The Pittsburgh Vassar committee announced that Mrs. and Mrs. Paul Mellon had given $180,000 to the college’s 75th anniversary fund. Mary Conover Mellon was a member of the Class of 1926.
The first results of the summer work of the Hudson Valley Archaeological Survey under the direction of Dr. Mary Butler ’25 went on display in Blodgett Hall. The artifacts discovered included tools and ornaments from “Woodland Indians,” inhabitants of the valley just prior to the coming of white settlers in the early 17th century. Also on display were earlier artifacts—arrowheads and chipped red slate and gray quartzite knives and scrapers. The project was conducted under a five-year grant to Vassar from the Carnegie Corporation.
The New York Times noted the publication by the Vassar art department of the first catalogue of the art gallery’s collection since 1869. Designed by Monroe Wheeler of the Museum of Modern Art, the volume included a historical introduction by the chairman of the department, Professor Oliver Tonks, a reproduction of the Report of the Committee on the Art Gallery of Vassar Female College (1864) and an essay on the uses of the collection by Professor Agnes Rindge.
“The importance of the Vassar Art Gallery,” she explained, “lies in its function as a teaching agent in the Department of Art…. It is very gratifying to us to note that the initial policy of acquisition, set forth in the 1864 report…declared for the educational value of originals and, even more radically, demanded the inclusion of works by living Americans…. The greater part of the Vassar collection is actually employed every year in our courses.”
Dr. Florence R. Sabin, pioneering researcher in tuberculosis and the lymphatic system and the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, gave the first Helen Kenyon lecture on "The Beginnings of Modern Medicine in America." The Helen Kenyon Lectureship Fund was established June 7, 1939 by the Associate Alumnae, the Class of 1905 and other friends of Helen Kenyon, '05, as a contribution to the 75th anniversary fund. Miss Kenyon was an alumnae trustee from 1923 until 1928 and chairman of the board from 1929 until 1939. Kenyon Hall was named in her honor.
Over 300 people attended a surprise dinner party given in Main Building for President MacCracken to mark his 25 years at Vassar. The chairman of the board of trustees, Morris Hadley, distinguished faculty of all ranks including the emeriti and student leaders spoke of his leadership and accomplishments. The president used the occasion to announce that the college was a bit over half way to the goal of raising $2 million by June to strengthen the salary and general endowments. The 75th anniversary fund, he said, stood at $1,004,000. MacCracken also announced an anonymous gift of $50,000 for a low-cost faculty housing project that would give preference to faculty members in the lower income ranks.
Afterwards, the diners joined a large group of students and college employees for an evening of songs, skits and refreshments.
Student government had gone about as far as it could go, President MacCracken told the alumnae. “The faculty have conferred on the students through their grant of powers full autonomy over the conduct of their affairs, with but two reservations. The first of these is the enforcement of the requirement for the bachelor’s degree, the chief goal of the student life at Vassar, and the second is the right of the faculty to revoke the grant of power at any time if the faculty so deemed best.” Vassar Alumnae Magazine
The art department mounted a show of original drawings by cartoonist and illustrator James Thurber.
Enrico Fermi, Italian Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Physics at Columbia University, lectured on "The Transmutation of the Elements."
A frequent visitor to Vassar, the eminent typographer Frederick W. Goudy, spoke to a student assembly on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
President MacCracken announced the gift to the Vassar Art Gallery of 15 oil paintings and four etchings from Mrs. Lloyd Williams. Given to her over the years by her father, the New York artist and art dealer, Daniel Cottier, and to be known as the Cottier-Williams collection, the works ranged in period from the 16th to the 20th centuries and included paintings by Pieter Claesz, Joris van der Haagen, Anthony van Dyck, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Albert Pinkham Ryder and the American impressionist J. Alden Weir.
