The Seven Women's Colleges started a combined drive for financial support. The group included Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley.
The Dean's House was completed, Ruth Adams '04, architect. Returning from a semester’s leave of absence—her first in 24 years—the first occupant of the Colonial Revival house was Dean C. Mildred Thompson ‘03 .
A student wrote in The Vassar Quarterly about a growing interest among students in contemporary issues: “There are some of us who believe that we are not merely passing through a phase, but are beginning to lose the apathy peculiar to the American college for several years….”
Norman Thomas, Socialist Party of America presidential candidate in 1928 and 1932—and four more consecutive presidential elections—lectured under the auspices of the Student League for Industrial Democracy.
An exhibition of modern sculpture, including works by Aristide Maillol, Pablo Picasso and Gaston Lachaise, was, said Nancy Rodman ’32, in The Miscellany News, “so surprisingly good that it is difficult to give preference to any particular work.” Noting "a decided contrast in the artistic conceptions and artistic demands of the Renaissance and those of our times," Rodman declared, "detail has been completely subordinated to form, mass and rhythm. It is as if the artist had become a psychologist, a philosopher. He thinks now in universal truths, formerly he thought in local mannerisms."
While the works all evidenced these novel powers, she noted, "the figures by [Wilhelm] Lehmbruck, Maillol, Lachaise, Picasso, [Georg] Kolbe and [Charles] Despiau seem to stand out and claim our particular attention." Commenting at some length on Lehmbruck's Figure and on Woman Arranging Hair and Girl Kneeling by Maillol, she concluded that "Picasso's Head is by far the most interesting piece of the exhibition. It cannot be called a protrait head, it is not a portrait. It is an idea, an abstraction, a philosophy, anything but a human creature... As the bronze flows towards the left, it flows into abstraction, back into its primitive state. It is a return of life into matter."
Russian violoncellist Gregor Piatigorsky performed a richly varied program ranging from Bach to Stravinsky in the Students' Building. Writing in The Miscellany News, Louise Jacob '32 said Patigorsky's "tone last Saturday night was like molten gold." The "dignity" of PIatigorsky's tone in a cello sonata by Andrea Caporale, she said, "was accompanied by an effortless naiveté, a sense of outflowing. It prevented the intensity of the Bach Suite in C Major from exceeding the bounds of loftiness and self-possession. The saving grace of the Lamento by Fauré and the 'lamenting' Étude by Scriabin was this same dignity."
The Misc. writer was less taken with the rendition of Stavinsky's 1932 Suite Italienne. Apparently unaware that Stravinsky had written the work in collaboration with Piatigorsky, she advised that it "could have benefited by a less weighty treatment. It is not important music; its charm, if any, is in the fantastic skipping about. To treat is as if it were something weighty adds further confusion to the mind of the already puzzled listener. The performer is, however, to be somewhat excused if he was baffled by the Stravinsky Suite, for it was quite uncellistic." The Miscellany News
President MacCracken reported to the alumnae association that the salary budget for the current year had been increased while the number of faculty members had remained the same. $53,000 had been added, bringing the total to $570,000. Pensions were maintained, and student aid increased by $36,500. Twenty-eight percent of the student body was receiving aid, and the total aid budget was $160,000.
"Dr. MacCracken praised the 'wise and careful management' which made possible the maintenance of policies based on 'liberal, ethical and economic principles.'" The New York Times
Having written to a friend a few days earlier "I am going up to Vassar(!) to lecture on Wednesday…. God knows what I’ll tell them,” American poet Archibald MacLeish spoke on "Anatomy of a Hero." MacLeish's remarks before his Vassar audience were grounded both generally in his evolving aesthetic and specifically in his current work. "Valid poetry," reported The Miscellany News about his appearance in Skinner Hall, "takes all mankind for its hero. Archibald MacLeish spoke neither of the biological nor anatomical aspects of a hero in his lecture...but showed, as he does in his poetry, that the whole turn of the earth and the sweep of mankind lies within the range of his feeling. There are those, he said, who say that poetry has nothing to do with the reality of modern life.... They say that poetry is an escape. This is true only in the hands of the most romantic poets.... In great poetry, there is no attempt to create a world of fantasy in which to retire.... The modern world is full of problems and there is little light. But the simplicity and actuality of a poem is truer than the power and importance of our scientists, economists, manufacturers. 'A poem is an exclamation of a man against the world.' As it is a protest, it is an excellent picture of the world and the age.... For this reason, the hero of poetry is the most valid critic of our time."
