Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, '94, chairman of the department of Latin, was elected chairman of the Advisory Council of the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, the first woman to hold this office.
The name of the Alumnae Gymnasium was changed to Ely Hall with the installation of the Health Center. The name honored Achsah M. Ely '68, professor of Mathematics from 1887 until 1904, a leader in the campaign for the Alumnae Gymnasium, which opened in 1889.
Professor Ely died in 1904.
The college’s first dean, Ella McCaleb ’78, died at her campus home. After teaching at the Home and Day School in Detroit, Miss McCaleb returned to Vassar in 1885 to serve as secretary to J. Ryland Kendrick, the acting president between the tenures of Samuel Caldwell and James Monroe Taylor. Continuing under President Taylor, she became secretary of the college in 1893, and she served as dean of the college between 1913 and her retirement in 1923.
The Experimental Theatre presented the Svapnavasavadatta (The Vision of Vasavadatta), by the earliest known Sanskrit dramatist, Bhasa (c. 275-c.335 AD), translated by Pauna Lall and A.G. Sherriff. Lost for more than 1,000 years, 13 plays by Bhasa were discovered in a library in India in 1912. The most famous, Svapnavasavadatta is the story of the sacrifice of King Udayana’s Queen, who stages her own death in a palace fire to free her husband to make a marriage that will save his kingdom. She then returns to the palace secretly to live near her King.
"So far as we are able to ascertain,” the translators wrote, “your production will be the first play of Bhasa's to be done in modern times." Program note
President MacCracken proposed to the faculty an extensive revision of the Vassar curriculum. He explained that the plan was designed to allow students to concentrate more on individual work. The proposal reduced the undeclass course load from five full courses to four and the senior course load from four to three, bringing the number of courses required for the bachelor's degree to 15. The equivalent of a fourth course in the senior year was preparation for a major subject examination at the end of the first semester and the preparation of a long paper in seniors' chosen fields in the second semester.
Increased administrative supervision in the first year would, MacCracken said, allow for maximum preparation for the selection of a major. Guidance in the sophomore and junior years would aid in successful coordination of the major field of knowledge. The new plan's "essential feature," he said, "is a simplification of the curriculum by reducing the number of courses and class hours. The present curriculum is effective but has become too complicated. It leaves no time for the most desirable work, advanced in quality and solid in quantity."
The proposed changes, studied and modified by the faculty working as a committee of the whole and with considerable consultation with the students, were approved on February 18, 1935, for implementation in the fall. The Miscellany News
An exhibition lent by the College Art Association, Italian Baroque Painting and Drawing - XVI, XVII, XVIII Centuries, opened in Taylor Hall. Among the 63 works in the collection were "Head of a Youth" by Caravaggio, two paintings by Francesco Guardi and several drawings by Gian Battista Tiepolo. Praising the "high order of accomplishment" demonstrated by the works, Professor of Art Agnes Rindge said such work showed that Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries "was still able to give new directions to artistic thought and to paint with an assurance and distinction to match her northern neighbors." The Miscellany News
Baroness Keichi Ishimoto, leader of Japan's feminist movement, lectured on "The Women of Japan." Her remarks on the home and business lives of women in Japan and on the conditions of workers and feminists were part of group of lectures on aesthetic and social aspects of Japanese life. In the United States since early November, the Baroness was particularly interested in the American birth control clinics. "The importance of birth control for a country like Japan," she told The New York Times in "perfect English," "may be perfectly perceived when you consider that Japan is a small country with a population of 65,000,000 and growing at a rate of nearly 1,000,000 a year.... It is my plan to have birth control field clinics introduced on a wide scale in Japan."
While regretting the suppression in Japan of civil liberties by teh Fascist government, she said that officials' attitude on the matter was one of "benevolent neutrality." She hoped that Japan would ultimately work out its economic and political problems, and as to talk of military action, "The Japanese people," she said, do not want war with the United States or any other country. They know that the country that starts war will do so to its own destruction." The New York Times, The Miscellany News
As the third in a series of broadcast intercollegiate debates, Vassar argued the negative against Lafayette College on the question, “Resolved, That We Deplore the Emergence of Women from Home Into Public and Business Life.”
Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg.
