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(Sch: t. 216; 1. 93'7"; b. 27'2"; dr. 8'6"; cpl. 29; a. 1
1:3" m., 2 32-pdrs. )
Matthew Vassar, a wooden, centerboard schooner was purchased by the Navy at New York 9 September 1861; fitted out as a mortar schooner at New York Navy Yard; and commissioned 25 January 1802, Acting Master Hugh H. Savage in command.
Assigned to the Mortar Flotilla, organized to neutralize Confederate forts guarding the sea approaches to New Orleans, the schooner got underway in mid February and sailed via Key West, Fla., and Ship Island, Miss., for the Mississippi River. She crossed the bar at Pass a l'Outre 18 March and anchored in the muddy waters of the Mississippi Delta. After a month preparing for the assault, the schooners moved upstream to carefully selected positions and opened fire on Forts St. Philip and Jackson, New Orleans' main protection from attack from the sea. Matthew Vassar operated in the 2d Division of Commander Porter's Mortar Flotilla during the day cannonade. On the night of 24 April the bombardment rose to a mighty crescendo as Flag Officer Farragut fought his strong fleet past the forts to capture the South's largest and wealthiest city. This bold stroke deprived the Confederacy of her most productive industrial center, tightened the Union blockade and raised hope of restoring the entire Mississippi Valley to the Federal Government. When he was barely behind the forts, Farragut dashed off a word of thanks to Porter: "You supported us most nobly."
While Farragut led his steamers on a reconnaissance expedition up the Mississippi, Porter took his schooners to Ship Island to prepare for an attack on Mobile. There Matthew Vassar and Sea Foam, 15 May, captured Confederate blockade running sloops Sarah and New Eagle trying to slip to sea, laden with cotton. After learning that Confederate batteries had been sited high on the hillside safe from his low-projectory guns, Farragut ordered up the mortar boats to attack the river stronghold. Porter took his schooners to a point just below Vicksburg where they shelled the Confederate batteries while Farragut's fleet steamed upstream past Vicksburg 28 June, and joined Flag Officer Davis's flotilla. However sufficient troops were not available to reduce the Confederate fortress; so Farragut, again supported by covering fire from the mortars, dashed downstream by Vicksburg and retired to New Orleans.
Ordered back to the east coast, Matthew Vassar spent the rest of the war on blockade duty. She captured schooner Florida off' Little River Inlet, N.C., as the blockade runner tried~l to slip in with a cargo of salt for the Confederacy 11 January 18~. On 3 March Acting Master's Mate George Drain led a boatcrew from Matthew Vassar which destroyed a large boat at Little River Inlet. Proceeding up the western branch of the river to destroy salt works, the boat grounded and the crew was captured by Confederate troops. On 27 April, boatcrews from Matthew Vassar and Monticello boarded and destroyed British blockade runner Golden Liner in Murrell's Inlet, S.C., with a cargo of flour, brandy, sugar, and coffee for the straightened South.
Assigned to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, 29 November 1864, Matthew Vassar took her last prize of the war, schooner John Hale, off St. Marks, Fla., 3 February 1865, as the blockade runner attempted to bring lead, blankets, and rope to the depleted South. After the war ended Matthew Vassar decommissioned at Philadelphia 10 July 1865, and was sold at auction there 10 August.
Vassar's Hall of Presidents
Since 1861 when Vassar was founded, the school has had just nine presidents to shepherd the institution through all the changes 145 years have brought. In roughly the same period, Yale, Wellesley, and Middlebury have had twelve presidents, and Amherst has had fifteen. As we say good-bye to President Fergusson and ready ourselves for the next major chapter in Vassar’s history, it seems right that we should look back on her predecessors as well, the select few men and women who occupied the office of the president of Vassar College. It is perhaps through their stories that we can best understand who we were, and how we became what we are today.
We have good reason to remember the man who lends his name to Jewett House. Although the college is named after Matthew Vassar, whose personal fortune supplied the means to build and endow it, he would not have spent his money the way he did without Jewett’s influence.
Jewett’s mother was a descendant of John Adams. Born in Vermont, he attended Dartmouth College and afterward studied law and theology. While a member of a commission to study the establishment of public schools in Ohio, Jewett began to lecture on the importance of universal public education. Later he moved to Alabama, where he founded the Judson Seminary for women. An outspoken abolitionist, Jewett eventually moved north and purchased the Cottage Hill Seminary in Poughkeepsie, a school started by the wealthy brewer Matthew Vassar’s niece Lydia Booth, an early feminist. After meeting Vassar, Jewett learned that Vassar wanted to do something for the community with his fortune and was leaning toward constructing a hospital. It was Jewett who convinced Vassar that building a great college for women would be a “monument for [himself] more lasting than the Pyramids.”
Through such flattery, and the assurance that Vassar’s money could create the Harvard or Yale of women’s colleges, Jewett managed to get the project off the ground and begin the task of creating an undergraduate institution. Jewett’s own words point to the idealism and high standards that would become Vassar’s trademark: “Women possess a rational soul, and in this very fact she has a Divine warrant for the exercise and improvement of her powers. Her education should be limited only by her capabilities and opportunities.”
Unfortunately, a dispute with Matthew Vassar over when the college would open, and an ideological struggle between the two men caused Jewett’s resignation before classes even started, sending Jewett on his way to Wisconsin where he became a prosperous civic leader, educator, and peanut butter importer. But his urgings had provided the spark for Matthew Vassar’s investment the long history of Vassar College had begun.
The man who actually presided over Vassar’s opening was handpicked by the Board of Trustees at the behest of Matthew Vassar. A Baptist clergyman, John Raymond was, according to his obituary in Harper’s, the product of “a broad and liberal culture [that] rounded out a nature singularly free from narrowness, and fitted him in the most ample manner to be an instructor for youth.”
After studying at Columbia University and Union College, Raymond attended seminary and later became an influential educator (at both Madison University [now Colgate] and the University of Rochester) and active abolitionist.
When Raymond assumed the presidency he found in the first year that only one-third of the students could do college-level work. Rather than reject these unprepared students outright the decision was made to start a preparatory division from which the students could progress to regular degree work once they passed qualifying examinations. Students were also allowed to enroll to receive a certificate in music or art, but not a Vassar degree. The preparatory division and these certificate programs lasted until 1890.
Raymond also reorganized the curriculum. He was a firm believer in including scientific principles, mathematics, and modern languages into a young woman’s education. In describing the education he strove to provide during his tenure, Raymond used words that still apply to Vassar today: “Here thought is free, in respect to those varieties of opinion in which the good may differ. The only thing that we ask of our pupils is that there should be thought, honest and earnest.”
When President John Raymond died in the summer of 1878, Samuel L. Caldwell was asked to step in from the Board of Trustees to become the third president of Vassar. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1820, Caldwell graduated from Waterville College (now Colby College) in 1839. Like his two predecessors, he was a Baptist minister and educator, but he lacked the experience of administering an institution of higher education. A day after Caldwell’s appointment as president, an editorial in The Daily Graphic foreshadowed the problems Caldwell was to encounter during his seven years at Vassar:
Well, Vassar has a new president, and, as we feared, it is not a woman, but a man whose previous training would, it would seem, singularly unfit him for any position requiring business talent… Preaching and teaching theological subtleties to young men is not the kind of preparatory work for the head of an institution like Vassar College. It was never designed that Vassar should turn out Sunday school superintendents and teachers exclusively, yet that is about all it has done so far successfully. A real woman’s institution should have some relation to the liberal culture of the age.
Caldwell’s tenure at Vassar marked the occasion for more alumnae involvement in Vassar administration. In April 1884, 10 alumnae wrote letters to the Board of Trustees expressing concern for the state of Vassar’s affairs and administration. The alumnae also accused Caldwell of not fostering relations between the college and preparatory schools in order to secure a larger and stronger student population. The trustees were in agreement with this dissatisfaction, and Caldwell resigned from the presidency in 1885. J. Ryland Kendrick, another Baptist minister on the Board of Trustees, served as acting president until James Monroe Taylor was appointed president in 1886.
Not entirely unsuccessful, Caldwell’s leadership saw the construction of the Vassar Brothers Laboratory, an up-to-date chemistry laboratory.
Yet another former Baptist minister took over where Caldwell left off. James Monroe Taylor, a graduate of the University of Rochester, presided over a long and successful period in Vassar’s history.
Following alumnae protest under Caldwell, Taylor reorganized Vassar’s curriculum. He abolished the preparatory division and the certificate programs in the schools of art and music and reintegrated those programs into the college.
Also during his tenure, Rockefeller Hall, Josselyn House, and the first part of the main library were built the departments of biology, psychology, chemistry, and political science were established and the school’s enrollment grew from 291 at the time of his hiring to 1,045 at his resignation. In what can surely be seen as another measure of the college’s development, midway through his tenure Taylor was offered the position of president at Brown University, an offer he declined in favor of staying at Vassar. Despite his general popularity on campus, however, Raymond was not in step with the times, refusing, for example, to allow suffrage meetings on campus, which harmed his reputation among current students and alumnae alike.
Taylor’s steady hand enlarged the college and increased its prestige, but it was his successor, Henry Noble MacCracken, Vassar’s first secular president, who, as future president Alan Simpson once said, “brought Vassar truly into the vanguard of American liberal arts colleges.”
