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Vassar Encyclopedia

An online work in progress under the direction of Vassar’s College Historian

Athletics, 1865–1945

In the Beginning. . . Vassar’s athletic tradition began with the college’s foundation. In the nineteenth century, common speculation maintained that college attendance would lead to female infertility. Because the human body was a closed energy system, the theory ran, if women devoted too much energy to thinking, it would detract from their ability to […]

Athletics, 1945–Present

Mid-Century Stagnation Field Hockey, 1970 Henry Noble MacCracken retired from the presidency in 1946. Sarah Blanding became the next president, and despite her history as a physical education teacher, under her tenure interest in athletics waned. Both the number of teams and the number of students playing on them dropped significantly. While in 1953 the […]

The Barefoot Fireflies

Most Vassar students recognize the sight. They walk on the Residential Quad, near Ballantine Field, or into the Villard Room and see some of their fellow classmates juggling, spinning fire, or doing acrobatics. A common presence on campus since the mid-1990s the Barefoot Fireflies established themselves as a Vassar staple in the 21st century. Known […]

Blood and Fire

Vassar’s ad hoc Committee to End the War in Vietnam immediately embraced the moratorium. Sophomore Carla Duke ’71, along with Julie Thayer ’71 and Carolyn Lyday ’72, published four editions of a pro-moratorium “spontaneous publication,” Blood & Fire. The mimeographed two to four page issues had a small distribution, but they embodied the fervor and […]

The Chronicle

The paper quickly gained a respectable readership, though former student and faculty member Elizabeth Daniels ‘41 recalls that the Chronicle “was thought of as a paper for conservatives.” In an editorial on March 17, 1944, the editors addressed this widespread belief, saying, “We shall deal with each issue according to our opinions at the time, […]

The Chronicle of the 1970s

For four years the magazine sought to serve “the internal life of the community, its values, intellectual involvement, poetry and prose.” However, by 1978 the opinion articles had steadily diminished, replaced by more literary submissions. The staff decided in February of that year to forgo further journalistic ventures and turn The Chronicle into a monthly […]

Con Spirito

In early 1933, Mary McCarthy ’33, Elizabeth Bishop ’34, Frani Blough ’33 and sisters Eleanor ’34 and Eunice Clark ’33, created a rebellious, anonymous literary newspaper called Con Spirito. “It is really going to be good,” Blough prophesied before its publication, “a little shock at the Review! Nothing tame, arty, wishy-washy, ordinary or any of […]

Field Day

On a rather cold, rainy November 9, 1895, Vassar became the first women’s college in the United States to hold a field day. Approximately seventeen girls, supervised by the Classics professor L. J. Moore, participated in five track events: the hundred-yard dash, the running broad jump, the running high jump, and the two-hundred-and-twenty-yard dash. Events […]

The Miscellany Monthly

Before the Monthly Vassar’s student body issued its first publication, the Vassariana, on June 27, 1866, as a bulletin of the year’s events. Mary Mallon ’15, in her history “The Vassar Miscellany,” described the Vassariana as “somewhat after the style of a church fair bulletin in the form of an annual folio.” Included in the […]

The Modern Vassar Miscellany News

The Misc since 1969 The first year of coeducation brought more than men to the campus. In 1969, the campus newspaper, The Miscellany News, transformed, becoming simply The Misc. Unfortunately, the new name didn’t spark student interest as hoped. The 1969 paper was decidedly less inflammatory than its 1968 predecessor, and its passivity annoyed the […]


In 1865, the first year Vassar opened its gates to the public, the students formed their first extracurricular organization, the Philaletheis. Created initially as a literary society, then serving briefly as a catchall for student activities, the group’s most recent incarnation explores the dramatic arts.

Posture and Photographs

Posture photographs have become rather notorious over the years. Their fame results at least partially from Ron Rosenbaum’s article, “Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal” that appeared in The New York Times Magazine a few years ago. Even without such publicity, the idea of nude photographs taken of young men and women attending the […]


According to the International Quidditch Association (IQA), there are currently over 500 quidditch teams in 26 different countries, and in the United States, more than 100 colleges have teams. Talented college players can try out for Major League Quidditch (MLQ), which has teams in 16 cities across the US and Canada, or they can compete […]

The Society for Religious Inquiry

Throughout Vassar’s history, student organizations have reflected students’ concerns as they have changed with the times. The college’s opening in 1865 coincided with a shift of direction for the missionary movement in America, which had focused in the first two-thirds of the 19th century on the westward expansion of the several denominations. The conclusion of […]


Contestants in the first tennis tournament, 1886. Tennis arrived at Vassar in 1879, only five years after its introduction to the United States in 1874. It immediately became popular, diverting attention from most other outdoor sports. Although the girls initially showed “more energy than grace in playing,” by 1891 they had organized a club. Unfortunately, […]

Touch Football

Touch Football Football has never exactly been a sport central to Vassar student life. As anyone who has walked around campus in the past few years knows, students even sell tee shirts advertising Vassar’s non-existent football team with the words “Vassar Football: Undefeated Since 1865.” And although some women’s colleges, like Skidmore, provided football for […]


During his freshman and sophomore years, Ross Goodman ’79 had two surprisingly inspirational experiences. First, in the showers of Josselyn House he bumped his head, which got him thinking about campus facilities. Second, while out shopping, he began to suspect that Vassar students were overpaying for groceries. After comparing prices at various Poughkeepsie supermarkets, Goodman […]

The Vassar Miscellany News to 1969

The Weekly Begins The first issue of the Miscellany Weekly appeared February 6, 1914 as a supplement to the literary magazine, the Miscellany Monthly. The premiere editorial, “An Old Need Answered by a New Opportunity,” laid out the scope of the supplement: “It comes to answer an old need of the college for a more […]

Vassar Radio/WVKR-FM

On Tuesday, January 11, 1938 at 12:45 P.M., from Room 403 in Belle Skinner Hall, Vassar College’s very first radio broadcast hit the airwaves via station WGNY Newburgh. The Vassar College Committee on Broadcasting, composed of faculty and students, had arranged with Peter Goelet, owner of WGNY, to allow the college to broadcast from 12:45 […]

Vassar Student Association (VSA)

In 1868, the Student Association, Vassar’s first student government, came to order. One tremulous genesis and several major transformations later, the ongoing evolution of Vassar’s student government still reflects kindly on Matthew Vassar’s unprecedented commitment to women’s education and his legacy of higher learning. Women’s education was still a speculative enterprise when Milo P. Jewett, […]