev. Lyman Abbott, editor of The Outlook and a member of the fund’s National Advisory Committee, compared the funding appeal of men’s institutions with Vassar’s.  “Vassar does not,” he said, “send out women to become great lawyers, doctors, scientists, business administrators or money makers.  It has been doing something much better than that.  It has been educating women to be great mothers….  It is Vassar’s problem to send out mothers and teachers who are noble, heroic and intelligent.  I don’t know how to raise money….  But if I were working in this campaign I would say, ‘Do you want a country of brave, courageous, sensible, intelligent mothers and teachers who know how to think?  Vassar is turning them out.  Help her.’”   The New York Times

The Barrère Ensemble gave a concert before a large audience in the Assembly Hall. The New York woodwind group was directed by renowned French flutist Georges Barrère, a member of the Symphonic Society of New York. "It was easy to believe," wrote two seniors in The Miscellany News, "that Mr. Barrère is the foremost of flutists.... Two of the most delightful numbers of the program were the Adagio of the Mozart Serenade and the Rigadon for Poldowski's Suite Miniature, in which the theme was carried from part to part bringing one instrument after another into prominence."  The student reviewers were also struck by "the rich harmony" of Leo Sowerby's Quintet, which "was written five years ago when the composer was seventeen," calling it "a particularly fine opportunity to hear modern music by a composer of our own age played as perfectly as it could be done." "Mr. Barrère's rendering of Bach's Sonate in E Major," however, was "the feature of the program, if one could choose."

The ensemble—flute, oboe, horn, clarinet and bassoon—visited Vassar several times.  It's director's fame was established in December 1894, when the 22 year-old Barrère played the opening notes on solo flute in the première of Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.


Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94, chairman of the New York metropolitan district committee for the college’s $3 million faculty salary endowment campaign, explained in The New York Times both why Vassar needed to double the endowment fund and why suggestions that it meet its needs by raising tuition were wrongheaded.  Citing the “loyalty and self-sacrifice” of a faculty that had stayed at Vassar while all other comparable institutions had raised compensation well above pre-war levels, she said that under a new salary scale, competitive with the other colleges, “professors will be paid not less than $4,000 nor more than $5,000 [annually], and other teachers will share in like proportion.”

As to why the college wasn’t raising tuition to meet the need, she said “Only those familiar with Vassar can answer this.  The reason is that with an increased tuition Vassar would soon become a college filled only with the daughters of wealthy parents….  This is absolutely contrary to the principles upon which Matthew Vassar founded the institution.  Although limited to 1,000 students each year, wealth plays no part in the scholastic life.  The girl in moderate circumstances is upon an absolutely equal footing with the millionaire’s daughter, and receives exactly the same benefits.  There never can be any class distinction of wealth at Vassar.”

In an interview published in The New York Times President MacCracken spoke at length about the changing influence of colleges in American society.  Noting many institutions’ burgeoning applications, he said that Vassar’s registration books were closed until fall of 1927 and that the number of graduates since 1865 barely equaled those now registered, but not yet entered or graduated.  MacCracken attributed the increase in college applications partly to generally increased affluence but, more importantly, to the greater extent to which collegiate institutions were molding community and national institutions—invigorating democracy and supporting personality and character rather than wealth or position.  This vitality, he said, came from college social systems rather than their curricula.

“The result has been,” he said, “that the faculty of almost every American college has been at war with the social organization within the college campus, because the faculty did not realize the value of the education which came to the student in an unorganized form from what we call the college spirit…. They were so close to the individual problems of college life that they did not see that right under their very eyes was developing one of the most interesting phenomena in American education—the creation of a civic laboratory in which the student body by the trial-and-error process of inductive science was slowly working out the problems of co-operation and development in the spirit of self-reliance and of action, which is characteristic of the American people.”

MacCracken observed that foreign visitors to American colleges had recognized this spirit as something unique and something, in the view of a recent visiting professor from the Sorbonne, “for which there was no translation in French.”  Educators “may not like to admit it,” MacCracken continued, but “the curriculum is, after all, not the thing of primary importance either to the student or the parent.  It is the college life, the environment, the companionship—the character, in a word, of the institution—that counts.”  Defining this character as “the total reaction of a personality to its environment,” MacCracken concluded, “we have been brought to realize that we must seize the great opportunity inherent in the social organism of our colleges as the greatest of all opportunities for real education.”     The New York Times

The Adelaide Crapsey Lectures, presented by a group of alumnae in memory of Adelaide Crapsey '01, consisted of seven lectures on Shakespeare by Florence Keys, formerly associate professor of English at Vassar.  

A vibrant undergraduate, Crapsey developed tuberculosis shortly after graduating from Vassar. Although in steadily deteriorating health, she taught in the United States and abroad, retiring finally in 1913 from a position teaching poetics at Smith College and entering a sanatorium at Saranac Lake, NY. There, in her last year, she wrote many accomplished poems, several in verse forms of her own invention.  A posthumous selection of her poetry appeared as Verses (1915).