Educated at New York University and Harvard, MacCracken had taught English at Smith and Yale simultaneously before coming to Vassar. A beloved member of the campus community, MacCracken believed strongly that “a college should be part of the larger community” as well. He wanted to bring Vassar into its surroundings more, and to bring those surroundings to Vassar. MacCracken was one of Vassar’s most civic-minded presidents. He engaged with numerous local and national organizations, including founding the American Junior Red Cross and the Dutchess County Health Association. He also endeavored to make Vassar reflect the realities of society. In 1943, for instance, understanding that some students would want to accelerate their studies to involve themselves in the ongoing war effort, MacCracken initiated an optional three-year program. Also, in an attempt to diversify the college community and keep education open to all, the college awarded more scholarships than ever before during his tenure. And for the first time, both faculty and students were given the power of self-governance. He gave the students greater freedom to determine their own academic goals. New departments were introduced, such as the interdepartmental program, and seniors were encouraged to partake in independent studies.
MacCracken was fired in early 1918 through disagreements with the trustees—MacCracken wanted more oversight of the campus and less trustee input— but the alumnae once again demonstrated their sway and rallied for his reinstatement, ultimately welcoming him back to campus in November 1918, where he would continue as president for 28 more years.
Among his achievements at Vassar were the establishment of the Endowment Fund, the founding of the Vassar Experimental Theater program, the founding of The Vassar Journal of Undergraduate Studies to publish outstanding student work, the creation of the Seven Sisters when he invited other women’s colleges to collaborate with Vassar on admissions procedures, and the building of Skinner, Blodgett, Cushing House, Alumnae House, the Van Ingen Library, Baldwin, the Wimpfheimer Nursery, and Sanders Physics.
Appropriately enough for a man determined to integrate town and gown, MacCracken’s greatest challenge was probably to guide Vassar through 31 of the most tumultuous years in American history. His administration outlasted two World Wars and saw tremendous change in America and the world.
Sarah Gibson Blanding was Vassar’s first female president, and one of its most colorful. Born in Kentucky and charged at a young age with running the family tobacco farm following her father’s death, she often referred to herself as a “horse trader.” She earned her A.B. from the University of Kentucky where she later became acting dean of women. She continued her studies in political science at Columbia and the London School of Economics. She was the dean of Cornell University’s College of Home Economics before coming to Vassar. In the MacCracken model, she was heavily involved in the nonacademic world during her pre-Vassar career, serving on the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation under President Franklin Roosevelt, and the Presidential Commission on Higher Education under President Truman. From 1943 to 1946 she was also a consultant to the U.S. Secretary of War on a program for women in the armed services.
Blanding quickly brought the approach necessary to succeed in the political world to Vassar. She made the system for promoting professors closer to a meritocracy, and over the course of her administration the average salary for professors more than doubled. Her belief was that this would attract top minds to Vassar, and that an excellent academic staff would attract top students. To integrate the faculty into college life further, Blanding instituted the House Fellows program. She revamped the curriculum in 1957 to include more independent work. In 1959, the Coordinating Committee on Educational Policy (CCEP), which the college established in 1956, reported to the college. The CCEP’s task was to make the school more academically competitive. As a result of its findings Vassar increased its expectations for incoming students, and sought to make the expectations for enrolled students just as high.
In many ways Blanding was forward-thinking. Known for her outspokenness Blanding was a fierce protector of academic freedom, especially during the McCarthy era. She encouraged her students to become professionals and compete in traditionally male-dominated fields, and in 1961 she predicted the demise of the all-female college as an institution, eight years before Vassar itself became coeducational. Her aesthetic sense was also ahead of its time. During her tenure, some of Vassar’s more modern buildings—Ferry House, Noyes House, and Chicago Hall—were commissioned.
In 1962 Blanding gave a speech to the students, admonishing them for engaging in un-ladylike activities such as pre-marital sex, drinking to excess, and “vulgar conduct.” Vassar did have a code of conduct at the time, but its stipulations were mostly unwritten, and none of the students could actually be punished for their exploits. Even though a Miscellany News poll taken the week after the speech found that a majority of students sympathized with Blanding’s concerns, enough of them were offended to cause a problem. Blanding’s speech had placed her firmly behind the times, and she resigned two years later.
If Blanding was the straight-talking Southerner, her successor Alan Simpson was the polished Oxford gentleman. Few had come to Vassar with as impressive a résumé as Simpson. Educated at Oxford’s Worcester and Merton Colleges and Harvard University, Simpson had just completed the reorganization of the University of Chicago’s undergraduate college when he took the position at Vassar. He would need every bit of that education to help him guide Vassar through the challenge of transitioning to coeducation.
When Simpson was hired, it was by no means a sure thing that Vassar would go coeducational, and if it did, how it would be done. Vassar chose full coeducation by a long, often wandering, and sometimes controversial consideration of a variety of alternatives for the college’s future. In December 1966, the Board of Trustees decided to study the possibility of affiliating with Yale, relocating Vassar in New Haven. Reactions were mixed, and in 1967 the Yale-Vassar project was terminated. Coeducation was instead adopted, and in 1968 the Vassar charter was amended to allow men to matriculate and reside at Vassar. In 1969, male students came to Vassar as exchange students, and in 1970 the first freshman male students arrived on campus.
The move to coeducation made enormous demands of the college. Vassar’s alumnae would not support a cut in the number of women admitted to Vassar each year, so admitting men meant significantly increasing the size of the college. More faculty would have to be hired, and the male students would need a place to live. Simpson took a surprisingly enlightened view to incorporating men into campus life and decided, among other things, to forego parietals.
Simpson’s tenure also included the Vietnam years, a period of unrest on campuses all over the country. Simpson realized that times were changing, but asked the students for a “sense of decency” as well as “style and grace” in their activities.
Through all the changes, Simpson also managed to build a new student center, the All College Dining Center, and Olmsted Hall, while expanding the library and Kenyon Hall. During this time the curriculum also changed. In the Curriculum of 1969, part of the 1969 Comprehensive Plan, distribution requirements were abolished to encourage independent work, and more advanced and introductory classes were added to the catalogue. Simpson famously declared, “Any education that matters is liberal.” He wanted Vassar to be a place of independent thought and personal freedom, and he made his policies reflect that desire. Every woman (and man) at Vassar today feels his influence.
Perhaps because the liberal-minded Simpson had run the school on a budget deficit for some of his administration, Vassar’s next president was a much more practical type. Virginia Smith came to Vassar from the federal government, where she had been director of the fund for the improvement of post-secondary education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Prior to her federal work, Smith had earned a B.A., M.A., and law degree from the University of Washington. She was assistant vice president at University of California, Berkeley, before her presidency at Vassar.
Charged with improving the school’s financial situation, Smith nevertheless achieved a variety of things during her tenure as president. On the academic side, although she was not an advocate of increasing vocationalism in the liberal arts education, she sought to hire professors who also had experience working in nonacademic fields, believing that this would make for “an education that provides a concept of usefulness to society outside of paid employment.” Smith also acquired many manuscripts for the library’s Special Collections, including original work by Vassar alumnae Elizabeth Bishop and Mary McCarthy . On campus, Mudd Chemistry and the Walker Field House were constructed during her tenure she also balanced the budget and placed renewed emphasis on improving alumnae/i relations. Smith was also vocal about turning Vassar into a true example of coeducation, where women were as prominent as men in faculty and student leadership positions.
In 1978 a group of students interrupted a Board of Trustees meeting to protest Vassar’s investment in five companies that were known to do business in South Africa (at that time still under apartheid). At first the college’s judicial committee tried the students for their conduct, but persistent student activism eventually lead Smith to form the Campus Committee on Investor Responsibility. Finally, in 1985 the Board of Trustees unanimously accepted a gradual South Africa divestment policy. Smith also spoke out against the Reagan administration. When the U.S. President cut grants to institutions of higher learning, Smith gave interviews denouncing the policy, saying that it would lead to “stratification by institution.”
In Fran Fergusson’s first letter to the college community, she stated her priorities were improving the art gallery and renovating the drama facilities. With the construction of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and the new Center for Drama and Film, Fergusson has achieved those goals. But she has done so much more in her 20 years as president of the college.
Fergusson graduated from Wellesley with a degree in art history, and received her master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard. Her first teaching job was at Newton College (which later merged with Boston College), where she was an assistant professor of art and later department chair and director of the division of humanities and fine arts. In 1979 she was elected a Danforth Associate for Excellence in Teaching and Commitment to Students. In 1980 she became the assistant chancellor at UMass-Boston and then at Bucknell University, she was the provost and vice president of academic affairs before coming to Vassar.
In addition to the art and drama centers, Fergusson’s administration also has seen the massive renovation of Jewett House and Alumnae House and the construction of the Athletic and Fitness Center, the Class of 1951 Observatory, the Priscilla Bullitt Collins Field Station, and a major addition to the library. Committed to the growth of Vassar’s multidisciplinary curriculum, Fergusson has overseen the creation of the Jewish, Environmental, and Media Studies Programs.
Beyond Vassar, Fergusson sits on the board of overseers at Harvard, was a trustee of both the Ford and Mayo Foundations, and is the recipient of numerous awards reflecting her many contributions specifically to the fields of education and art history. Most of all, she is a woman of integrity who over the last few years has not shied away from controversy. She has made known her views on U.S. presidential policies in a way that forces even those who disagree with her politics to admire her passion and honesty.
On July 1, 2006, Catharine (Cappy) Hill will take over the post of Vassar’s presidency. As provost and the John J. Gibson professor of economics at Williams College, Hill is a noted economist whose work focuses on higher education affordability and access, as well as economic development and reform in Africa.
“The American liberal-arts college experience has shaped my life in fundamental ways,” says Hill. “Vassar has long been an extraordinary leader among liberal arts institutions in its commitment to educational innovation and creativity and in its efforts to provide access to all students. I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to build on those achievements.”
1855: A Grand Vision
Milo P. Jewett suggested the idea of a college for women to Matthew Vassar. “If you will establish a real College for girls and endow it, you will build a monument for yourself more lasting than the Pyramids it will be the pride and joy of Po’keepsie, an honor to the state and a blessing to the world.” The idea caught the imagination of Vassar, and then and there Vassar College was born.