MacLeish’s long poem, Conquistador—to appear in April—drew on the Historia Veredadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España (True History of the Conquest of New Spain), a bitter account of Hernán Cortez's futile decimation of the Aztecs in 1521 written in 1568 by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, one of his officers. MacLeish's friend Harriet Monroe, the editor of Poetry, called the poem "an epic of races rather than heroes," and writing to poet H. Phelps Putnam around the time of his visit to Vassar, MacLeish answered the criticism of “the socialogues that it isn't about OUR TIME"; "whether they know it or not," he wrote, "it is a lot more about OUR TIME than most of the daily papers."
The son of Martha Hillard MacLeish ’78, MacLeish valued his Vassar heritage. In the posthumous Archibald MacLeish: Reflections (1986), he noted that his mother had taught at the college in the early 1880s and was, with Jane Addams and Julia Lathrop ‘80, one of “the women that saved Chicago from itself. My mother was president of Rockford Female Seminary for some four or five years. And she married my father, two of whose daughters [Blanche MacLiesh ’83 and Lily Agnes MacLeish ‘85] had been students of hers at Vassar. My father saw the light when he saw her.”
Conquistador won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for 1933. R. H. Winnick, ed., Letters of Archibald MacLeish, The Miscellany News
The German department commemorated the centennial of the death of Goethe with lectures by Dr. Eugen Kuehnemann, professor of philosophy at the University of Breslau, and John Livingston Lowes, professor of English at Harvard University.
Professor Lowes also spoke at Vassar in 1919 and 1922.
Smoking was permitted anywhere on the campus except the library steps. Since 1925 it had been restricted to definite smoking areas.
Under the auspices of the German department, Professor Carl F. Schreiber lectured on the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana in the Yale University Library. Professor Schreiber was curator of the collection after the death of Mr. Speck.
Professor Marian P. Whitney and Associate Professor Lilian L. Stroebe of Vassar's German department were instrumental in Yale's acquisition in 1912 of this uniquely important collection.
The Daily Princetonian released the results of a poll of undergraduates at ten Eastern colleges and universities on the question of whether both political parties should include a reconsideration of prohibition in their platforms for the upcoming elections. Of the 10,027 ballots cast, 489 favored the continuation of the present prohibition law, 2,775 wanted a modification of the law, 4,073 favored complete repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, and 2,107 preferred a referendum on the question.
At Vassar, 29 students voted for a platform plank continuing prohibition, 156 wanted one promising modification, 198 voted for repeal, and 123 preferred a referendum. The New York Times
Annual commencement observances began with a memorial service for Laura J. Wylie '77, professor of English from 1895 until 1924, who died on April 2. Speaking at the services were Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had worked with Laura Wylie in civic work in Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County, President MacCracken and Wylie's former student Elizabeth Forrest Johnson ’02, head of the Baldwin School, Bryn Mawr.
Class Day exercises began on a perfect June day, as 24 sophomores carried out the Daisy Chain. A bas-relief of Professor George Coleman Gow, who was retiring after 40 years in the music department, was unveiled.
Two of the four first graduates of the college, Harriet Warner Bishop ’67 and Helen D. Woodward ’67, led the alumnae parade. The annual alumnae luncheon was well attended, and in the evening the Open Air Theatre was the site for the Third Hall Play.
