Communications to the Board of Trustees of Vassar College by its Founder.
JOHN A. GRAY & GREEN, PRINTERS
16 AND 18 JACOB ST.
Matthew Vassar died while reading his farewell address to the Board of Trustees on June 23, 1868. After a respectful interval, the Board reconvened to hear the conclusion of his remarks. It had been Vassar’s practice to address the Board formally at their meetings, and when the adjourned meeting resumed, the decision was taken to publish these communications.
Extract from the Minutes of the Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Vassar College:
“ADJOURNED SEVENTH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE TRUSTEES OF VASSAR COLLEGE, JUNE 27, 1868.
Resolved, That the several addresses of Mr. Vassar, as Founder of this College, to the Trustees, be collected and printed for the use of the Trustees, under the direction of a committee to consist of Messrs. Lossing and Swan; and that said committee have all the powers necessary for that purpose; and that a copy of Mr. Vassar’s Will be appended thereto.”
Full text of Matthew Vassar’s Communications to the Board of Trustees
GENTLEMEN: As my long-cherished purpose to apply a large portion of my estate to some benevolent object is now about to be accomplished, it seems proper that I should submit to you a statement of my motives, views, and wishes.
It having pleased God that I should have no descendants to inherit my property, it has long been my desire, after suitably providing for those of my kindred who have claims on me, to make such a disposition of my means as should best honor God and benefit my fellow-men. At different periods I have regarded various plans with favor; but these have all been dismissed one after another, until the SUBJECT OF ERECTING AND ENDOWING A COLLEGE FOR THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG WOMEN was presented for my consideration. The novelty, grandeur, and benignity of the idea arrested my attention. The more carefully I examined it, the more strongly it commended itself to my judgment and interested my feelings.
It occurred to me, that woman, having received from her Creator the same intellectual constitution as man, has the same right as man to intellectual culture and development.
I considered that the MOTHERS of a country mould the character of its citizens, determine its institutions, and shape its destiny.
Next to the influence of the mother is that of the FEMALE TEACHER, who is employed to train young children at a period when impressions are most vivid and lasting.
It also seemed to me that, if woman were properly educated, some new avenues to useful and honorable employment, in entire harmony with the gentleness and modesty of her sex, might be opened to her.
It further appeared, there is not in our country, there is not in the world, so far as is known, a single fully-endowed institution for the education of women.
It was also in evidence that, for the last thirty years, the standard of education for the sex has been constantly rising in the United States; and the great, felt, pressing want has been ample endowments, to secure to Female Seminaries the elevated character, the stability and permanency of our best Colleges.
And now, gentlemen, influenced by these and similar considerations; after devoting my best powers to the study of the subject for a number of years past; after duly weighing the objections against it and the arguments that preponderate in its favor; and the project having received the warmest commendations of many prominent literary men and practical educators, as well as the universal approval of the public press, I have come to the conclusion, that the establishment and endowment of a College for the education of young women is a work which will satisfy my highest aspirations, and will be, under God, a rich blessing to this city and State, to our country and the world.
It is my hope to be the instrument, in the hand of Providence, of founding and perpetuating an Institution which shall accomplish for young women what our colleges are accomplishing for young men.
In pursuance of this design, I have obtained from the Legislature an act of incorporation, conferring on the proposed Seminary the corporate title of “ Vassar Female College,” and naming you, gentlemen, as the first Trustees. Under the provisions of this charter you are invested with all the powers, privileges, and immunities which appertain to any College or University in this State.
To be somewhat more specific in the statement of my views as to the character and aims of the College:
I wish that the course of study should embrace, at least, the following particulars: The English Language and its Literature; other Modern Languages; the Ancient Classics, so far as may be demanded by the spirit of the times; the Mathematics, to such an extent as may be deemed advisable; all the branches of Natural Science, with full apparatus, cabinets, collections, and conservatories for visible illustration; Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene, with practical reference to the laws of the health of the sex; Intellectual Philosophy; the elements of Political Economy; some knowledge of the Federal and State Constitutions and Laws; Moral Science, particularly as bearing on the filial, conjugal, and parental relations; Aesthetics, as treating of the beautiful in Nature and Art, and to be illustrated by an extensive Gallery of Art; Domestic Economy, practically taught, so far as is possible, in order to prepare the graduates readily to become skillful housekeepers; last, and most important of all, the daily, systematic Reading and Study of the Holy Scriptures, as the only and all-sufficient Rule of Christian faith and practice.