Italian historian and journalist Professor Gaetano Salvemini, former professor of history at the University of Florence and visiting lecturer at Yale, lectured on "Florence at the Time of Dante." Portraying the great Italian poet as having "the bitter pessimism of the broken man"—broken by 14th century mercantile Italy—Professor Salvemini observed that "Behind a profound pessimism, the light of great hope always shines," concluding that "Heroic souls know how to hope, though they have lost all grounds for hope." Salvemini's monograph Florence in the Time of Dante was published by the Mediaeval Academy of America in 1936.
A student of the medieval commune and an outspoken anti-fascist, Salvemini fled in 1925 to France and England. Coming to America in 1930, he lectured at Harvard from 1930 until 1948. He spoke at Vassar again in Octobr 1935 and December 1942.
Six years earlier, on February 4, 1927, Dr. Salvemini and Vassar Professor of Italian Bruni Roselli, a one-time attaché of the Italian Embassy in Washington, argued heatedly the pros and cons of the Mussolini government in Italy before some 1,400 members of the Economic Club at the Astor Hotel in New York City. Although he declined during this visit to discuss the effects of Fascism on Italian life, culture and literature, these were his topics on his subsequent appearances at the college. The Miscellany News, The New York Times
The United States Senate voted to repeal prohibition, leading to the ratification, in December 1933, of the act repealing the Twenty-first Amendment. Vassar announced that no liquor could be kept on campus, but students were allowed to drink at approved tearooms and restaurants.
President Roosevelt proclaimed a national bank holiday. Subsequently, at Vassar, the grocery and stationery store advanced credit, and the Retreat issued scrip at varying amounts of currency, in the total amount of $95. The Chase National Bank later requested samples of the pea-green, blue and yellow cards for its collection, “Moneys of the World.”
The Nazi party gained 44 percent of the vote in the German general elections.
Research by Vassar economics and sociology students, reported in The New York Times, indicated that despite great change in their economic and vocational mobility, graduates from the college during three periods—1869-1871, 1904-1905 and 1921-1935—found their spouses through friends or through social occasions. In all three groups 26 percent married men they had known from childhood.
The Vassar Bank in Arlington was one of the banks allowed to reopen after the bank holiday. The Miscellany News reported that bank officials stressed that no "unreasonable restrictions" would be placed on the reopened accounts. "All banks," the newspaper said, "have been given general instructions that anyone who wishes to withdraw any very large sum must give his reasons, so that hoarding may be prevented."
President MacCracken, the bank's founder in 1924, remained on its board of directors as did another founding director, Professor of Religion Willam Bancroft Hill.
Two chamber music compositions, Quincy Porter’s sonata for violin and piano and Wallingford Riegger’s trio in B minor, were selected for publication by the Society for the Publication of American Music in its annual survey of recent work. Porter, associate professor of music at Vassar, had previously won an Eastman School Publication Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
The Dink, the unofficial publication of Princeton freshmen, published results of a questionnaire of the class: favorite college next to Princeton, Yale; favorite actor, Mickey Mouse; favorite newspaper, The New York Times; favorite girl’s name, Joan; favorite women’s college, Vassar.
The presidents of the seven leading women’s colleges, meeting in New York City to discuss the future of women’s higher education, reviewed an analysis by the colleges’ alumnae committee of American giving to educational institutions in 1932. Their joint statement, reporting that some $2,000,000 of a total of about $60,666,000 went to women’s colleges, further noted that men’s colleges and universities had received $27, 800,000, $25,500,000 had gone to coeducational institutions and foreign universities had received more than $5,000,000.
“The fact,” they concluded, “that only two millions came to women’s colleges is due, we are convinced, to the fact that the habit of giving to higher education for women has not become established on the part of the public, as it has long since been established for men’s colleges and universities. It is not, however, possible to wait for time to effect this. The need is so urgent that we must emphasize it now.” The New York Times
“We had a lecture tonight on television, with the apparatus and demonstration. Good stuff.” MS letter
Television, demonstrated successfully in 1928, was first broadcast live in 1936. Regularly scheduled broadcasts began in 1938.
Director Hallie Flanagan Davis and The Experimental Theatre presented Now I Know Love—A Mime Sequence: for 1933 A.D., which included the world première of T.S. Eliot's first play, Sweeney Agonistes. The work's other elements were three idyls of Theocritus, translated by Professor Philip H. Davis, Telephone by Dorothy Parker and Penthouse by Mary Morley Crapo '34—"a parallel," according to the author of a fourth Theocritean idyl, "The Serenade." Associate Professor Quincy Porter composed the music,for string quartet and percussion, and the setting was by Lester Lang, Davis's assistant. When Flanagan approached Eliot—who attended the performance—for permission to present the play, he set stringent conditions as to scenery and costumes, which Flanagan ignored. He was reportedly delighted with the production.