1860, Nov. 6
Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.
1861: Milo P. Jewett
1864: John Raymond
Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting slavery.
Philaletheis, a literary society, was founded. This was the first student society.
College colors chosen: Sunrise (pink) breaking through grey of intellectual life.
1868, June 23
Matthew Vassar died as he addressed the Board of Trustees.
U.S. continental railroad completed with the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah.
The Associate Alumnae of Vassar College was organized.
Three baseball clubs were formed, the Sure-pops, the Daisy-clippers, and the Royals.
1978: Samuel L. Caldwell
Telephone service was established at Vassar.
The Statue of Liberty, France’s gift to the U.S., was unveiled in New York.
1886: James Monroe Taylor
The first alumnae trustees were elected at the request of the Alumnae Association.
Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was chartered at Vassar, the first chapter at a college for women.
Ground was broken for Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library.
1908, June 13
Inez Milholland held a suffrage meeting in a small cemetery adjacent to the college after President Taylor had forbidden a meeting on campus.
Electric lighting was installed in Main Building, replacing gas lights.
The brook at back of Avery was dammed to form a lake for skating, called Sunset Lake.
Seniors graduated in cap and gown for the first time.
1915: Henry Noble MacCracken
First issue of the Vassar Quarterly was published.
The Shakespeare Garden was laid out by classes in botany.
1918, Nov. 11
“Armistice Signed, End of the War!” New York Times
The Alumnae House was completed.
Stock market crashed Great Depression began.
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, educator, lectured at Vassar on “Racial Segregation.”
1936, Apr. 22
Nine hundred Vassar students and faculty members joined 350,000 students all over the world in a “peace strike” with a mass meeting in Students’ Building.
1941, Dec. 7
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
Lieutenant Commander Mildred McAfee , of the WAVES, addressed the students on war service.
1945, Sept. 2
Japan signed surrender terms aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay (V-J Day).
1946: Sarah Gibson Blanding
After the U.S.G.I. Bill was passed, 40 veterans, Vassar’s first male students, attended C-term.
Notorious McCarthy Committee on Un-American Activities hearings began in the U.S. Senate.
The department of mathematics, with the cooperation of IBM, inaugurated a teaching program in electronic computing.
Billy Graham, evangelist, lectured at Vassar on “A Vital Faith for Today.”
1960, Mar. 15
The students held a civil rights rally with Herbert Hill, labor secretary of the NAACP, and Paul Dubrul. Two days later 100 Vassar students picketed the Poughkeepsie Woolworth store in protest against discrimination in the South.
1963, Nov. 22
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
1964: Alan Simpson
Civil Rights Act passed.
1968, Apr. 7
Vassar canceled classes in order to allow students to participate in a memorial march through Poughkeepsie to honor the recently slain Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Vassar celebrated Founder’s Day for the first time since World War II.
1969, Oct. 15
By request of many of the faculty and students, President Alan Simpson authorized all interested faculty to close classes on this day to protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam, as part of a nation-wide Moratorium.
Vassar’s new radio station, WVKR, began full operation.
The Student Fellows program selected its first fellows.
The All College Dining Center (ACDC) opened, replacing dining in the dorms.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Columbia University, lectured on “Women, Men, and the Law.”
1977: Virginia Smith
Vassar was the first undergraduate college to offer a degree program in cognitive science.
1986: Frances Daly Fergusson
Matthew Vassar’s 200th birthday.
Vassar’s capital campaign closed with $206 million raised.
Vassar named “College of the Year” by Time/Princeton Review.
Jewish Studies and Environmental Studies majors added to curriculum.
Peace Garden dedicated to the victims of September 11.
New Center for Drama and Film building, designed by Cesar Pelli, opened.
Vassar’s Exploring Transfer Program turned 20.
2006: Continued Vision
Board of Trustees announced Catharine Bond Hill as 10th president of Vassar College.
—Contributors: Vassar Historian Elizabeth Adams Daniels , Jennifer Dawson , Lila Matsumoto , Daniel Steckenberg
Photos: Special Collections, Vassar College Libraries Will Faller Jim Sulley, Newscast
Catherine Pelton Durrell '25: Archives & Special Collections Library
Table of Contents
|Repository:||Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries|
|Title:||Vassar College Photograph Collection|
|Quantity:||40 cubic ft.|
|Abstract:||Photographs of Vassar College events, programs, buildings, grounds, faculty, students, staff and administration.|
|Forms of Materials:||Photographs|
Scope and Content Note
Photographs of Vassar College buildings Vassar College views such as faculty gardens and houses, the farm, the golf course, Sunset Hill, Sunset Lake, Vassar Lake, and winter scenes Vassar College alumnae, anniversaries, Class Days, departments, employees, ceremonies and events, dormitory scenes, student groups, athletics, classroom scenes, student dramatics, and wartime activities other colleges Eleanor Roosevelt and Vassar College women in the armed services, suffrage activities, women's war work, child and female labor scenes, temperance crusade and other views of women individual photographs of Vassar College faculty, trustees, and students and miscellaneous subjects such as the 1925 eclipse of the sun, Lake Mohonk, Poughkeepsie scenes, and the 1938 World Youth Congress. Photographers include James E. Biddle, Christopher Gullmann, William Notman of Montreal, the Slee Brothers (George M., John N. and William P.), Alonzo H. Vail, and J. Watson Vail.
Access and Use
This collection is open for research according to the regulations of the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library without any additional restrictions.
- The college hired a number of local photographers for publicity work, including Margaret deM. Brown, the Vail Brothers, Warren Kay Vantine, E.L.Wolven and Chandler photography. Collections of their photographs are also available. Contact the Archives and Special Collections Library for further information.
- Biddle, James.
- Gullmann, Christopher.
- Notman, William.
- Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962.
- Slee, George M.
- Slee, John N.
- Slee, William P.
- Vail, Alonzo H.
- Vail, J. Watson.
- Vassar College--Alumnae.
- Vassar College--Anniversaries, etc.
- Vassar College--Athletics.
- Vassar College--Buildings.
- Vassar College--Description--Views.
- Vassar College--Employees.
- Vassar College--Faculty.
- Vassar College--Students.
- Vassar College. Board of Trustees.
- Vassar College. Class Day.
- World Youth Congress (1938)
- Eclipses, Solar--1925.
- War--Women's work.
- Women and the military.
- Women college teachers--New York(State)--Poughkeepsie.
- Women's colleges--New York (State)--Poughkeepsie.
- World War, 1914-1918.
- World War, 1939-1945.
- Mohonk, Lake (N.Y.)--Description--Views.
- Poughkeepsie (N.Y.)--Description--Views.
- United States--Armed Forces--Women.
Encoded by Laura Finkel, March 2008
Vassar College Phorograph Files, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries.
Original processing date unknown. Last updated March 2008.
An artificial collection, collected by various departments of the Library over a number of years.
Cork pine, the best variety of white pine, grew in abundance along the mighty Cass River and was in high demand. These trees of the forest grew to a height of 150 feet, often with diameters exceeding three feet. The wood was light and strong and easy to work with. Millions of board feet were marketed all over the world, especially in America's prairie states.
With the forests depleted, Vassar developed a diversified economy that is still evident today in agriculture, manufacturing, and commercial business. The rich history has helped Vassar earn its popular nickname that is known around the state-the Cork Pine City. In 1999 Vassar celebrated its sesquicentennial. Events were held through the year in celebration.
by Steve Rooks, Professor of Dance, with the assistance of Max Hershenow '10 and Stephen Xue '11
Dance at Vassar College had its very beginnings in the women's health education movement of the late 19th century. When Vassar first opened its doors in 1865, physical education and exercise were considered vital for the well-being of its students. Requiring students to take three to four periods per week of exercise, in addition to an hour of outdoor exercise, the college and its Board of Trustees were firm believers in the positive effects of physical movement, riding the wave of enthusiasm for physical education programs promoted by Catharine Beecher and Dio Lewis. Exercise, especially in the form of calisthenics, was regarded as "essential to success in study". This dedication to physical health also translated to dance. Even when the morality of public dancing was debated, founder of the college, Matthew Vassar, championed it as "a healthful and graceful exercise." Students were soon able to substitute a square dancing class for the required gymnastic drill. 1898, however, marked a turning point in the college's dance history—Vassar offered its first aesthetic dancing class, repositioning dance from a means of exercise to an independent art form.
Throughout the 20th century, dance at Vassar evolved significantly, incorporating a plurality of forms in its course offerings. These styles ranged from classic, aesthetic, folk, to clog, tap, and modern. Still, regardless of the progress during this time, dance at Vassar struggled to stand on its own. Operating as part of the Physical Education Department, the dance department had limited resources and facilities in the late 70s, the dance department worked with an annual budget of $500. Drama was also involved with dance during this period, offering a dance concentration as part of its major. In 1979/1980 a proposal to separate the Dance and Physical Education departments was rejected due to the college's philosophical stance against the "proliferation of small departments."
As the country was enamored by the experimental post-modern dance that was emerging in the dance community, Vassar College looked back at the classics. Tremendous interest in ballet eventually led to a petition of 1184 signatures requesting that the college offer ballet courses. In 1978, ballet was offered for the first time by Jeanne Periolat Czula who came to the college from the world of professional dance. Determined to develop a strong program for Vassar, Czula has been a powerful and steady force behind making dance the serious and widely admired part of the college curriculum it is today. Although her proposal for an independent dance department was not accepted in 1979, the groundwork was laid for a self-managed department. In 1980 Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT) was created after Ray Cook, a trained dance notator who was determined to introduce modern repertory to modern dance students, joined the dance faculty. Two years later the dance faculty managed to acquire Kenyon Hall's South wing as an exclusive space for dance. With VRDT having its own rehearsal space and giving annual concerts at the Powerhouse Theatre as well as the Poughkeepsie High School, the presence of dance at Vassar gradually became more salient. In 1982, VRDT had its first performance at the landmark 19th century Bardavon Theater in downtown Poughkeepsie and has since performed there for all of its annual galas.