The chairman of the art department, Professor Oliver Tonks, expressed particular pleasure with the “two fine paintings by Ryder, whose works are difficult to obtain.” The paintings were “The Lovers,” given to Mrs Williams by the painter as a wedding gift, and “The Stable,” on the back of which was inscribed “To my friend, Lloyd Williams. A. P. Ryder.” Mrs. Williams, whose father was also a friend and early supporter of Ryder, gave the works to Vassar at the suggestion of her friend, Mary Turlay Robinson ‘10, whose father, Rev. Ezekiel G. Robinson, was a founding trustee of the college. The New York Times
Vassar’s 75th anniversary fund received help from the Hasty Pudding Club of Harvard University, which presented its current production, “Assorted Nuts,” in the Students’ Building. Dancing followed the performance, and many of the Harvard visitors and other guests stayed for the weekend events, which included roller-skating in Poughkeepsie, a tea dance at Cushing House and square dancing in Kenyon Hall.
About 150 students from 18 colleges and universities in the state attended the first annual New York State Student Scientific Conference at Vassar. The 1934 Nobel prize-winner in chemistry, Dr. Harold C. Urey of Columbia University, spoke to students of botany, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology, physiology, psychology, eugenics, anthropology and zoology on “Chemical Uses of Isotopic Tracers.”
The young scientists then adjourned to section meetings in the several science facilities where 10-minute papers were read and discussed. One highlight of these sessions was a motion picture made by students in the descriptive geometry class of Assistant Professor of Mathematics Grace Hopper ’28. Using the animation technique recently perfected by Walt Disney, the class was able to show the behavior of the bicircular quartics known as Cartesians. To demonstrate a particular theorem, “the envelope of a variable circle whose center moves on a given circle and which passes through a given point is a Cartesian,” the students made a series of drawings. The drawings used equally spaced points on a given circle as centers for the variable circles but moved the given point through which the variable circle was to pass 3/32 inch to the right between each two drawings. In the complete series of drawings, moving the given point from the left of the given circle to its right produced the predicted formations. The class called upon members of other departments familiar with photography and film for help in making the demonstration of the theorem move in a similar fashion to that of Disney’s animated characters. Professor Hopper said that never had her students understood the generation of curves as they did through the making of the motion picture.
At the conference’s conclusion, faculty leaders from the colleges met to discuss plans for making the conference an annual event. The New York Times
The college announced that Kansas City bibliophile Dr. Matthew W. Pickard had given the Library more than 400 volumes on Russian literature and history from his collection of rare books in the Russian language. Many of these volumes were thought to be unique among American collections, and several were thought to be unique in the world. Included in the gift were 59 numbers of Kolokol, the journal edited by Alexander Hertzen, the founder of Russian socialism.
Dr. Pickard had given nearly 500 rare Russian volumes to the Vassar library in 1934.
The Vassar College Glee Club gave a 15-minute concert on WABC in New York City.
The Germans invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain.
As part of Vassar’s 75th anniversary celebration, the art department presented an exhibition of 38 rare Chinese paintings, including two of the four known paintings from the Han period, assembled by Dr. Alfred Salmony.
Baldwin House, an infirmary with a capacity of thirty-five beds and modern hospital equipment, was completed, Faulkner & Kingsbury, architects. It was named in honor of Dr. Jane North Baldwin, chief college physician. Decorations and furnishings of the patients' lounge were presented to the college by Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Thomas in memory of their daughter, Mary, of the Class of 1926.
Germany bombed Paris.
In conjunction with Commencement, some 2,500 alumnae and over 1,000 guests helped Vassar celebrate President MacCracken’s 25th year as president and the college’s 75th Anniversary.
On Sunday, June 2, Dr. William Lyon Phelps, emeritus professor of English at Yale, delivered the baccalaureate address, and on June 7 alumnae, graduates and their guests celebrated Class Day for the Class of 1940. A member of the college’s first graduating class, Harriet Warner Bishop ’67, welcomed ’40 into the company of Vassar alumnae, and alumnae trustee Jean Ellis Poletti ’25 praised and thanked President MacCracken. “We are grateful,” she said, “that the president has a deep and sympathetic feeling for larger problems of humanity while retaining interest in the specific welfare of each student. We, the Associate Alumnae, hail our president who is both a rare scholar and rare gentleman and wish him well for his future years at Vassar.” Alice Campbell Klein ’17 reported that the 75th anniversary fund stood at $1,933,429.37, just short of its $2 million goal. Exclusive of contributions to the anniversary fund, gifts to the college for the year totaled $106,000.