Eliot gave an extended reading and discussion of his poetry the following day in Avery Hall. Drawing laughter from the overflow crowd when he declared, "My poetry is simple and straightforward," the poet deprecated explanations of poetry, saying that one needed only the suppression of presuppositions and prejudices and "an occasional verbal footnote." The Miscellany News
In conjunction with an exhibit in Taylor Hall on modern architecture, the founding director of the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, Philip Johnson, delivered three lectures on "Modern Trends in Architecture." Beginning with the "borrowings prompted by caprice," as The Miscellany News called them, of the three Prussian great-grand nephews of Frederick the Great, Johnson identified in their design of country houses the beginnings of modern eclecticism and asymmetry. In addition, he said, these buildings' tendencies "toward restraint and total neglect of ornament" led to "a system of regular bays which anticipates," said The Misc, "the regularity of design imposed by the nature of steel construction upon modern architecture."
Johnson protrayed American architecture in the 19th and early-20th centuries as a struggle between the philosophical descendants of the "revivalist and functionalist" Prussians, such as Henry Hobson Richardson—whose influence on Vassar's Alumnae Gymnasium (Ely Hall) he noted—and a stubbornly resurgent classicism. The key element in the victory of the modern was a fundamental change in buildings' structural character with the adoption of steel construction. "Before 1850," the writer in The Miscellany News said, "a building was conceived of as a mass, with weight-bearing walls pierced by the holes of windows; after steel, a building became a skeleton covered by a sheath." Praising the subsequent "originality and real understanding of the nature of steel construction" in the work of Louis Sullivan, Johnson claimed it was eclipsed by the extravagant classicism of the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893. However he saw Sullivan's spare modernism—"often little more than an enclosure of the floor levels with terra cotta and glass"—in the work of the "one man who resisted the incursion of classicism," Frank Lloyd Wright, who, according to The Misc., "introduced an entirely new logic of construction and completely redesigned the house. Conceiving the frame building as a series of verticle posts overlaid with horizontal slabs, he attempted to express the structure by running up a masonry waist and glassing in between the posts, and covering it all with a flat, widely projecting roof."
Philip Johnson's third and final lecture, on May 18, was devoted largely to the International Style—defined by Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, lately of the Vassar faculty, in The International Style (1932)—and to its leading practiioners, Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe. Hitchcock and Johnson had organized Modern Architecture—International Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in February 1932, and Hitchcock had returned to Vassar the following May to speak on "Modern Architecture: Convergence on a Style." Declaring that "convention and form are the means with which one builds," Johnson saw architecture, in the explicit rigors of the style's dedication to its steel skeleton and amidst the contemporary chaos of other arts, as "the one art which gives the most hope today for stabilized development." Johnson saw the forces of the times as having brought Le Corbusier and Van Der Rohe, although "opposite types of men, the former classic, the latter gothic...to the same conclusions about architecture."
"In Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier," the newspaper concluded, "the functionalism and relation of architecture to its landscape setting seen in the 19th century German Romantics and th principle of regularity developed by the American individualists reach their logical conclusion." The Miscellany News
Class Day exercises and meetings of alumnae opened Vassar’s 67th commencement exercises. Mrs. Henry Morganthau Jr. (Elinor Fatman ’13) spoke at the alumnae luncheon, and an evening production of A Winter’s Tale was followed by the senior bonfire.
The speaker at baccalaureate exercises the following day was the Rev. Dr. Vivian T. Pomeroy, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Milton, MA, who spoke on “Time and Experience.” Welcoming what he saw as a shift in young people away from rushed accumulation of experiences at the expense of the contemplation and comprehension of them, Pomeroy declared that “Nothing can make people really more intellectually stupid than a progressive accumulation of facts without wisdom to interpret the facts and extract their vital meaning.”