Florence Keys joined the Vassar faculty in 1899 and resigned her position in 1914, largely to devote time to personal, literary and social welfare concerns.  Her students commemorated her teaching in the 1914 Vassarion: “Few teachers anywhere combine as does Miss Keys, thorough, exact scholarship with profound poetic insight, and almost none maintains as she does a sense of the reality of social problems and of the relation scholarship bears to progress….”     Heather Murray, “Doubled Lives: Florence Valentine Keys, David Reid Keys, and the work of English Studies,” The University of Toronto Quarterly

Vassar received an unsolicited check for $25 from the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 180 with a note: “We believe in a fair rate of wages for all and because Vassar professors are receiving less than professors and teachers at other colleges, we consider that this is a worthy object and we are glad to make a contribution to it.”

After The New York Times revealed the gift, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the American Federation of Musicians Local 238, Paperhangers’ Local 155 and the International Molders Union contributed to the salary endowment fund.

President MacCracken, Helen Kenyon ’05, Julia Lathrop ’80 and Cornell University President Livingston Ferrand addressed the annual meeting and luncheon of the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) in the Hotel Commodore.  MacCracken spoke on “Modern Education in the College,” pressing his idea that the term meant “to the college that the subject matter of instruction is infused with life” and that the modern college was “trustee not only for the cause of learning, but for the youth who seeks to learn.”

“The purpose of modern education,” he concluded, was “not primarily the promotion of research, or even the transmission of the great tradition of knowledge from the past.  The primary purpose is the development of a self reliant, independent, eager, questioning spirit, of a steady purpose and a resolute will, and, above all, an understanding of life which will leave the student in touch with his environment when the time comes for him to take his own part.”

Forty thousand dollars for the faculty salary endowment was raised at the luncheon in ten minutes’ time.     The New York Times

The board of trustees abolished life terms for its members in favor of ten-year terms with the possibility of reelection. 

The first of two perfomances by the Class of 1915 of The Vassar Follies was presented before a large and appreciative audience in Town Hall in New York City.  Written by Margaret Lovell ’15, Virginia Archibold ’17 and Lois Long ’22 and with a cast of nearly three-dozen alumnae and “an amateur orchestra, half women,” the production was a benefit for the faculty salary endowment.

Hailed in The Vassar Miscellany for its "sparkling lines, sprightly songs and varigated dancing," the show offered "Vassar as it is and isn't" and "Vassar as it does and doesn't." The audience, The Miscellany continued, "saw besides various dances including a Vassar prom from 1870 and of 1920 and the Vavotte Pavlova given by Billie Tichenor and Harry Tomaroff. 'The Chorus Girl Blues,' was sung by Miss Bobby Bessler and the well-known 'Vassar Types' again appeared, the marrying girl being judged the most typical."

The New York Times reported that the “choruses were typical pretty girls, with abbreviated gowns and pink bare knees.  The way Vassar girls get into the papers was illustrated in one chorus in which six of the plumpest and prettiest were literally in as many papers, morning and evening—ballet length skirts.  The show wound up like an old-time novel, but not in an old-time way, with a wedding, 'typical of the girls of old V. C.'”

In brief remarks, President MacCracken discussed the need for the $3 million endowment and announced that the campaign had reached the $2 million mark that day.  “The Vassar girls would raise the final million, he said," reported The Times, "because they have such ‘winsome’ ways.” The evening raised $4,000 for its cause, and The Vassar Follies took briefly to the road on behalf of the Endowmtent Fund after the turn of the year.     The New York Times


"Hark Alma Mater" was adopted officially as the college Alma Mater. The lyrics, by Amy Wentworth Stone '98, were set to music written around 1903 by George Coleman Gow, professor of music from 1895 until 1932, and the song was intended to replace "Vassar in Beauty Dwelling"—words by Professor of Greek Grace Mccurdy and music by Professor of Music Donald Tweedy—written in 1915 when Professor Gow asked alumnae, students and members of the faculty to offer songs suitable for an Alma Mater. While this song was apparently largely forgotten (even by its author) when it was revived by President MacCracken in 1934, it has since become a college tradition, and "Hark Alma Mater" has been largely forgotten.

The college announced that in canvassing Vassar alumnae for the endowment campaign it had discovered ten college or university deans: Ella McCaleb ’78, Vassar; Lida Shaw King ’90, Women’s College, Brown University; Bertha K. Young ’96, dean of women at Reed College; Margaret A. Knight ‘03, dean of women at Pennsylvania State College; Mary Yost ’04, dean of women at Leland Stanford University; Ruth Andrus ’07, Kentucky College for Women; Hazel N. Harwood ’08, dean of women at Iowa State College; Dorothy Stimson ’12, Goucher College and M. Frances Jewell ’13, dean of women at the University of Kentucky.  The tenth dean was Major Julia Stimson ’01, dean of the Army Nurses Training School and the only woman with the rank of major in the United States military.     The New York Times