In the afternoon, the alumnae, led by a brass band, marched from the Library to the Outdoor Theater for Class Day exercises. Mrs. Bishop ’67 received a thunderous cheer as she entered on President MacCracken’s arm. A play, “Twenty-five—Fifty—Seventy-Five,” compared and contrasted recollections of Vassar life twenty-five and fifty years ago with the present. At the play’s conclusion, the daisy chain, walking on each side of the seniors, escorted them to their class tree.
On June 8, a symposium, led by Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood ’12, addressed the question of the day,” What Should a Woman’s College Do Today?” Progressive education innovator Dr. Marjorie Page Schauffler '19, spoke on “A College Graduate and Her Family”; engineer, physicist and inventor Dr. Edith Clarke '08 discussed “College Women in Professions: the Experience of an Engineer” and community leader Ethel Cohen Phillips '30 spoke on “College Women as Members of the Community.” Following the addresses, participants were invited by Professor Lockwood to disperse into symposia addressing nine relevant topics: “Community or Conglomerations of People,” “the Nature of Peace,” “the Ideal Community for Public Health,” “Economic Responsibilities for Women,” “Women in Professions,” “Volunteer Work in Social Welfare and Politics,” “Bringing Up Children in a Thinking Family and Community,” “Religion in a Thinking Family and Community” and “the Arts and the People.” The symposia were led by alumnae prominent in the relevant fields.
In the afternoon Marjorie Hope Nicolson, dean of the faculty at Smith College and national president of Phi Beta Kappa gave the Phi Beta Kappa address in the Chapel. She drew sharp distinctions between education in the liberal arts and what she termed “craft” education. Admitting that the former sometimes taught the useless and the impractical, she claimed that in the end a liberal arts education taught freedom. “Freedom,” she said, “is something internal, something within the individual. No matter how much men may be deprived of ‘outward freedom’ by superior force, no man or woman can be deprived of inward freedom—save by himself. If the liberal arts college is to continue to exist it can only be upon this basis.”
Also in the afternoon students welcomed visitors to 29 exhibits of “The College at Work Today,” explaining and demonstrating their academic work. Nine teas in Main Building refreshed the gathering, garden tours and a tour of “a community plant at work” were given and, in what The New York Times referred to as “a chatty tour,” President MacCracken led a large group of visitors through the campus, explaining various features and traditions.
The Experimental Theatre presented several performances of Vassar’s Folly: a Chronicle, a history of the college rendered in its “living newspaper” style. Originally written by the 1937-38 play-writing class as a study of the college’s founding, the anniversary version was in two parts. The first part, "In His Lifetime," presented Matthew Vassar's life and his founding of the College. Part two, "Permit Us to Resume,"written by Mary St. John Villard '34, focused on the growth of the college, its influence and the influence of its graduates. The play's closing song engaged the audience in a call to action:
The problems ahead are so great.
We must work together
Men and women together--
Freedom for women a small part in a great pattern--
Freedom, never won and always in danger....
Addresses by two presidents, a trustee, an alumna, a faculty member and a student were given at the Anniversary Convocation and the following garden party on June 9. President MacCracken, the main speaker, spoke of Vassar’s past and of its accomplishments, saying that, at this point in its history “Vassar learning makes the world its goal.” The effective cessation of free inquiry in many of the world’s institutions of learning made, he continued, the engagement of Vassar with and in the world all that more important. “Finally,” he concluded, “we must dedicate ourselves to peace, since war means the end of true liberal learning.” Other speakers at the occasion were the chairman of Vassar’s board of trustees, New York lawyer Morris Hadley, prominent alumna Martha Hillard MacLeigh ’78, Professor of Classics Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94 and Barbara Austin ’40, who read the speech of the Students Association president Priscilla Lamb ’40.