In the spring of 2005, when the Physical Education department was in the midst of redefining itself, Czula proposed a separation of departments once more: twenty-six years after her initial proposal. This time it was approved. In 2006, with the support of Frances Fergusson, Vassar's ninth president, Kenyon was remodeled and Vassar's Dance Department moved into its new home, the newly renovated Kenyon Hall, replete with the 236-seat Frances Daly Fergusson Theater. The site of the new dance theater is the former Kenyon swimming pool whose handsome 1933 light fixtures have been reused within the new facility.
Today, the Department of Dance offers a non-major, elective course of study at Vassar. Courses for academic credit are offered in modern dance technique from beginner through advanced, classical ballet technique from beginner through intermediate IV, and jazz at the beginner through intermediate II level. In addition, Rooks, who was a principle in the Martha Graham Company and is currently chair of the department, teaches intermediate Graham technique and repertory. The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, now under the direction of John Meehan, formerly Director of the Hong Kong Ballet, remains a vibrant part of Vassar's dance program and performs throughout the school year. In the fall, VRDT presents First Showings and Final Showings, works in progress performances, in which the company can showcase student choreography in addition to the repertory.
In the spring semester, VRDT performs in ModFest, a Vassar arts festival, and its annual Bardavon Gala. Parents' Weekend performances are presented towards the end of the school year. The Department of Dance also runs a Master Class program, which annually invites experts in a particular area of dance to Vassar in order to broaden dancers' experience in technique, choreography and improvisation. Some of Vassar's Guest Artists have been: Irina Kopokova, Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, Arthur Mitchell, Anna Kisselgoff, Pilobolus with Adam Battlestein, Bill T. Jones, Donal McKayle, and more recently, Merrill Ashley, Take Ueyama, Tom Gold, Peter Pucci, and Sean McCurran. Vassar's Department of Dance is supportive of various dance groups on campus, sharing facilities with groups such as FlyPeople and Hype.
- Search on the names of colleges and universities to find other campus pictures in the Detroit Publishing Company and Panoramic Photographs collections, or search the Today in History entries on college.
- For more material on the history of women’s education, see the guide and Today in History feature on Mary Church Terrell, educator, political activist, and first president of the National Association of Colored Women.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay was called the “voice of her generation.” The 1912 publication of her poem “Renascence” while she was a Vassar undergraduate gained her instant recognition. A pencil holograph of the poem’s unfinished original draft may be seen in the Imagination section of American Treasures of the Library of Congress exhibition.
- The American Women Series of Research Guides are an essential tool for exploring women’s history resources available throughout the Library.
- Search on Poughkeepsie in the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views External to see images of Poughkeepsie, New York, where Vassar is located. Search on Vassar in Panoramic Photographs to find photographs of the college.
Matthew Vassar Sch - History
P.O. Box 3342, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603 | (845) 224-3153
TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE FILM PROGRAM
Poughkeepsie High School Auditorium
70 Forbus Street, Poughkeepsie, NY
(Doors open at 6:45pm)
Vassar Brothers Institute History
John Guy Vassar and Matthew Vassar Jr., nephew of Matthew Vassar who founded Vassar College, recognized the need for an organization that would combine three educational societies formed during the 1870's to discuss science, literature and art. These societies merged in 1881 to form the "Vassar Brothers Institute" of which we are members today.
The Vassars were civic minded and generous. They built a Victorian multi-purpose building on Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie (on the site of their former brewery) and presented it to our first Trustees on November 28,1882. It contained an active museum, library, arts studio and an auditorium seating 215 people.
Three sections of the Institute- Science, Literature and Art- sponsored lectures, worked with farmers to increase agricultural knowledge and offered popular courses in arts, civics and language. Each year since 1882 a series of lectures has been held, sometimes with as many as 19 programs. Several of these were given by Vassar College professors and other well-known public figures. Following World War I, public schools, given seed money from our endowment, took over many of these programs.
As our attendance increased, we outgrew the original building on Vassar Street. It was sold in 1977 and now the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center uses it to enhance its programs in the community. Since 1946 we have presented personally narrated Travel and Adventure Films in the Poughkeepsie High School. "Science in Your Life" lectures were started in 1983 and are presently held at Dutchess Community College.
Not only do funds from our endowment subsidize both the travelogue series and the science lectures, they also support a variety of programs in the community that relate to the Vassar's mission: the furtherance of Science, Literature and Art.
Schlafly was born Phyllis McAlpin Stewart and was raised in St. Louis. During the Great Depression, Schlafly's father John Bruce Stewart faced long-term unemployment, beginning in 1932.  Her mother, Odile Stewart (née Dodge),  went back to work as a librarian and a school teacher to support her family.  Mrs. Stewart was able to keep the family afloat and maintained Phyllis in a Catholic girls' school.  Before her marriage, Mrs. Stewart worked as a teacher at a private girls' school in St. Louis.  Phyllis’ sole sibling was her younger sister, Odile Stewart (married name Mecker 1930–2015). Phyllis attended college and graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis and Radcliffe College, respectively.
Schlafly's great-grandfather Stewart, a Presbyterian, emigrated from Scotland to New York in 1851 and moved westward through Canada before settling in Michigan.  Her grandfather, Andrew F. Stewart, was a master mechanic with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.  Schlafly's father was a machinist and salesman of industrial equipment, principally for Westinghouse. He was granted a patent in 1944 for a rotary engine. 
Schlafly started college early and worked as a model for a time. After high school, she received a scholarship to Maryville College, but after one year, transferred to Washington University in St. Louis.  In 1944, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts. In 1945, she received a Master of Arts degree in government from Radcliffe College (for which the then all-male Harvard University was a coordinate institution). In Strike From Space (1965), Schlafly notes that during World War II, she worked as "a ballistics gunner and technician at the largest ammunition plant in the world". She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law in 1978. 
In 1946, Schlafly became a researcher for the American Enterprise Institute and worked in the successful United States House of Representatives campaign of Republican Claude I. Bakewell. 
She played a major role with her husband in 1957 in writing a highly influential report, the "American Bar Association's Report on Communist Tactics, Strategy, and Objectives." Critchlow says it, "became not only one of the most widely read documents ever produced by the ABA, it was probably the single most widely read publication of the grassroots anticommunist movement." 
In 1952, Schlafly ran for Congress as a Republican in the majority Democratic 24th congressional district of Illinois and lost to Charles Melvin Price by 117,408 votes (64.80%) to 63,778 (35.20%).  Schlafly's campaign was low-budget and promoted heavily through the local print media, and the major munitions manufacturers John M. Olin and Spencer Truman Olin, and the Texas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. 
She attended her first Republican National Convention in 1952, and continued to attend each following convention.  As part of the Illinois delegation of the 1952 Republican convention, Schlafly endorsed U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft to be the party nominee for the presidential election.  At the 1960 Republican National Convention, Schlafly helped lead a revolt of "moral conservatives" who opposed Richard Nixon's stance "against segregation and discrimination."  Schlafly was the Republican nominee for Illinois's 24th congressional district again in 1960, losing again to Price, this time by 144,560 votes (72.22%) to 55,620 (27.79%).
She came to national attention when millions of copies of her self-published book, A Choice Not an Echo, were distributed in support of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, especially in California's hotly fought winner-take-all-delegates GOP primary.  In it, Schlafly denounced the Rockefeller Republicans in the Northeast, accusing them of corruption and globalism. Critics called the book a conspiracy theory about "secret kingmakers" controlling the Republican Party.  Schlafly had previously been a member of the John Birch Society, but quit, and later denied she had been a member because she feared that her association with the organization would damage the reputation of the book. By mutual agreement her books were not mentioned in the John Birch Society's magazine, and the distribution of her books by the society was handled so as to mask their involvement. The society was able to dispense 300,000 copies of A Choice Not an Echo in California prior to the June 2, 1964 GOP primary.  Gardiner Johnson, Republican National Committee for California, stated that the distribution of her book in California was a major factor in Goldwater's winning the nomination. 
In 1967, Schlafly lost a bid for the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women against the more moderate candidate Gladys O'Donnell of California. Outgoing NFRW president and future United States Treasurer Dorothy Elston of Delaware worked against Schlafly in the campaign.  
In 1970, she ran unsuccessfully for Illinois's 23rd congressional district, losing to Democratic incumbent George E. Shipley by 91,158 votes (53.97%) to 77,762 (46.04%). She never sought public office again.
American feminists made their greatest bid for national attention at the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston however, historian Marjorie J. Spruill argues that the anti-feminists led by Schlafly organized a highly successful counter-conference, the Pro-Life, Pro-Family Rally, to protest the National Women's Conference and make it clear that feminists did not speak for them. At their rally at the Astro Arena they had an overflow of over 15,000 people,  and announced the beginning of a pro-family movement to oppose politicians who had been supporting feminism and liberalism, and to promote "family values" in American politics, and so moved the Republican Party to the right and defeated the ratification of the ERA. 
Opposition to Equal Rights Amendment Edit
Schlafly became an outspoken opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the 1970s as the organizer of the "STOP ERA" campaign. STOP was an acronym for "Stop Taking Our Privileges". She argued that the ERA would take away gender-specific privileges currently enjoyed by women, including "dependent wife" benefits under Social Security, separate restrooms for males and females, and exemption from Selective Service (the military draft).   She was opposed by groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the ERAmerica coalition. The Homemakers' Equal Rights Association was formed to counter Schlafly's campaign. 