In his commencement address on June 12, President MacCracken emphasized to the 240 graduates, their families and guests that the goals of fulfillment in life were reached both gradually and in community with others. “Education,” he said, “is a continuous cycle and not something that can be achieved all at one time or in a few years.” MacCracken pointed to the community of faculty that relied on the advice and knowledge of others and to the national collaboration in research of foundations and associations in seeking mutual and societal enlightenment. “We must leave fulfillment to time,” he concluded. “We must not be the judge of our own work. We may criticize our own work, but we must remember that our criticism is suspended.”
The chairman of the board of trustees, Helen Kenyon ’05, announced that gifts to the college totaled $228,916 and that the endowment had increased by more than $120,000. Gifts from alumnae were $94,400, of which $46,000 were direct gifts and $48,400 were through the alumnae fund.
President Roosevelt, whose term as trustee would have expired in 1933, was elected to the board as an honorary life trustee.
In the afternoon, a forum on the economy began under the direction of cultural historian and activist, Associate Professor of History Caroline F. Ware ’20. The discussants included Ware’s husband, Harvard economist Gardiner C. Means, a critic of what he called “collective capitalism,” socialist Dr. Walter Polikov, the director of United Mine Workers’ department of engineering and the English economist and pioneer social services theorist Eveline Burns. The New York Times
President Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act, permitting him to regulate industry so as to stimulate economic recovery and to establish a national public works program.
All political parties in Germany except the Nazi party were banned.
As the August 31 date set by President Roosevelt for some 5,000,000 employers to enroll under the National Industry Recovery Act moved closer, The New York Times reported the pace of enrollment was increasing and the goal seemed within reach. Endorsing the “blanket code” committed employers to reducing working hours and raising wages so that at least 6,000,000 men and women could return to the work force.
The 20,000 signatories reported on August 2 included the American Clothing Contractors Association—with 47,000 workers—J. C. Penney, New York Life, Beech-Nut, Kelly-Springfield Tires, Dunn & Bradstreet, the New York Cotton Exchange, Gulf Refining, Bloomingdales and Vassar College.
Eleanor Roosevelt spoke to the Institute of Euthenics at Vassar on raising children. “We must train our children to a new world, “ she said, “a world which we don’t know about. We must teach our children principles and let them decide for themselves. They often don’t do what we believe is right. We can just say keep on growing to ideals and standards.” The New York Times
Vassar was the scene of Dutchess County's official welcome to President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, part of a county-wide "Neighbors Day" celebration. Mr. Roosevelt spoke from the porch of the President's House, talking informally on Dutchess County history to some 6,000 guests in what was reportedly an early use of a public address system.
Welcoming the President, President MacCracken recalled rumors at the time of Roosevelt’s nomination: “he was thought to be timid. He was rumored to be weak. Worst of all, we heard he was aristocratic. [Vassar] had never known such a man, and we wondered whom they had considered.” But now, he said, “a great chorus of praise and pride has filled our ears. A man stands out whom everybody knows…. He has taught us to be strong. He has kindled his courage in our own hearts. He has drawn for us a clear and definite plan by which, through sacrifice and cooperation, American democracy may survive. And best of all, he has placed human values first, and has affirmed that the state exists for the welfare of all, and not least for the common men and women like his neighbors.”
After sharing his boyhood recollections of Dutchess County, Roosevelt turned to the current situation. A full minute’s cheering followed his declaration that “It is…true that the people, through government, are extending as a permanent part of American life—and not for one year or two years—they are extending their insistence that individuals and associations of individuals shall cease doing many things that have been hurting their neighbors in bygone days.” Elizabeth A. Daniels, Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College
A cooperative apartment for 28 students was established in Blodgett Hall. The Blodgett accommodation continued until the opening of Palmer House as a cooperative in 1938. Raymond House, set up as a partial-cooperative, continued through the year 1942-43.
Elizabeth Meade ’27 offered a course in the art department on landscape architecture.
Professor of English Helen Lockwood ’12 offered for the first time her course in Public Discussion. “The English department develops its tradition of social criticism and debate.” The Vassar Quarterly
Professor of Philosophy Woodbridge Riley died at his summer home in Cape May, NJ, at the age of 64. Riley, who taught at Vassar since 1908, was a prolific scholar and a provocative and exacting teacher, known for his acerb wit. In 1922 he gained front page notice in The New York Times when Christian Science and Mormon leaders forced the publisher to withdraw the fourth volume of The Cambridge History of American Literature, where Riley’s analyses of their respective religions in a chapter, “Popular Bibles” called Christian Science “inconsistent and illogical” and referred to its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, as a “thrice-married Trismegistus.”