When the Reverend Arthur Lee Kinsolving, rector of Trinity Church Boston cancelled his appearance due to illness, Dr. Charles R. Watson, president of the American University in Cairo and father of Evelyn Grace Watson ‘32, delivered the baccalaureate sermon, “New Emphasis for This New Day.” The “new day,” he said, was expressed “in its conception of world unity, in its consciousness of law and development, and in the attitude of present-day humanity toward change, which is now regarded with expectancy instead of fear.” Noting that “America is regarded by the outside world as a nation of amazing individuals, but individuals who are lacking in social cohesion,” Dr. Watson challenged the graduates to realize that “The future lies in social integration.” The New York Times
After the service, President MacCracken dedicated a bronze tablet in the Chapel’s Memorial Hall honoring five alumnae: Ella M. Liggett ’69, founder and head mistress of the Liggett School in Detroit; Ella Weed ’73, organizer and first executive of Barnard College; Abbey Leach ’85, professor of Greek at Vassar, the first woman president of the American Philological Association (1899-1900) and president of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (1899-1901); Ethel Moore ’94, founder of the Oakland Social Settlement, pioneer in the development of public playgrounds and a key figure in California’s ratification of women’s suffrage and Christine Ladd-Franklin ’69, discoverer of an historic solution in symbolic logic, the “antilogism,” mathematician and pioneer in color vision theory.
In his Commencement address, President MacCracken drew to the attention of the 273 graduating seniors and seven recipients of master’s degrees a “keynote” he heard in commencement addresses across the country. “It is no longer a note of sturdy American individualism that is stressed,” he said. “In place of the old doctrine that every man shall bear his own burdens, they are bidden to bear one another’s burdens.” Reflecting on what had seemed in the past to be great freedom, he suggested that “we may question if our old freedom was not, after all…the liberty to be victimized, to be superstitious, to be ignorant, to be helpless against predatory powers.”
“If there is a solution,” MacCracken declared, “for the liberal democracy to which these United States are committed, it would seem to be in joint action by all groups for the protection of those interests which they recognize that they have in common. This would seem to involve a survey of social consciousness, the definition of the social interests which emerge from that consciousness, and a program of social protection for those interests.”
The report on annual giving included $119,246 for the gymnasium fund, $10,000 for chapel furnishings, $21,000 from the Carnegie Foundation for a tax-retiring allowance for teachers and several smaller designated gifts. Reunion gifts totaled $31,833, and the report said that gifts from alumnae and friends totaled $123,743, of which $38,000 had gone into the endowment. The New York Times
Shortly after the graduation of their daughter, Muriel, Dr. and Mrs. Alquin Jay Davis announced that she had been married to John MacArthur Sloan on November 26, 1930. “The marriage was kept secret, Dr. Davis said, so the bride might be able to finish her studies at Vassar.”
Announcement of the couple’s engagement had been made in December, 1930, a month after their marriage. The New York Times
Henry Seely White, professor of mathematics from 1905 until 1936 and for many years chairman of the department, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Science at Wesleyan University's 100th commencement. A member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1882, White taught at the university briefly after his graduation.
With 37.4 percent of the vote in German elections, the Nazi party became the country's largest political party.
Russian was offered for the first time, although the courses carried no credit toward the degree until 1935. Vassar’s Russian department was the first in a college for women.
"Only in the heart of Religion lie the resources by which we may try to escape the tyranny of selfotion," the Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr told the student body in the first Sunday Chapel of the academic year. In the first of many visits to the college, he framed the moral dilemma as a paradox of deception."We constantly try to place the sanctity of Religion," he said, "behind that which we do in our own personal and immediate interests; for we are immoral enough to want what is to our material advantage, but moral enough to feel the need of principle behind its acquisition.