President Roosevelt, an honorary trustee of the college since his resignation from the board in 1932, had intended to deliver an address but he was, as he put it in a letter to President MacCracken, forced to withdraw by “circumstances beyond my control…. The ominous days in which we live afford the reason for an action which causes me keen personal disappointment.” At his garden party—at which the President’s mother, Mrs. James Roosevelt—was the guest of honor, President MacCracken read Roosevelt’s remarks “It is of the highest significance,” he wrote, “that this celebration takes place at this time. In fact, this hemisphere is now almost the only part of the earth in which time and thought and effort can be devoted to that paramount pursuit of peace, education. Elsewhere, war or politics has compelled teachers and scholars to leave their great calling and to become agents of destruction.”
Praising the college’s historic demonstration “that women have capacities for all types of intellectual life which were once thought to be the exclusive provinces of men,” the President said, “During my ten-year term as a Trustee of Vassar, I came to value certain definite contributions to education made by the college. The social equality that prevails in all plans for student life, and its system of student self-government, are in themselves fundamental courses in democracy. The free play of ideas between scholar and teacher, an institutional tradition, is the achievement in academic practice of the principles of democracy. The nation-wide scope of student enrollment at Vassar is a potent corrective for the few ills of sectionalism that remain to us.”
“I am glad,” President Roosevelt concluded, “to send greetings to Vassar and to express on this seventy-fifth anniversary the feeling of gratitude which the American people have for the services which the college so ably renders. I hope that this first seventy-five years is but the prelude to a long life in the service of education in America.”
The 75th anniversary of the college continued and expanded a practice established at the 50th anniversary celebration in 1915, the publication of various volumes of scholarship. 16 books and four pamphlets appeared, bearing the inscription “Published in Celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Vassar College and in Honor of Henry Noble MacCracken in the Twenty-fifth Year of His Presidency.” Among the books was Hawaiian Mythology, a comprehensive study of Polynesian mythology and folklore by Research Professor Emeritus of Folklore Martha Beckwith, The Roman Use of Anecdotes, by Professor of Latin Elizabeth Hazelton Haight ’94, American Housing, by Catherine K. Bauer ’26, from the United States Housing Administration, Pecuniary Panaceas, by Associate Professor of Economics Margaret Myers and The Astronomy of Scotus Erigena, by Associate Professor of English Erika von Erhardt-Siebold and Rudulf von Erhardt. Pamphlets published included You Are a Taxpayer, by Professor of Economics Mabel Newcomer and Dutchess County Goes to Market, a product of Vassar’s Social Museum for use in grammar schools.
Student Scholarship was represented by a special anniversary number, Volume XIII of The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies, comprised of six of the best papers prepared for classes in the last year, 12 papers reprinted from earlier volumes of the journal and a cumulative index of authors and titles for all volumes. Two other volumes occasioned by the anniversary were Vassar Women, by Agnes Rogers ’16 and Life at Vassar: 75 Years in Pictures, by Marion Bacon ’22. Rogers’s book, with drawings by Anne Cleveland ‘37 and Jean Anderson ‘33, drew on college records and extensive use of questionnaires to present a wide range of statistical and attitudinal conclusions about the generations of Vassar alumnae, and Bacon’s book supplemented the analysis with 140 carefully chosen photographs. Other works commemorative of the anniversary included a color reproduction of a painting in the Brooklyn Museum by Professor of Art C. K. Chatterton and two musical compositions by Martha Alter ’25 “Bill George,” a march song for baritone and orchestra and “Bric-a-Brac Suite,” for harpsichord and piano.
Rain fell on the Chapel on June 10, as President MacCracken conferred the bachelor’s degree on 270 members of the Class of 1940. Nine master’s degree candidates also received their degrees. He offered the class a “footnote” to his usual remarks. “Be glad,” he said, “that your education has not been so exact, so definite, so complete that only what is statistically certain may be anticipated. The liberal arts are a training for emergencies. They give you values, not certainties. They teach resourcefulness, not routine. The readiness is all.”