In 1972, when Schlafly began her campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, the ERA had already been ratified by 28 of the required 38 states. [ citation needed ] Seven more states ratified the amendment after Schlafly began organizing opposition, but another five states rescinded their ratifications. The last state to ratify the ERA was Indiana, where State Senator Wayne Townsend cast the tie-breaking vote in January 1977.  (Nevada, Illinois and Virginia ratified the ERA between 2017 and 2020, many years after the deadline to do so.) 
The Equal Rights Amendment was narrowly defeated, having only achieved ratification in a total 35 states.  Experts agree Schlafly was a key player. Political scientist Jane J. Mansbridge concluded in her history of the ERA:
Many people who followed the struggle over the ERA believed—rightly in my view—that the Amendment would have been ratified by 1975 or 1976 had it not been for Phyllis Schlafly's early and effective effort to organize potential opponents. 
Joan Williams argues, "ERA was defeated when Schlafly turned it into a war among women over gender roles."  Historian Judith Glazer-Raymo argues:
As moderates, we thought we represented the forces of reason and goodwill but failed to take seriously the power of the family values argument and the single-mindedness of Schlafly and her followers. The ERA's defeat seriously damaged the women's movement, destroying its momentum and its potential to foment social change . Eventually, this resulted in feminist dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, giving the Democrats a new source of strength that when combined with overwhelming minority support, helped elect Bill Clinton to the presidency in 1992 and again in 1996. 
Critics of Schlafly viewed her advocacy against equal rights and her role as a working professional as a contradiction. Gloria Steinem and author Pia de Solenni, among others, considered it ironic that in Schlafly's role as an advocate for the full-time mother and wife, she herself was a lawyer, newsletter editor, touring speaker, and political activist.  
Broadcast media Edit
In broadcast media, Schlafly provided commentaries on Chicago news radio station WBBM from 1973 to 1975, the CBS Morning News from 1974 to 1975, and then on CNN from 1980 to 1983. In 1983, she began creating syndicated daily 3-minute commentaries for radio. In 1989, she began hosting a weekly radio talk show, Eagle Forum Live. 
Equal Rights Amendment Edit
Schlafly focused political opposition to the ERA in defense of traditional gender roles, such as only men fighting in war. She argued that the Equal Rights Amendment would eliminate the men-only draft and ensure that women would be equally subject to conscription and be required to serve in combat, and that defense of traditional gender roles proved a useful tactic. In Illinois, the anti-ERA activists used traditional symbols of the American housewife, and took homemade foods (bread, jams, apple pies, etc.) to the state legislators, with the slogans, "Preserve us from a congressional jam Vote against the ERA sham" and "I am for Mom and apple pie." 
The historian Lisa Levenstein said that, in the late 1970s, the feminist movement briefly attempted a program to help older divorced and widowed women.  Many widows were ineligible for Social Security benefits, few divorcees received alimony, and, after a career as a housewife, few had any work skills with which to enter the labor force. The program, however, encountered sharp criticism from young activists who gave priority to poor minority women rather than to middle-class women. By 1980, NOW downplayed the program, as they focused almost exclusively on ratification of the ERA. Schlafly moved into the political vacuum, and denounced the feminists for abandoning older, middle-class widows and divorcees in need, and warned that the ERA would unbalance the laws in favor of men, stripping legal protections that older women urgently needed. 
Schlafly said that the ERA was designed for the benefit of young career women, and warned that if men and women had to be treated equally, that social condition would threaten the security of middle-aged housewives without job skills. She also contended that the ERA would repeal legal protections, such as alimony, and eliminate the judicial tendency for divorced mothers to receive custody of their children.  Schlafly's argument that protective laws would be lost resonated with working-class women. 
Women's issues Edit
In November 1977, she was an opposition speaker at the 1977 National Women's Conference with Lottie Beth Hobbs, Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Nellie Gray, and R.K. Dornan. 
Schlafly told Time magazine in 1978, "I have cancelled speeches whenever my husband thought that I had been away from home too much." 
In March 2007, Schlafly spoke against the concept of marital rape in a speech at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, "By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape." 
In an interview on March 30, 2006, she attributed improvement in women's lives during the last decades of the 20th century to labor-saving devices such as the indoor clothes dryer and disposable diapers. 
She called Roe v. Wade "the worst decision in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court" and said that it "is responsible for the killing of millions of unborn babies". 
In 2007, while working to defeat a new version of the Equal Rights Amendment, Schlafly warned it would force courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows. 
United Nations and international relations Edit
Over the years, Schlafly disdained the United Nations. On the 50th anniversary of the UN in 1995, she referred to it as "a cause for mourning, not celebration. It is a monument to foolish hopes, embarrassing compromises, betrayal of our servicemen, and a steady stream of insults to our nation. It is a Trojan Horse that carries the enemy into our midst and lures Americans to ride under alien insignia to fight and die in faraway lands." She opposed President Bill Clinton's decision in 1996 to send 20,000 American troops to Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars. Schlafly noted that Balkan nations have fought one another for 500 years and argued that the U.S. military should not be "policemen" of world trouble spots. 
Prior to the 1994 Congressional elections, Schlafly condemned globalization through the World Trade Organization as a "direct attack on American sovereignty, independence, jobs, and economy . any country that must change its laws to obey rulings of a world organization has sacrificed its sovereignty." 
In late 2006, Schlafly collaborated with Jerome Corsi and Howard Phillips to create a website in opposition to the idea of a "North American Union", under which the United States, Mexico, and Canada would share a currency and be integrated in a structure similar to the European Union. 
During the Cold War, Schlafly opposed arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. In 1961, she wrote that "[arms control] will not stop Red aggression any more than disarming our local police will stop murder, theft, and rape." 
Judicial system Edit
Schlafly was an outspoken critic of what she termed "activist judges", particularly on the Supreme Court. In 2005, Schlafly made headlines at a conference for the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration by suggesting that "Congress ought to talk about impeachment" of Justice Anthony Kennedy, citing as specific grounds Justice Kennedy's deciding vote to abolish the death penalty for minors. 
In April 2010, shortly after John Paul Stevens announced his retirement as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Schlafly called for the appointment of a military veteran to the Court. Stevens had been a veteran and, with his retirement, the court was "at risk of being left without a single military veteran." 
Presidential elections Edit
Schlafly did not endorse a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, but she spoke out against Mike Huckabee, who, she says, as governor left the Republican Party in Arkansas "in shambles". At the Eagle Forum, she hosted U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, known for his opposition to illegal immigration. Before his election, she criticized Barack Obama as "an elitist who worked with words". 
During the election, she endorsed John McCain in an interview by saying: "Well, I'm a Republican, I'm supporting McCain". When asked about criticism of John McCain from Rush Limbaugh, she said: "Well, there are problems, we are trying to teach him". 
Schlafly endorsed Michele Bachmann in December 2011 for the Iowa caucus of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, citing Bachmann's work against "ObamaCare" and deficit spending and her (Bachmann's) support of "traditional values." 
On February 3, 2012, Schlafly announced that she would be voting for Rick Santorum in that year's Missouri Republican primary.  In 2016, she endorsed Donald Trump's candidacy for president.  The endorsement soon led to a breach in the Eagle Forum board. Schlafly broke with six dissident members, including her daughter, Anne Cori,  and Cathie Adams, the former state chairman of the Texas Republican Party.  Adams instead supported U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump's principal challenger whom Adams considered a more conservative choice. 
Schlafly's last book, The Conservative Case for Trump, was published September 6, 2016, one day after her death.  
Same-sex marriage Edit
Schlafly opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions: "[a]ttacks on the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman come from the gay lobby seeking social recognition of their lifestyle."  Linking the Equal Rights Amendment to LGBT rights and same-sex marriage played a role in Schlafly's opposition to the ERA.  
Immigration proposals Edit
Schlafly believed the Republican Party should reject immigration reform proposals she told Focus Today that it is a "great myth" that the GOP needs to reach out to Latinos in the United States. "The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes, the white voters who didn't vote in the last election. The propagandists are leading us down the wrong path . [T]here's not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican."  
On May 1, 2008, the trustees of Washington University, St. Louis, announced that Schlafly would receive an honorary degree at the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2008. This news was met with objection from some students and faculty, who complained that she was anti-feminist and criticized her work in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.  In a letter, fourteen law professors complained that the career of Schlafly demonstrated "anti-intellectualism in pursuit of a political agenda." 
While the trustees' honorary-degree committee unanimously approved who would be honored, five student-members of the committee complained, in writing, that they were required to vote for the five people to be honored, as a slate, rather than individually, and thought that the selection of Schlafly was a mistake, despite her prominence as a famous graduate of Washington University.  In the days before the graduation ceremony, Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton explained the trustees' decision to award Schlafly an honorary degree with the following statement of disclaimer:
In bestowing this degree, the University is not endorsing Mrs. Schlafly's views or opinions rather, it is recognizing an alumna of the University whose life and work have had a broad impact on American life and have sparked widespread debate and controversies that in many cases have helped people better formulate and articulate their own views about the values they hold. 
At the May 16, 2008, commencement ceremony, Schlafly was awarded an honorary degree as a Doctor of Humane Letters, yet faculty and students protested to rescind Schlafly's honorary degree. During the ceremony, hundreds of the 14,000 people in attendance, including one-third of the graduating class and some faculty, silently stood and turned their backs to Schlafly in protest.  In the days before the commencement there were protests regarding the awarding of an honorary degree Schlafly described the protesters as "a bunch of losers".  Moreover, after the ceremony, Schlafly said that the protesters were "juvenile" and "I'm not sure they're mature enough to graduate."  As planned, Schlafly did not address the graduating class, nor did any other honored guest, except for the commencement speaker, news commentator Chris Matthews of MSNBC. 