A writer for The Miscellany News reported that in an interview the professor of Christian ethics at Union Theological Seminary doubted the power of scholars to influence social change. "True scholars, said Dr. Neibuhr, are intellectual sophisticates, and are unable to share the dreams and hungers and illusions of the masses.... Scholars have a definite function in observing current events and recording them in historical perspective, but Dr. Neibuhr does not look to them for any drive by which the present social order may be modified, and its injustices redeemed."
Professor Niebuhr returned to Vassar in October to lead the annual conference of the pacifist group, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), held at Alumnae House.
At Fall Convocation, President MacCracken told a record enrollment, 1,200 students, “that Vassar aspires to be a ‘university college,’ that its study is planned for mature students and intended to lead to advanced work.”
The other speaker, Professor of Psychology Margaret Floy Washburn ’91 spoke on “Education for Enjoyment,” reminding students that a sometimes overlooked benefit of a broad college program is the range of possibilities it opens for intellectual enjoyment in the leisure of later life. The New York Times
The Art Gallery presented an exhibition of paintings and drawings by the Russian painter and designer Eugene Berman and the Russian surrealist painter Pavel Tchelitchew.
Upholding the negative on the question, "Resolved that Hoover be reelected," a team of Vassar freshmen defeated a freshman debate team from Yale in the annual debate. Affirmative arguments that Presidient Hoover was preferable to "the risk of experimenting" and praising his accomplishments before becoming President were met with praise not only for Roosevelt's tariff, trade and farm relief proposals but also for his "type of personality" and his "definite out and out stand on Prohibition supporting repeal." The Miscellany News
“About this lipstick business: I wish you wouldn’t talk about it to people as a phenomenon or something to be mentioned only in a whisper…. Up till now, I have lived pretty darned nearly exactly as you have… Now that I am to a certain degree independent, and have had the opportunity to think things out and experience a new and wonderful freedom, there will be things which you will find at variance with your opinions…." Ms. student letter
Vassar trustee Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated President Herbert Hoover in a landslide victory, carrying 42 states and garnering 472 of the 531 electoral votes. Outpolling Hoover in the popular vote by over 7 million votes, Roosevelt was the first Democratic candidate to win a majority of the popular vote since 1876, when Samuel Tilden outdrew Rutherford B. Hayes with 51 percent of the popular vote, losing to Hayes in the Electoral College by a single vote.
On assuming the Presidency, Roosevelt resigned from the Vassar board, becoming an honorary trustee until his death in 1945.
"'I am very sorry that I will unable to be one of your trustees any longer,' said President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt to The Miscellany News reporter, holding on to the door of his moving car." Some 10,000 people greeted Roosevelt as he passed through Poughkeepsie on his way from New York City to Albany. The Miscellany News
Urged by the trustees to continue his connection with the college, Roosevelt remained an honorary trustee until his death in 1945.
Speaking to Vassar’s Political Club, New York Times political writer Arthur Krock told students that the pre-election speeches of the candidates were “so much political ‘blah-blah,’” and that “by some unerring instinct, the American people have never, by their votes, struck a blow at the American system…. We should be in a most unfortunate position in the United States if in one man and in one party were bound up the fate of the world. When that is as near a fact as possible, the American voters sense it sufficiently—as they did in 1916—to give it their endorsement. When it is manifestly untrue—as in 1932—they administer a reprimand.” The New York Times
Professor Bernard Fäy of the Collège de France gave two lectures, "L'Academie Française" and "The Share of France, of Great Britain and the United States in the Great Intellectual Revolution of the Eighteenth Century." An historian of French-American relations, Fäy was convicted in 1946 of conspiracy with the Nazi occupantion and condemned to dégradation nationale, loss of professional standing and forced labor for life. He subsequently escaped to Switzerland with assistance from the American expatriate Alice B. Toklas.
Heavy rains in Poughkeepsie forced the "Bengals," a field hockey team composed of Princeton athletes who knew nothing of the sport, owned no equipment and had practiced only once, to cancel a match with the Vassar field hockey team.