All sectarian influences should be carefully excluded; but the training of our students should never be intrusted to the skeptical, the irreligious, or the immoral.
In forming the first Board of Trustees, I have selected representatives from the principal Christian denominations among us; and in filling the vacancies which may occur in this body, as also in appointing the Professors, Teachers, and other Officers of the College, I trust a like catholic spirit will always govern the Trustees. It is not my purpose to make VASSAR FEMALE COLLEGE a charity school, whose advantages shall be free to all without charge; for benefits so cheaply obtained are cheaply held; but it is believed the funds of the Institution will enable it to offer to all the highest educational facilities at a moderate expense, as compared with the cost of instruction in existing seminaries. I earnestly hope the funds will also prove sufficient to warrant the gratuitous admission of a considerable number of indigent students, annually at least, by regarding the amount remitted, in most cases, as a loan, to be subsequently repaid from the avails of teaching, or otherwise. Preference should be given to beneficiaries of decided promise-such as are likely to distinguish themselves in some particular department or pursuit-and especially to those who propose to engage in the teaching of the young as a profession.
I desire that the College may be provided with commodious buildings, containing ample apartments for public instruction, and at the same time affording to the inmates the safety, quiet, privacy, and purity of the family.
And now, gentlemen of the Board of Trustees, I transfer to your possession and ownership the real and personal property which I have set apart for the accomplishment of my designs. I beg permission to add a brief and general expression of my views in regard to the most judicious use and management of the funds.
After the College edifice has been erected, and furnished with all needful aids and appliances for imparting the most perfect education of body, mind, and heart, it is my judgment and wish that the amount remaining in hand should be safely invested-to remain as a principal, only the annual income of which should be expended in the preservation of the buildings and grounds; the support of the faculty; the replenishing and enlarging of the library, cabinet, art-gallery, etc., and in adding to the capital on hand; so that the College, instead of being impoverished, and tending to decay from year to year, shall always contain within itself the elements of growth and expansion, of increasing power, prosperity and usefulness.
In conclusion, gentlemen, this enterprise, which I regard as the last great work of my life, I commit to you as a sacred trust, which I feel assured you will discharge with fidelity and uprightness, with wisdom and prudence, with ability and energy.
It is my fervent desire that I may live to see the Institution in successful operation; and if God shall give me life and strength, I shall gladly employ my best faculties in cooperating with you, to secure the full and perfect consummation of the work before us.
GENTLEMEN: Having been spared by a kind Providence to witness another anniversary of the organization of our College Board, I am happy to see so many members present at this inclement season, which is a proof of the deep interest you feel in the institution; and the desire of aiding your humble servant, the Founder, in accomplishing and carrying out his wishes. I beg, gentlemen, to extend to each and all of you, my most cordial welcome to the duties and responsibilities, as well as to the honors and pleasures, of this occasion.
The annual meeting for the election of officers, etc., having been fixed by the Board at their last meeting for June in each year, the Trustees would not have been called together at this time if there had not been several subjects of importance which they thought desirable to submit to the action of the whole Board. These will be presented in their proper order.
The Treasurer (M. Vassar, Jr.) will lay before you a synopsis of operations in his official department, showing, in gross, the disbursements and sales of College funds for the construction account of the building, balance in Treasury, etc.; and he will also apply to you for advice in some special matter in relation to payment of money to Mr. Harloe on building account.
The Agent of the Building Committee (Mr. Dubois) will also present you with his report; and the same gentleman, who is also Superintendent of the College Building and Farm, will give you an account of his stewardship in those departments.
Reports from the Committee on Cabinet, Library, and Art-Gallery, and that which relates to the portrait of the Founder, will also be laid before you. The Committee on By-Laws will likewise make their report, to which I beg to refer you.
Your Secretary (C. Swan) will lay before you an account of all his proceedings, especially the more recent portion, in connection with the Executive Committee, in taking measures for obtaining an amendment to the College charter, so as to exempt all its property from taxation, although it may perhaps be here remarked, that it was considered by some of our legal advisers that it is already exempt under the Revised Statutes; yet, as it was possible that some question on that subject might arise, your Executive Committee deemed it the best policy to obtain a special provision against it; and it has, as I before observed, been thus applied for, and we may reasonably hope it will soon be granted, and the College property freed from all public burdens.