In her commencement address, Dean C. Mildred Thompson ’03 also addressed the uses of education, broadly defined. "Education," she said, "whether it be of the form of a four-year Liberal Arts course, or whether it be the training, unsystematic but no less real, which experience forces upon us, has value only in the use which comes from it, not in it as a possession, as an ornament." The dean then spoke of war and peace. She blamed her generation for letting peace become “a lifeless, sterile thing,” rather than making it an active concept and a continual goal. Admitting that “hatred of war and devotion to peace” were commonly held sentiments and that “desire for peace is the common denominator among college students,” she declared, “If peace means to us nothing more than ‘keeping out of war,’ then we may expect of life nothing more than a succession of Munich appeasements, a series of mustard plasters to reduce surface inflammation with no real diagnosis of the disease, or attempt to reach the source of the infection…. Peace, sought just for itself, just to avoid war, may lose the chance of making a fairer and more decent world and may in the end prove to be the surest path to war….
“I am not warmongering, but I am trying to say that the job of eliminating war from among the human plagues is going to take a lot more hard work and profound thinking than the easy way of signing petitions and shouting with the mob… I can believe,” Dean Thompson concluded, “that the real peace for ourselves and for others, which we all passionately desire, can be attained only by the most honest thinking, not intellectual sham, and by response to decent emotions of righteous anger against brutal aggression and pity for the oppressed and the suffering…. These are the qualities…of human civilization itself. In furthering the cause of peace in the world, with mercy and justice, in lessening the poverty and in finding a solution for unemployment, here are the jobs to be done, man-sized jobs right here in our own country.”
Academic dress at Commencement was worn by the graduating class for the first time, and after Dean Thompson’s address, at a signal from President MacCracken, the class rose and in a single gesture, shifted the tassels of their caps from right to left and then ascended the platform to receive their diplomas. The New York Times, The Miscellany News
Norway surrendered to Germany. Italy declared war on Britain and France.
As the principal speaker at the 2nd interfaith meeting at the New York World’s Fair’s Temple of Religion, President MacCracken spoke on “Democracy in Defense of Religious Freedom.” “Democracy,” he said, “described as the most complicated, most difficult and most delicate of all social mechanisms, has never survived where education and religion were not free.” The New York Times
Katherine Hubbell ’44 defeated top-seeded Mercedes Madden of Lake Erie College, 6-2, 6-2, for the national college girls’ tennis championship in Brookline, MA. She then joined Miss Madden to defeat a doubles team from Wisconsin and Bryn Mawr for the doubles championship.
Speaking to the Advertising Men’s Post of the American Legion, former heavyweight boxing champion and outspoken anti-communist Gene Tunney singled out President MacCracken as an example of the “misguided persons” who were carrying out the work of communists. “Dr. MacCracken,” he said, “fits into that niche so beautifully that it is pathetic that he doesn’t understand it…. MacCracken is a stooge when he allows Communists to come up there and use his campus. As you know, the second World Youth Congress met at Vassar and was allowed from there to sow the seeds of international communism.” The New York Times
The college announced that Dr. Oscar Halecki, formerly Professor of Eastern European History at the University of Warsaw and, after the Nazi occupation closed Polish universities, first rector of the Polish University in Exile in Paris, was joining the history faculty at Vassar. An expert advisor to Prime Minister I. J. Paderewski and the Polish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, Dr. Halecki was later a member of the League of Nations Secretariat and first secretary of the League's Commission of Intellectual Co-operation. Touring American colleges and universities under the auspices of the Kosciuszko Foundation, Professor Halecki had spoken at Vassar in October 1938 on "The Slavonic Race and Western Civilization," "The Historical Integrity and Continuity of Poland" and "Currents and Cross Currents in the European World Today."