On October 20, 1949, she married attorney John Fred Schlafly Jr., a member of a wealthy St. Louis family he died in 1993. His grandfather, August, immigrated in 1854 from Switzerland. In the late 1870s, the three brothers founded the firm of Schlafly Bros., which dealt in groceries, Queensware (dishes made by Wedgwood), hardware, and agricultural implements.  Fred and Phyllis Schlafly were both active Catholics. They linked Catholicism to Americanism and often exhorted Catholics to join the anti-communist crusade. 
Fred and Phyllis Schlafly moved across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois, and had six children: John, Bruce, Roger, Liza, Andrew, and Anne.  When her husband died in 1993, she moved to Ladue, Missouri. In 1992, their eldest son, John, was outed as gay by Queer Week magazine.  Schlafly acknowledged that John is gay, but stated that he embraces his mother's views.   Andrew is also a lawyer and activist, and created the wiki-based Conservapedia.  Anne married the only child of Nobel-winning scientists Carl and Gerty Cori. 
Schlafly was the aunt of conservative anti-feminist author Suzanne Venker together they wrote The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know — and Men Can't Say. 
Schlafly died of cancer on September 5, 2016, at her home in Ladue, Missouri, at the age of 92.  
Schlafly was the author of 26 books on subjects ranging from child care to phonics education. She wrote a syndicated weekly newspaper column for Creators Syndicate. 
Schlafly's published works include:
- A Choice Not an Echo (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) ISBN0-686-11486-8
- Grave Diggers (with Chester Ward) (Pere Marquette Press, 1964) 0-934640-03-3
- Strike from Space: A Megadeath Mystery (Pere Marquette Press, 1965) 80-7507-634-6
- Safe Not Sorry (Pere Marquette Press, 1967) 0-934640-06-8
- The Betrayers (Pere Marquette Press, 1968) ISBN B0006CY0CQ
- Mindszenty the Man (with Josef Vecsey) (Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, 1972) ISBN B00005WGD6
- Kissinger on the Couch (Arlington House Publishers, 1974) 0-87000-216-3
- Ambush at Vladivostok, with Chester Ward (Pere Marquette Press, 1976) 0-934640-00-9
- The Power of the Positive Woman (Crown Pub, 1977) 0-87000-373-9
- The Power of the Christian Woman (Standard Pub, 1981) ISBN B0006E4X12
- The End of an Era (Regnery Publishing, 1982) 0-89526-659-8
- Equal Pay for UNequal Work (Eagle Forum, 1984) 99950-3-143-4
- Child Abuse in the Classroom (Crossway Books, 1984) 0-89107-365-5
- Pornography's Victims (Crossway Books, 1987) 0-89107-423-6
- Who Will Rock the Cradle?: The Battle for Control of Child Care in America (World Publications, 1989) 978-0849931987
- First Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 1994) 0-934640-24-6
- Turbo Reader (Pere Marquette Press, 2001) 0-934640-16-5
- Feminist Fantasies, foreword by Ann Coulter (Spence Publishing Company, 2003) 1-890626-46-5
- The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges And How to Stop It (Spence Publishing Company, 2004) 1-890626-55-4
- Judicial Tyranny: The New Kings of America? – contributing author (Amerisearch, 2005) 0-9753455-6-7
- The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—and Men Can't Say (WorldNetDaily, 2011) 978-1935071273
- No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom (Regnery Publishing, 2012) 978-1621570127
- Who Killed the American Family? (WND Books, 2014) 978-1938067525
- A Choice Not an Echo: Updated and Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition (Regnery Publishing, 2014) 978-1621573159
- How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life (Dunrobin Publishing, 2016) 978-0-9884613-9-0
- The Conservative Case for Trump – posthumously, with Ed Martin and Brett M. Decker (Regnery Publishing, 2016) 978-1-62157-628-0
Phyllis Schlafly is mentioned extensively in the 7th episode of the 3rd season of the comedy TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, titled "Marvelous Radio". Set in 1960, the episode sees the protagonist agreeing to participate in a live radio commercial for Schlafly. Initially, titular Midge Maisel is enthusiastic towards the prospect of supporting a woman running for Congress. However, after learning about her views, which are portrayed as ultra-conservative and antisemitic, she changes her mind and refuses to speak her part, while already at the recording studio with the broadcast about to start. 
The FX miniseries Mrs. America also partially focuses on Schlafly's life and activism, with Cate Blanchett portraying Schlafly. Though some praise the series for its accuracy,  Schlafly's family members, among other critics, dispute the accuracy of several accounts in the series.  
Matthew Vassar Sch - History
History of Poughkeepsie
late 17th century -- Poughkeepsie founded.
1682 -- local Indians and Patentees Sanders and Hammense sign an accord about the settlement. The brother-in-law of Sanders was the Dutchman Van Kleeck.
c. 1692 -- Myndert Van Den Bogert and Johnnnes Van Kleeck discover the rest stop of the Indian trail that gave Poughkeepsie its name. The spring is near today's Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. (In 1939 Gerald Foster painted a mural of the imagined scene.)
1702 -- Baltus Barents Van Kleeck's stone house at 222 Mill Street near the Fallkill Upper Landing. (It no longer stands.)
1714 -- Jacobus Van Den Bogert gave two pieces of land to the settlement: one for a church and the other for a courthouse.
c. 1716 -- the congregation of the Reformed Dutch Church established by Van Kleeck family members.
1717 -- courthouse built, the first of a total of five on the same site.
1767 -- the Rev. John Beardsley purchased land for a "Glebe" or rectory/farm on Filkintown Road in what was then the countryside. Beardsley was the recent Episcopal minister of Christ Church. (It is now a city house museum administered by the Dutchess County Historical Society.)
1777 -- ferries operated on the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie.
1777 -- the capital of New York, Kingston, burned by the British. Poughkeepsie became the temporary capital.
1777 -- Stephen Hendriksen built an inn, later called the Forbus Hotel. The inn was a forerunner of the Nelson House. Among its guests were Clinton, Jay, Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson.
1785 -- fire destroyed the second courthouse.
1788 -- the third courthouse was in place for the New York State Ratification Convention. Anti-federalist George Clinton agreed with Federalist Alexander Hamilton to a compromise that included a Bill of Rights.
1788 -- Gov. George Clinton may have had an office in the Clear Everitt house. (It is now the headquarters of the Dutchess County Historical Society.)
1792 -- Matthew Vassar born in England.
1796 -- at age 4, the Vassar family moved from England to New York.
1799 -- the village created.
late 18th century -- the Filkintown Road, which later became Main Street connecting the Hudson River to New England via Pleasant Valley (Route 44) and Manchester (Route 55) Roads. (The road was named to honor storeowner Henry Filkin.)
1800 -- James Reynolds began a weekly freight and passenger sloop business that ran from the Upper Landing in Poughkeepsie to New York City.
1806 -- a fire destroyed the third courthouse.
1809 -- demolition of the third courthouse building.
1809 -- Henry Livingston Jr. gave land from their estate for a road, now Route 9. He and his wife planted a lot of black locust trees that gave the Locust Grove estate its name. (S. F. B. Morse bought Locust Grove in 1847.)
during War of 1812 -- the woolen factories of George Booth got a big boost due to the embargo on foreign goods.
1816 -- at age 14, Matthew Vassar ran away to a town near Newburgh, New York. He became involved in the brewery business and made a fortune in the industry.
1818 -- James Reynolds and Aaron Innis bought the Hoffmann Mill. They expanded the services offered: a store and milling and grain transport.
1831 -- Village Hall and Market built it became the city hall.
1831 -- Eastern House hotel established.
1830s -- Miss Lydia Booth, step-niece of Matthew Vassar, ran the Cottage Hill Seminary on Garden Street.
1830s -- Matthew Vassar was so inspired by his step-niece, Lydia Booth, he started thinking of creating a women's college.
1833 -- with the help of John Delafield of the Improvement Party, a small Catholic congregation was started.
1835 -- the Collegiate Hill School building, modeled after the Parthenon, stood on the top of College Hill until 1917.
c. 1835 -- the Greek Revival style Vassar Street church built by dissenting Presbyterians.
1835 -- the Improvement Party founded the Poughkeepsie Collegiate School on College Hill. (It continued until the late 1860s when George Morgan purchased the Greek Parthenon style building and converted it into a hotel.)
1837 -- building of St. Peter's Catholic Church and Rectory, then welcoming European immigrants.
1841 -- a survey found that a quarter of Poughkeepsie's children received not education at all.
by 1845 -- European Jews moved to riverside neighborhoods. Five German Jews formed the Congregation Children of Israel.
1847 -- foundation of Smith Brothers, famous for cough drops produced on Church Street.
1847 -- inventor of the telegraph, S.F.B. Morse bought the old Henry Living estate, Locust Grove. Alexander Jackson Davis helped remodel the house and Andrew Jackson Downing helped improve the grounds.
1848 -- name of the Congregation Children of Israel changed to Congregation Brethren of Israel. (Vassar Temple was the only synagogue between New York City and Albany.)
late 1840s -- a small dry goods store started by Isaac Dribble and Robert Slee. As a boy, Charles P. Luckey was hired by the store.
1850 -- organization of the Germania Singing Society.
1852 -- before his death, famous architect hired Andrew Jackson Downing finished a number of structures for Matthew Vassar's Springside estate. Since there was not main villa, Vassar used the gardener's cottage as his residence in the summer. Vassar opened the estate to the public, thereby making Springside Poughkeepsie's first public park.
1853 -- the German-American community built the Nativity church on Union Street. Later, they added a school.
1853 -- Eastern House hotel burned down.
1853 -- the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery was dedicated. Matthew Vassar was going to make a cemetery out of part of the old Allen Far at Eden Hill, but the Cemetery Association chose land across the highway from the Vassar property.