I am also happy to inform you; very briefly, in this connection, that, notwithstanding the terribly depressing financial times, our country’s history which we have passed through since our last meeting, we have progressed further and faster with our College edifice, and at a less sacrifice of our funds, than we anticipated at the beginning of the building season; and if nothing prevents, we shall be enabled to complete it by the first of August, 1864.
Notwithstanding, as before remarked, that the year past has been one of great depression and prostration, affecting all kinds of business, properties, and securities, yet we have reason to be thankful to God that it has been a season of abundance of the fruits of the earth and also of general health. In lookii1g forward to the future, we are encouraged to believe, even under the unfavorable aspects in general, that our College funds will be equal to all the anticipated purposes of the Board, so far as the building and its internal equipments are concerned. But be that as it may, it is my purpose, if God spares my life, to stand by this cherished object of my latter days to the extent of my power until all is completed.
The last, gentlemen, of those matters to which your attention is respectfully called at this time, is with reference to filling of one of the professorships in the College, to which the Committee on Faculty will ask your attention.
I will also avail myself of this opportunity to say, that during the past year we have had the pleasure and satisfaction to receive very many letters from the most distinguished popular educators and others, of both sexes, in this country, bearing testimony to the noble enterprise of our undertaking, with their best wishes for its successful issue and patronage. These have been not only highly gratifying to the Founder, but reflect great credit on his associates, the Board of Trustees, whose names have given such high character and popularity to this infant institution. At our next meeting we may take occasion to speak more at large on this matter.
With these brief outlines and remarks, I would now call the respectful attention of the Board to the reports of the respective committees.
GENTLEMEN: Were it not that the statutes of the State required corporations to hold annual elections and make annual reports of their doings, we might have dispensed with this meeting, so far as the actual amount of other business to be laid before you to-day is concerned; but, aside from these statute obligations, there are considerations which commend the policy of frequent assemblings. They strengthen the common interest in the enterprise, quicken our impulses in behalf of the object, and thus act and react favorably upon ourselves. It is a well-known fact in history that retrograde movements are the offspring of tardy or heartless efforts. It is quite important, therefore, that we be punctual in our meetings, whether they be few or many, with much or little business; for they have a good effect upon ourselves, and help to strengthen the common cause in which we are engaged.
The absence of your President, in Europe, on a professional tour, imposes upon me the duty, in some measure, to supply his place; but the incompletion of the College edifice renders it inexpedient for me to recommend to your body any special action pertaining to official appointments. Neither do I wish to tax your time on such yet remote matters.
At the meeting of the Executive Committee last April, Professor Jewett and myself were appointed a committee to purchase books for the College library. A limited portion of that order has been executed. My purchases are, in amount, less than $400. Professor Jewett’s about half that sum.
It may also be proper here to state that Mr. Jewett was advanced, by the Executive Committee, $500 for that object, and: before his departure, had commissioned Mr. Vool, of Boston, and Mr. David Davidson, of New-York, to make purchases as set forth in a catalogue sent to them, when they could be bought on our terms. The former has made no purchases; the latter, to the amount of some $350. Thus much for books.
Since the President’s absence, numerous letters from his correspondents, of an official character, have been received by his wife, and placed in my hands to answer. Some are from distinguished educators; others from parents and young ladies (for place in our institution, thus showing that there is no a want of patronage when our College opens.
The building, gentlemen, has now risen to its third story, or to the third tier of beams, and your contractor (Mr. Harloe) informs me that he will commence roofing next month, and finish roofing all in November.
It has been suggested by some of the Trustees that, as soon as portion of the interior can be completed, say by the early part of next summer, we should open apartments for the initiatory instruction of a class of young lady teachers, and thus avoid confusion or embarrassment at the commencement. This measure will, they think, have a happy effect on the pupils and public. However, as this subject more properly belongs to our President, who will be home before that period, I shall make no further comments under this head.
It would be, I doubt not, interesting to you to know what reception our President has met with abroad, and the efforts he has made to bring to public notice our Institution; but as it would occupy too much of the morning, I will read only portions of his letter for the present. Sufficient to say, his visit will redound greatly to the benefit of our College. He had not left England at the best advices from him of the 3d inst., when he stated he would visit Scotland and Ireland, then go to the Continent, spend the last of the summer and fall in Germany, and winter in Italy. In all of his letters he speaks of our College and wishes to be kindly and respectfully remembered to all the Trustees.