Visiting Professor of History Halecki left Vassar in May 1942 to become the founding director of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America. The founding president of the Kosciuszko Foundation, President MacCracken—along with President James B. Conant of Harvard University and poet Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress—served on the board of the new institute. The Miscellany News
German planes bombed airfields and factories in Britain, air battles and daylight raids occurred over Britain, Adolf Hitler declared a blockade of the British Isles.
The State Department announced that, under the Buenos Aires Convention for the Promotion of Inter-American Cultural Relations, Assistant Professor of History Charles C. Griffin was selected by the government of Venezuela as exchange professor to study and teach in at the University of Caracas for the 1940-41 academic year. The convention, agreed upon in 1936, had recently achieved the ratification in all the countries involved.
The German Blitz against Britain began.
Thirteen year-old Christine Vassar ’47, whose great-grandfather was Matthew Vassar's cousin—came from London to stay with the MacCrackens for the duration of the war. Looking back after many years, she wrote: "The MacCracken family very much became my family. They were very good to me and I am still in close touch with my foster-sister and foster-brother. I did not see my own family for seven years. They were able to be at my graduation from Vassar in 1947. After a year at Columbia, I went back to London to live with them, but decided that my life was really here. I had very much wanted to go back after high school and was very hurt that my family decided that I should stay and go to Vassar. It was not until recently that I fully understood the reasoning behind their decision." "Christine Vassar Tall: The Story of One British Evacuee," VCenecylopedia
President Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, a bill authorizing military conscription that Congress had passed two days earlier. The draft began in October.
The college opened with 1,226 students in residence, drawn from 38 states, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, England, Poland, Switzerland, Canada, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. 370 of them were freshmen, and eight were postgraduate students.
In an address at Convocation, President MacCracken urged upon the college community its responsibility—in the face of the closing of European universities, the exiling of their scholars and the destruction of their libraries—for maintaining its integrity. He pressed the necessity of maintaining “personal self-restraint in spite of emotional stresses and maintaining friendships strong and unimpaired among teachers and students, between the academic body and the staff of the college, especially with those whose opinions differ from our own, in order that we may do our part here on this campus in defense against the forces of disintegration.”
“We have become more conscious,” Professor of Chemistry Mary Landon Sague ’05 told the assembly, “than ever before that the care of our democracy is that concept of freedom which emphasizes obligation and responsibility as well as privilege…. We know that on this concept depends all that is best in our national life. To maintain it in strength and vigor on this campus and throughout the nation, is surely worth the most enlightened and the most strenuous effort each of us is capable of putting forth.” The New York Times
The Tripartite Pact joined Germany, Italy and Japan.
The New York Times reported that Professor of Geology Thomas Hills and his students had nearly completed a very large-scale topographical map of the world on the inside wall and ceilings of the cylindrical staircase in the tower in Ely Hall. The three-color map extended over a wall space about 16 feet by 48 feet inside the tower, which is 19 feet in diameter.
“The map, “ The Times said, “is drawn on a modified Gall’s projection, minimizing distortion from the level of the second floor where observers stand. The Arctic regions, about Lat. 60 degrees N. are drawn on the ceiling in a modified polar projection. The Antarctic Continent, which could not well be painted on the stairway, appears on the ceiling of the first floor foyer, it its proper place when observed from the entrance level.”
Hu Shih, Ambassador of the Republic of China, lectured in Avery Hall on "The Modernization of China and Japan, a Comparative Study of Cultural Contact and Response." Emphasizing that "freedom of contact and choice are essential for cultural transformation," Dr. Hu attributed Japan's early rise to modernity and China's later "permanently overthrowing her old civilization" to persistence in Japan of a "feudal militaristic ruling class...anxious and able to adopt a Western system of militaristic industrialization." By comparison, he said, China, having abolished feudalism 21 centuries before, needed a "slow, sporadic and wasteful" process of diffusion and assimilation among its many cultural constituencies to create a modern society "from lip-stick to literature."