1854 -- Poughkeepsie becomes a city.
1859 -- Harry Eastman was a go-getter that came to Poughkeepsie. He started the Eastman Business College. Its main building was on Washington Street.
1860 -- the congregation of Vassar Temple remodeled the building.
1861 -- founding of Vassar Female College. Matthew Vassar established it on land he owned that was then east of Poughkeepsie. The Second Empire style "Main" building was designed by James Renwick Jr.
1867 -- the Hudson River State Hospital built on the former James Roosevelt estate.
1868 -- City architect J. A. Wood designed an opera house for its owner James Collingwood who ran a coal business.
1868 -- while delivering a farewell address to the Vassar College Board of Trustees, Matthew Vassar died.
1869 -- Bardavon 1869 Opera House.
1869 -- the Slee Brothers dray goods store became the Luckey and Plat store.
late 1860s -- George Morgan, a mayor of the city of Poughkeepsie, established the College Hill Hotel on College Hill. He built a lake on the east side of College Hill.
1870 -- on Independence day, the Soldiers' Fountain near Eastman Park was dedicated.
1870 -- Jonathan Warner purchased the Dutchess Academy for the Vassar Warner Old Ladies Home to care for elderly Protestant ladies.
c. 1871 -- the old Poughkeepsie High School on Washington Street erected.
1872 -- the Luckey and Platt store became Luckey, Platt and Company. (William De Garmo Smith became a partner.)
1872 -- the College Hill Reservoir built on College Hill. It became a popular picnic site.
1873 brochure -- shows Harvey Eastman's plan for the development of the south-side. (The development was not completed.)
1875 -- Danish immigrant Edward Bech hired Danish architect Detlef Lienau in the construction of the Bech Villa. Bech owned the Poughkeepsie Iron Company and Falkill Iron Works.
1880 -- John Guy and Mathew Vassar Jr. (nephews of the founder of Vassar Female College) incorporated the Vassar Brothers' Home for Aged Men located on Vassar Street. The home was built on the site of Matthew Vassar's home. His brewery was near by. (It now houses the Cunneen-Hackett Cultural Center.)
1882 -- Mathew Vassar Jr. left money for a hospital.
1882-1920 -- John C. Sickley, who served during WWI, was the city library director.
1883 -- the Brinckerhoff House was the home of Captain John J. Brinckerhoff, captain of the steamer Mary Powell.
1884 -- first electric lights put up in Poughkeepsie.
1884 -- the main building of the Vassar Brothers' Hospital built on Reade Place. It became the then largest and most well-equipped hospital between New York City and Albany.
1886 -- the Hudson River State Hospital established the first school of nursing in Dutchess County.
1888 -- Christ Church moved to Academy Street (where it still is) making room for the 1891 Armory.
1888 -- Railroad bridge over the Hudson built.
1888 -- Italians arrive, working on the Central New England Railroad.
1889 -- the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge completed.
1890 -- Poughkeepsie Tennis Club organized.
1891 -- the Armory erected, corner of Market and Church Streets.
1892 -- W. W. Smith purchased property on College Hill and gave it to the city for a public park.
1894 -- the trolleys were electrified.
1895-1947 -- intercollegiate regattas were held on the Hudson River during this time.
1897 -- William Hopkins Young, Poughkeepsie socialite, lawyer and director of Farmers' and Manufacturers' Bank, helped found the Dutchess Golf Club. John E. Adriance, of the Adriance Memorial Library, was its first president.
1898 -- the new Adriance Memorial Library on Market Street completed. (John C. Sickley, city library director, oversaw every construction detail.) The library name honored John P Adriance, a local industrialist, and family.
c. 1900 -- Governor Theodore Roosevelt declared the Governor Clinton office house an historic site.
19th and 20th centuries -- the place for the new immigrants was usually the area of the city near the river.
turn of the century booklet -- has a picture of the very popular Smith Brothers Restaurant for dining and meetings.
1901 -- the Young family purchased Locust Grove (former home of Samuel F. B. Morse) near the golf course. The Youngs helped start the up-scale residential movement south of the city.
1903 -- the Polish-Americans established St. Joseph's Church on Lafayette Place.
1904 -- an Italianate-type courthouse designed by William Beardsley completed. (It still stands.)
1904 -- the Luckey-Platt store had become a five-story building. (It was torn down in 1920.)
1904 -- the Fitchett Brothers Cross Road Farms dairy business was started.
1905 -- Edmund Platt published his History of Poughkeepsie.
1905 -- construction of the Ebenezer Baptist Church near Clinton Square.
1905 -- the Marist brothers acquired the Edward Bech estate. It became St. Ann's Hermitage.
1909 -- the 1909 Hudson Fulton Celebration.
1911 -- the AME Zion Church built. It was designed by DuBois Carpenter.
1911 -- Mrs. Bowne built the Bowne Memorial Hospital for tuberculosis patients in memory of her husband. (Today it is part of the Dutchess Community College.)
shortly after 1912 -- the Robert Sanford house at 29 North Hamilton Street was torn down to build Poughkeepsie High School.
1914 -- formation of the Dutchess County Historical Society.
1914 -- the Smith Brothers cough drop factory moved to North Hamilton Street.
1915-1946 -- Henry Noble MacCracken president of Vassar College.
1917 -- a spectacular fire burned the Collegiate Hill School/Hotel Building. It was replaced by the Dudley Memorial.
1918 -- opening of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Station, designed by Warren and Wetmore, who also did Grand Central Terminal.
1920s photo -- of the Nelson House inn (with roots back to 1777). It was close to the courthouse and the Bardavon.
1920s -- the Pomfret House Hotel and Arcade was located at the intersection of Main and Market.
1920s -- the Riverview Military Academy closed and Lincoln Center took it over in order to present neighborhood services and programs.
1920s -- the swimming pool at Woodcliff Pleasure Park was the largest pool in the East. It could handle 3,000 people at one time. The park was built on land that once was the estate of John L. Winslow. (Today it is the site of the Marist College townhouses.)
1923 -- the Collingwood Opera House became the Bardavon, a movie house with vaudeville acts.
1923 -- opening of a the Adriance Children's Room in the Adriance library.
1924 -- a new Luckey-Platt store opened.
c. 1925-1930 -- construction of the Mid-Hudson vehicular bridge.
1929 -- the Marist Normal Training School, in conjunction with Fordham University, granted B.A. degrees.
1930 -- dedication of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Future President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor were present.
1930 (June) -- Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated a statue of Irishman Thomas Dongan, Governor of New York 1683-1687, at the intersection of Delafield and Mill Streets.
1932 -- erection of the Polish-American Citizens' Hall at 19 North Bridge Street.
1934 -- founding of the Poughkeepsie Day School for young children.
1935 -- the end of trolley service.
1937 -- the WPA built a Parthenon-designed memorial on the top of College Hill and presented it to the city.
1937 -- President FDR dedicated the new post office.
by 1937 -- the Woodcliff Pleasure Park had become the city's principle playground.
1938 -- College Hill had greenhouses and a beautiful rock garden.
1940 -- Marian Anderson performed at the auditorium of Poughkeepsie High School.
1940 -- dedication of the American Colonial Revival type Violet Avenue School that reflected the architectural ideas of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
early 1940s -- ferries disappeared after the toll on the Mid-Hudson Bridge finished.
1941-1990s -- IBM was the dominant economic force in Dutchess County.
1943 -- new processing plant for the Fitchett Brothers' dairy business. (The business continued until 1987.)
1944 -- the Windsor Hotel burned down.
1944 -- the Dudley Memorial burned. It was later rebuilt.
1946 -- Marian College became a four-year college.
1947 -- Sarah Gibson Blanding became the first woman president of Vassar.
late 1940s and 1950s -- Poughkeepsie had become a vast traffic jam.
1955 -- flood on Smith Street.
1958 -- opening of the Poughkeepsie Plaza.
1960 -- Marian College became Marist College with 250 students.
1960s -- Marlon Brando played at the Hyde Park Playhouse and would haunt Happy Jack's bar on North Bridge Street.
1960s -- the Vassar Brothers Institute (given to the city by Matthew Vassar Jr. and John Guy Vassar) revitalized and serves as a place for arte exhibits, concerts and theatrical performances.
1960s -- Urban Renewal money poured into Poughkeepsie and some neighborhoods were razed.
1964 -- development of a strong arts coalition in Poughkeepsie.
1968 -- Matthew Vassar's old Springside Downing-designed estate was threatened by condominium development. Activists saved the area while allowing some condominiums.
1968 -- opening of the Rip Van Winkle House. It was hoped that mixed income housing would "phase out poverty and unwanted misery."
1970 -- Dutchess Plaza on Dutchess Turnpike opens.
1970s -- public campaign to save the Bardavon from demolition.
1971 -- the Union Street area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1974 -- the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge no longer used. A fire had damaged much of the bridge.
early 1970s -- land that later became the Bowdoin Park became available. Thanks to Gretchen Leak, Anita Liguori, Liz Jermyn and Dan Hannigan for saving the land for a park.
1973 -- the pedestrian mall Main Mall dedicated.
1975 -- opening of the city civic center.
1975 -- creation of Bowdoin Park. The park land was once river estates, then the Children's Aid Society's summer camp.
1975 -- the Wallace Company Department Store closed shopping centers were taking the place of department stores.
1980s -- teaching students environmental studies takes place on the sloop Clearwater.
1982 -- discontinuation of the Maybrook Line freight service between Poughkeepsie and Hopewell Junction.
1983 -- opening of Metro-North railway service to Poughkeepsie.
early 1990s -- dramatic downsizing of IBM hurts the Dutchess County economy.
nearing 2000 -- the Bardavon renamed the Bardavon 1869 Opera House and given new life.
Joyce Ghee and Joan Spence. 1997. Images of America: Poughkeepsie, Halfway up the Hudson. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.