In 1931, the Vassar team won over a team from Yale—apparently similar in composition and experience to Princeton’s—by a score of 2 to1, and Vassar-Yale and Vassar-Princeton matches in 1934 ended in defeat for Vassar, whose umpire, Virginia Fessenden '35, declared the visitors had violated "practically every principle of the game."
Vassar had fielded teams in the sport since it was introduced at the college in 1902 by English field hockey pioneer Constance Appleby.
Evangeline Booth, commander of the U.S. Division of the Salvation Army, led the evening chapel service and lectured the following day. The seventh of eight children of the Army’s founders, William Booth and his wife Catherine Mumford, Evangeline Booth became the fourth leader—or general—of the Salvation Army in 1934, succeeding her father, her brother Bramwell and the first elected general, Edward Higgins.
The Vassar College Choir gave the first performance in the United States of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Magnificat (1932) for contralto, flute, organ and choir, as part of the annual Christmas Music program. Contralto Grace Leslie and flutist Mortimer Rapfogel assisted the choir, directed by E. Harold Geer, professor of music and director of the choir, in the performance of what Jeanne Schenck '33, writing in The Miscellany News, called "the most interesting work in the program. The text is free and attempts to combine, as does the music, the mystic as well as the magnificent side of the annunciation."
Vaughan Williams's Magnificat was first performed at the 218th Three Choirs Festival, held in 1932 at Worcester.
In early December, President MacCracken spoke in Cleveland on behalf of the endowment campaign for the seven women’s colleges. Making the case for endowments more nearly equal to those for men’s colleges, he described the four phases in the growth of women’s education. The following week, The New York Times published a section of his remarks, under the title “The College Girl’s Epic.”
Of the earliest period of women’s higher education, the 1860s and 1870s, MacCracken said, “the problem before women…was to prove that they had a certain mental toughness, the ability to stand the hard work of the academic course. Physicians and the most broad-minded people of the time really believed that women’s minds and woman’s emotional frame were incapable of sustaining such arduous labor…. So that the women went into the college with fire in their eye and in a somewhat combative spirit to prove that they could study as hard as men, and the course was intentionally made difficult…. If Yale had six sciences in its undergraduate course, then Vassar must have seven sciences….”
Then, he noted, “there came a second period when, after they felt that they had proved themselves able to study as hard as men and to have mentality strong as men’s, they wished to apply it in new fields, and they found certain fields in life suitable to women’s nature, which they amply filled.” One of these fields, he explained, was the teaching profession, traditionally largely the province of men. “In fact, the teaching profession had been very largely occupied by men in Europe. Today 85 percent of our teachers are women. They went out and filled the high school principalships of the land…. You would rarely find them after ten years in the rank and file. Nearly all of them came to be at the heads of their respective fields.”
MacCracken’s third period began in the 1900s, when, “having asserted themselves competitively and justified themselves, having filled certain new professions, they discovered that after all they were women, and that in their natural life were marriage and the home.” Whereas, he continued, the “graduates of women’s colleges about 1900 had only one child apiece and less than half of them married…the recent analysis showed that three-fourths of them have married and have two children or more…. A great social change has taken place. They have returned under certain leaders who said, ‘We are going out into the distant parts of the world, but we haven’t touched the home.’ They came back and founded home economics. To make it concrete the placing of the bathtub in the American home is the work of graduates of these colleges.”
MacCracken’s fourth period—and the cause for which women’s colleges urgently needed increased support—was both accretive and innovative. “In very recent years,” he told his audience, educators were finding that students “although they retain the interest of earlier students…vary very greatly in these interests. The problem has come to be the individualizing of a woman’s education so that it fits her for what she herself is best able to give in life. The differentiation of her special capacities is followed by a differentiation of the curriculum, so that interests may be carried further. That is the problem of the college of today.” The New York Times