A pragmatist philosopher and philologiest, in addition to his diplomatic career, Dr. Hu joined students for coffee in the Aula the following day, and, according to The Miscellany News, told them how "China's literary renaissance originated in a controversy over a poem written to commemorate a young lady's rescue from the waters of the Cayuga."
"'It happened at Ithaca, New York,' he said, 'where Chinese students were accustomed to spend the summer in the Cornell Summer School.... A charming Vassar freshman, Miss Sophie Chen, appeared that summer, and as there were very few Chinese students in America, she became immediately the center of attention. Among her escorts was Mr. Sze Zen, whom she afterwards married.'
"'One day a picnic was arranged on Cayuga Lake, and one of the frequent thunderstorms came up, endangering the party. They made haste to get to shore, but he boat capsized before the party could land, throwing the food and the picnickers into the water. They rescued themselves, and built a fire on the shore, and enjoyed what was salvaged from the picnic. The occasion was one which Mr. Zen thought worthy of perpetuating in poetry, and he therefore wrote a poem celebrating the occasion and the rescue of Miss Chen.'"
Sent a copy of the poem, The Misc. continued, Dr. Hu commented that "the poem could not be called a good one, since it was composed partily in the ancient dead classical language, and partly in the modern common speech. The conflict between these two vocabularies created a devided style which Hu Shih found unsatisfactory." A Chinese student studying at Harvard and under the influence of the conservative cultural critic Irving Babbitt rallied many others when he sided with the poem's use of the ancient language, "the only one of them joining Hu Shih being Sophie Chen of Vassar.
"Within tweny years, a new literary language had been established, which is spoken and understood from the deserts of Mongolia to the tropical shore of Kwantung. Four hundred million people now read a literature in a living speech which Dr. Hu Shih told the Vassar girls is by far the most perfect language for the conveyance of human thought ever developed by mankind." The Miscellany News
Campaigning for reelection, President Roosevelt promised not to send “our boys” to war.
The Eleanor Plant Science Laboratory was completed, Lord & Burnham, architects. Built with funds given by Dr. Helen C. Putnam '78, it replaced the Eleanor Conservatory, given by Mr. William R. Farrington in memory of his wife, Mary E. Goodsell, who was a student in the School of Music at Vassar, 1885-1888. In it students prepared specimens for study in the main plant science laboratories in the New England Building.
The new 1,900 square foot facility was steam-heated and equipped with four refrigerators, a soil sterilizer and both tap and distilled water. A separate plant pathology laboratory within the new glass structure allowed for study of plant diseases without danger of their infecting other experiments. The laboratory was a compliment to the 3-acre outdoor ecological laboratory, in which the plant science department had established every plant in Dutchess County in its native conditions.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his third term as President of the United States. In a campus poll, a large majority of students voted for Roosevelt’s opponent, lawyer and business executive Wendell Wilkie, and a large majority of the faculty voted for Roosevelt.
At its semi-annual meeting in Indianapolis the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College (AAVC) learned that the college’s 75th anniversary fund goal, $2 million, had been reached. The fund added $1 million to the endowment for scholarship and $1 million to the general endowment.
The trustees’ decision to keep the fund open until January remained in effect.
Béla Bartók, Hungarian composer and pianist, gave a recital.
Waves of German bombs destroyed factories, homes and the 14th century cathedral in Coventry, England. In one night, 600 people died, more than 1,000 were injured and some 80,000 structures were damaged or destroyed.
Former President Herbert Hoover spoke on "The Food Situation in Europe." He urged the government to press England to lift its naval blockade of Europe and allow the passage of foodstuff, particularly to “the five little democracies,” Finland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Central Poland, in spite of German control of them.
Hoover’s speech at Vassar was broadcast live on radio station WABC in New York.
In a lecture in Avery Hall, "Democracy Is Not a Failure," Count Carlo Sforza, former minister of foreign affairs of Italy, compared democracy to an old carriage drawn by horses—it goes slowly "but in carriages led by horses you always go." In contrast, the anti-Fascist aristocrat said, according to The Miscellany News, "Dictatorship is like two swift, gigantic motor cars, driven by insane drivers, filled with people yelling and shouting. We know why they shout. 'It is because they are afraid.'"