Joyce C. Ghee and Joan Spence. 1999. Images of America: Poughkeepsie: 1898-1998, A Century of Change. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.
Matthew Vassar Sch - History
Colleges for women in the United States, founded in the second half of the 19 th century, began as dangerous experiments. Founders wanted to offer young women—typically, and sometimes exclusively, Christian, white, and from the middle or upper classes—higher learning, such as that provided by Yale. But they feared accompanying risks. College-grade education itself was a given, thus initial planners turned elsewhere. They sought to shield female collegians through the college’s physical environment—its architecture and campus plan. The early buildings and landscapes of the Eastern women’s colleges once known as the Seven Sisters enable us to see both hopes and fears at the time of their creation.
The dangers founders imagined focused on the fear that higher education might unhinge women. These men worried that the rigors of Greek, Latin, mathematics, and life away from the familial circle might turn women away from traditional femininity. Female collegians might either imitate men or lose their innocence and virtue, both abominations to right-thinking Americans in the mid-19th century.
The men’s colleges that founders knew had assumed a particular form by the 19 th century. Whether built piece-meal as at Yale or from a comprehensive plan as at University of Virginia, male colleges were “academical villages.” Men recited, studied, prayed, slept, and ate in a variety of structures. The buildings we call dormitories, represented on the Yale campus by Connecticut Hall, were generally 3-4 story stretches of rooms, reached through four entries, two on a side. On college books were rather strenuous rules, enforced by a faculty of tutors and professors but because men could enter their rooms through stairways without passing a central observation point and could move around from college to village, from residence hall to chapel, free from supervisory eye, they had the freedom to develop a separate and powerful subculture, “college life.”
Believing that young women should have no such freedom, early founders initially designed colleges that secluded them and set them within a single building where their every movement could be observed and controlled. For this they had a precedent, the female seminary. They looked especially at Mount Holyoke in Western Massachusetts, founded in 1837.
The female seminary was not a college, but rather a later version of the academy, an 18 th century creation offering modern languages, science, history, and vocational subjects at a level bridging secondary school and junior college. Academies drew both local youth and those of surrounding farms and villages and thus often provided boarding. In the early nineteenth century, certain academies were founded for girls with a new, serious intent to prepare them for teaching. The name seminary in the 19 th century expressed vocational emphasis (retained today in schools to train ministers) and was often adopted by female academies to train teachers.
Mount Holyoke Seminary’s founder, Mary Lyon, imagined offering the English curriculum and changing the consciousness of women students. She wanted to bring order into their lives and allow them to move outside the private claims of the family circle. To do this, she drew on a building precedent of her day and designed her seminary after the model of the new mental asylum.
19 th century reformers focused on mental illness believed that if you separated those who were disordered in their minds and placed them in a structure of external order, they would internalize the rules to create an inner psychic order. Mount Holyoke Seminary carried the same assumptions. Its rules were strict: between the bell that awakened students at 5:00 am and required their lights to be off at 9:00 pm, students followed a prescribed schedule of recitations, study, prayer, and housework. Living along a corridor with their teachers, they confessed each week to a specific teacher regarding how they had followed or broken the rules. The school’s design both expressed and enforced these rules. Everything happened in a single building, an enormous house for over 100 students and teachers. In its complete provision for living, learning, and working, Mount Holyoke held no places for retreat, no interstices for freedom.
In 1861, when Poughkeepsie brewer Matthew Vassar endowed Vassar College for women, “to be to them what Harvard and Yale are to young men,” he founded a real college, with an undiluted liberal arts course and a full college faculty. However, he hedged his bets and linked to it the female seminary’s plan of governance and building form. He took the advice of the former male head of such a school, who assumed the seminary system was the best way to protect the young women offered the liberal arts. Thus, the first women to attend a college equal to the best male schools did so in buildings and landscapes that had little to do with the forms of men’s colleges.
As Vassar College arose in brick and mortar, it was as an immense seminary building, designed by one of America's foremost hospital architects, James Renwick, Jr. In keeping with the newest approaches of mental asylums, Vassar College was placed on a picturesque site in the country. In a building four and five stories high and 1/5 of a mile long, the largest building in America when it was built, Renwick essentially copied the plan of Mount Holyoke, now for four hundred students and faculty. The central pavilion functioned as Mount Holyoke's principal floor, housing all the public spaces. One entered through ceremonial steps to find reception hall, parlor, dining room, chapel, museums for science and art, library, president's quarters, and classrooms. The male college faculty lived with their families in apartments in the end pavilions. Along the corridor, students lived with their teachers, the young female assistants of the professors. These women supervised their charges under the direction of a Lady Principal, who had the responsibility for creating and maintaining the seminary system, thereby attempting to control students as firmly as did Mount Holyoke. Vassar's Main Building is a fitting testimonial to the hopes and fears of offering higher learning to women.
Vassar's system and its building seemed initially to be the correct solution to the problem of offering women higher learning and keeping them within the protective bonds of womanhood. Without really looking closely at its workings or considering alternatives, Henry Fowle Durant planned Wellesley College as a close copy of Vassar. In 1875, when Wellesley opened, it, too, offered women the liberal arts linked to the seminary system of governance and building.
The planners of Smith College, however, decided that the seminary system failed to protect the femininity of young female collegians. Vassar in 1865 was not Mount Holyoke in 1837. Its students of varying ages from all over the divided nation had no intention of submitting their wills to a Lady Principal. On their corridors, they began to develop a collective culture that had much in common with their brothers at Yale. They saw the rules as external and sought to evade them. They reveled in their private friendships in the suites along the corridor. They formed alliances with those professors who also rebelled against administrative authority. And they began to develop curious customs and traditions that gave collective expression to their life and questioned conventional notions of femininity. Within Vassar’s walls appeared college life.
The shapers of Smith perceived the effects of Mount Holyoke to be as objectionable as those of Vassar. Although Sophia Smith endowed the women's college, its plan was the combined work of her minister and advisor, John Morton Greene, and Amherst College professors aiding him. From the outset of Greene's conversations with Sophia Smith, he was clear that Smith College should differ from Vassar and Mount Holyoke is several critical ways. Following new approaches to treating the mentally ill outside of asylums, Smith chose not to put its students into one large building, but rather build several “cottages.” And instead of the isolated, village or rural site, Smith should be located in the town of Northampton. Together these two features would allow students to remain in touch with the social life of the town and keep them, as Greene put it, “free from the affected, unsocial, visionary notions which fill the minds of some who graduate at our girls' schools.”
Men such as Greene perceived the potential new danger of a women's college, such as Vassar. Rather than protecting women and conventional femininity, it could foster intense female friendship and generate strong-minded women. The solution they found was to educate women in college but keep them symbolically at home. In 1875 Smith opened with a Victorian Gothic main building for instruction, close to the center of Northampton a house for the president and a cottage, soon to be followed by others, where students lived in quasi-familial settings. Female students were brought into daily contact with men as president and faculty. The college built no chapel or library to encourage students to enter into the life of the town.
The origins of Radcliffe College lay in Harvard’s refusal to accept women students. In 1879, a new venture opened in Cambridge, the “Harvard Annex,” incorporated three years later as The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women. From the outset, Harvard professors taught women students the courses that they offered to men in the Yard, but in rented rooms in a house in Cambridge. The Annex's founders disliked the seminary system as they had seen it at Wellesley College so intensely that they went beyond Smith. Radcliffe's initial plan had no provision for living. Young women offered the chance to study under Harvard professors under the separate auspices of the Annex simply lived at home, if they were from Cambridge or Boston if they came from elsewhere, they boarded with Cambridge families. This eliminated the possibility that they would be affected by living together under one roof or several. In 1894, with an endowment and a formal relation to Harvard, this institution emerged as a coordinate college, and took the name Radcliffe. Working with Columbia, a more encouraging university in midtown New York City, Barnard College initially followed Radcliffe’s implicit example.
Bryn Mawr College began much like Smith. In 1885 when it arose in a suburb outside Philadelphia, its Quaker founder and the group of men whom he made trustees initially copied Smith's plan of academic building and cottages exactly. In time, however, Bryn Mawr broke the mold, bringing to an end the distinctive forms of early women’s colleges.
As Bryn Mawr’s first dean, M. Carey Thomas helped develop a college and graduate school for women modeled after the rigors of Johns Hopkins University. In 1894, she became Bryn Mawr's second president, a position she held until 1922. Thomas wanted buildings that carried no symbolic suggestions about the gender of the student body. An elitist (and racist), she admired the English universities Oxford and Cambridge and loved the theatrical style of Jacobean architecture. When Bryn Mawr began to build under her influence, it took form as quadrangles, one of the earliest and most elegant compositions of what has come to be called College Gothic.
Bryn Mawr was the critical breakthrough in the building history of women's colleges, ending a way of thinking focused on the dangers of offering women higher education. Before Bryn Mawr’s architectural reinvention, women's colleges built distinctive structures to mark their intention to protect young women receiving higher learning. After the creation of the quadrangles at Bryn Mawr, buildings at the women's colleges began to speak frankly of the promises rather than the risks of higher education for women.
The new physical forms that women’s colleges took confirmed what students had always known to be true. Earlier architectural experiments had never worked. Whatever founders’ intentions regarding buildings and landscapes, young women in these settings found ways to create a robust college life that bred independence from the established cultural norms of femininity. This, coupled with formal education, helped open the way for many women’s college graduates to enter the public arenas of the professions, politics, and reform—and to open their alma maters to broader reaches of American womanhood.
Dr. Helen Horowitz is the Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor Emerita of History and Professor Emerita of American Studies at Smith College and the author of Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth Century Beginnings to the 1930s. Her book is available for purchase on Amazon and the University of Massachusetts Press.