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom held a three-day meeting at Vassar. The president of the student Political Association, Lucile Harvey ‘34, shared the podium at the opening dinner with President MacCracken, John Lovejoy Elliott, leader of the Ethical Culture Society, and Lena Madesin Phillips, founder of the Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, among others. Other speakers during the meeting included the pioneer multiculturalist Rachel Davis DuBois and Mary E. Wooley, the president of Mount Holyoke College.
The gathering approved a resolution to work for “immediate conclusion of a treaty covering reduction and supervision of arms by the Disarmament Conference before and after it convenes Oct. 16,” as well as one urging recognition of Soviet Russia.
The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, long in the planning, had opened in Geneva in early 1932, but when Adolf Hitler took Germany out of the conference—and of its sponsor, the League of Nations—in October, talks collapsed.
The college opened for its 69th year with 1,223 students from 38 states, the District of Columbia, the Canal Zone, Hawaii, England, China and Syria. Forty-one of the 364 freshmen were daughters of alumnae, and three were granddaughters of alumnae who entered Vassar on its first opening day, September 20, 1865.
Germany withdrew from the League of Nations.
Introduced by President MacCracken as a "specialist in democracy," Dr. Friedrich Schoenemann lectured in Sknner Hall on “The New Democracy in Hitler's Germany.” On a tour of American campuses, the professor from the University of Berlin compared Hitler’s putsch to the American Revolution, proclaimed Hitler fundamentally “a democrat” and—although he claimed that they were the leaders of world communism—denied any persecution of German Jews. Speaking to students after his lecture, Schoenemann urged them, according to The Miscellany News, to keep an open mind about Hitler and the Nazis, explaining, for example "the German meaning of the word 'propaganda'—not a deliberate distortion of the truth for the purpose of duping the people, but a means to mass education and solidarity."
More than 100 people were turned away from Schoenemann's lecture, and The Vassar Quarterly reported “The campus is reverberating with discussion of Hitler and the Nazis.” On November 3, the émigré military historian Dr. Alfred Vagts, formerly of the University of Hamburg, speaking in the Students Building on "Germany Under Hitler," found it "strange that a philologist [Schoenemann] should confuse the terms democrat and demogogue."
Friedrich Schoenemann lectured at Vassar on the German youth movement in November 1929. The Miscellany News
James Stephens, the Irish poet and novelist, paid his second visit to Vassar, lecturing on the writing of poetry and reading some of his own poems.
"He was a little man with a high, narrow head and long, thin hands. We felt that he looked very much as one of the philosophers in The Crock of Gold must have looked. At the end of his speech James Stephens made a hasty exit from the stage without waiting for the applause to die down. After him rushed Miss [Professor of English Rose] Peebles, who had introduced him. It seems that the poet is very shy, and on his former visit to Vassar it looked, at the end of his speech, as though he were going to be mobbed by an army of autograph seekers, so he rushed out through the wings and left Students' unnoticed. There was to be a reception for him in Main immediately after the lecture, and as it was assumed that he had gone there, the assemblage followed after. But no James Stephens did they find. After an interval a search was organized. Posses set out in all directions. At last the poet was found wandering bewildered in the Circle looking for an exit! Hence Miss Peebles' determination that he should not escape unaccompanied." The Vassar Quarterly
Stephens read from his work at Vassar in 1925.
President MacCracken announced the appointment of Professor Moritz Alfred Geiger, formerly professor of philosophy at the University of Göttingen, to succeed the late Woodbridge Riley. The German phenomenologist, expelled by the Nazis, had come to the United States earlier in the year.
By the end of January 1934, some 275 distinguished European scholars were relocated to American campuses—“including all the leading institutions of learning in the United States, with the exception of Harvard University,” as The New York Times put it—with some 1,200 still seeking refuge. Professor Geiger arrived at Vassar on March 1, 1934.
Former trustee Frank L. Babbott died. Mr. Babbott’s wife Lydia attended Vassar in the Class of 1877, and in 1899 he endowed a fellowship in her name and that of her eldest daughter Mary ’08—the anonymous donor in 1913 of the Students’ Building. His will bequeathed $540,000 to the college.
Mr. Babbott’s two other daughters were Lydia Babbott ’17 and Helen Babbott ’19.