Harriot Stanton Blatch ’78 died in Greenwich, CT. Daughter of suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a lifelong activist, both in England, where she lived for some 20 years, and in the United States, she had spoken frequently at Vassar.
Lecturing on "Shakespeare's Treatment of Passion," William Allan Neilson, President Emeritus of Smith College, pointed out that passion figured only in the three tragedies bearing the names of the lovers, and then secondarily. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, reported The Miscellany News, Neilson claimed "the beginning and end of the story is a family feud, a socio-political situation into which two young people intrude themselves, falling in love at great risk.... In contrast to the little family feud in Verona, Antony and Cleopatra is the story of a great conflict on an international scale. Structurally the play is a story of how defiance against the Roman Empire is impossible. Love is the force of disintegration in the life of Antony." Suggesting a similar pattern in Troilus and Cressida, President Neilson then "read several of the famous passages from the two plays, one of the most charming parts of the evening's program. He received tremendous ovations from the large audience." The Miscellany News
Chaired by Dr. Barbara B. Stimson '19, a group of fifty women, representing eighteen national organizations and several state and federal offices, met at Vassar for a Conference on National Defense. "The purpose of this meeting," said Dr. Stimson in her opening remarks, "is to fashion a working program, constructive and cooperative, in which each woman may find her place, not temporarily in the emotional rush 'to do something,' but permanently in the rational desire to make each community strong for defense and strong for peace." Session chairmen were Vassar trusteeKathryn Starbuck '11: Helen Kenyon '05; Jean Ellis Poletti '25 and Dean C. Mildred Thompson '03. President Henry Noble MacCracken also attended the conference.
The British launched a desert offensive against the Italians in North Africa.
As the culmination of a semester-long comparative study of film and dramatic techniques and with the interest and cooperation of Thornton Wilder and Sol Lesser, the producer of the film of Wilder’s play Our Town, the Experimental Theatre presented a production of the play combining stage and screen sequences. Weekly showings of films from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art had been part of the class work for the production, and photographic material from the museum’s collection was displayed in the theater.
“The Experimental Theatre production starts with the stage play, interpolates one movie cut-back; proceeds through the wedding scene, which is shown in both stage and film versions; gives the film version of the funeral, cutting to the stage finale. The stage manager, who ties the whole production together….will be played by Dr. Henry Noble MacCracken, president of Vassar College. Other male parts will be taken by men from the town and the college, while the women’s parts will be played by students in the dramatic production [class].” The New York Times
The Vassar Radio Workshop broadcast the second program in a series on child study and the national defense over Newburgh, NY, radio statiion WGNY. The program, a study of the problem of war toys for children, was written by Jean MacInnis '41 and Ruth Firestone '41 and "approved by the Child Study Department." The Miscellany News
Thirteen year-old Christine Vassar, a descendant of Matthew Vassar and a British war refugee living at Vassar with the MacCrackens, was among eight English evacuees who participated from Radio City in a two-way transatlantic broadcast with their families.
On January 20, 1941, The New York Times reported that she “told her mother she had to practice the piano ‘one single solid hour of daylight every day.’
“’Oh, I say,’ Mrs. Vassar replied, ‘You wouldn’t practice at home and neither would you drink milk. But you do drink milk, plenty of milk, in the States?’
“Christine replied that everybody drinks milk here; then there was silence in the studio as Mrs. Vassar said that sometimes she forgot Christine was away and ‘I put your plate at the table.’
“’Oh, Mummy,’ Christine said.”
Christine Vassar next saw her parents again when they attended her graduation from the college in 1947.
The Germans conducted a massive air raid on London. The Old Bailey, the Guildhall and eight churches by Christopher Wren were destroyed or badly damaged.
The 75th anniversary fund reached $2,006,757.17 with about $500,000 in the form of annuities. Separate funds were set up for educational endowment, scholarships and the Library.