And now, gentlemen, in closing, indulge me with your patience a. moment or two longer, while I say a few words about our contractor, Mr. Harloe. He has thus far progressed with the work to our entire satisfaction, and has shown a willingness to accommodate the Building Committee in all reasonable requirements. “Our indefatigable and devoted Superintendent (Mr. Dubois) has ‘been always found at his post in connection with your Architect, [Mr. Renwick. They conjointly have been devoted to the charge of their respective duties. I will also speak a word of recommendation of the Overseer or Foreman, (Mr. Donnelly,) who has under his charge some one hundred workmen; and thus ~dn the progress of the work there has been no dissipation or rioting on the premises. Carefulness has been observed by all and he has been commended by the Executive Committee. I can not close these hasty remarks without calling your attention to our worthy and efficient Clerk, Mr. Schou, whose penmanship and accuracy in book-keeping wiII sufficiently commend itself to your approbation without any comments from me.
Gentlemen, your Secretary and Treasurer will now follow with their respective reports, and after the reading of them the Committees on Library, Cabinets and Apparatus, Art-Gallery and By-Laws, will lay before you such matters as appertain to their departments.
Your Chairman, Mr. Kelly, so highly skilled in parliamentary rules, will then conduct you through the business of the day with his usual promptness, suavity, and indulgence. After closing up the duties of the morning, we will dine; after which, carriages will be in waiting at the door to convey all who can make it convenient to visit the College grounds, and return in time to take the cars at Evening.
GENTLEMEN: Through a gracious Providence we are now permitted to meet once more for consultation in reference to the -important enterprise which has been confided to your care.
I desire to be deeply thankful to the Giver and Preserver of life that, in the enjoyment of tolerable bodily health and strength, and in the possession of my mental powers not materially impaired, I am allowed to extend to you a cordial welcome to the honors and responsibilities of this occasion, and to the hospitalities which we may be able to offer.
During the past year our enterprise has gone steadily forward. The report of the Treasurer will show our funds to be in good condition. Some of our securities have advanced above par and the proceeds of others have been sold by our Treasurer on good and advantageous terms and invested in long loans on bond and mortgage.
Since our last meeting, the College edifice has been inclosed, and the builder has occupied the winter and spring in laying the floors, furring and lathing, and putting in the gas-pipes. The plastering is now proceeding in the hands of a responsible and energetic contractor.
During the year, two of the workmen employed in the building met with a sudden and violent death by accidental falls; but no blame could be attached to any person for the fatal casualties. The Founder appropriated a liberal gratuity to the families of the deceased.
The President returned from Europe in December last, and will lay before you the result of his observations. Some highly favorable opportunities having occurred for the purchase of books for the library, the books were obtained under the authority granted at the meeting of the Board in February, 1862.
Under the advice of the President, when in Rome, last September, the Executive Committee contracted for copies of four pictures from the old masters, to be made by Miss Emma C. Church, an American artist from New York City. Two of these are their way to this country, and a third is probably completed. The high rate of exchange which now prevails has much increased the expense of these pictures; but it is a great satisfaction to know that the first contribution to our Art-Gallery will reflect the very soul of Raphael and others of the world’s acknowledged masters.
For several months past the subject of an astronomical observatory has engaged my attention. It was ascertained that Henry Fritz, the celebrated telescope-maker of New-York, had on hand an object-glass 12 3/8 inches in diameter, which could be bought, cash’ down, for $2000 less than the customary price. Through a third party, the College not being known in the transaction; the bargain was closed, the Treasurer secured the prize, and the glass is now in the safe of the Founder. When mounted, this glass will give us a telescope 12 3/8 inches aperture and 17 feet in length. It is exceeded in size only by the great Equatorial of Cambridge Observatory.
The most important subjects to be acted on at this meeting will be presented for your consideration in the report on the organization of the College. For the two years past, the President has given his earnest attention to the matter; and, for the last six months, his whole time and thoughts have been employed in elaborating and maturing the details. The plan which will be submitted to you has received the sanction of several of the most distinguished educators of our country. The President has conferred freely with the Founder on every feature of the system; and while I can not claim any knowledge and decline all responsibility in relation to matters purely literary and professional, yet, so far as I am capable of judging, the great principles contained in the report met my cordial approval. But I shall leave the final decision of these questions to your superior wisdom.
The correspondence, both of the Founder and the President, this last year, has been very extensive, and evinces universal interest in our enterprise. From the number of applications already received and from the numerous inquiries addressed to us from all the Free States, it is reasonable to conclude that our halls will be thronged with students at the first opening of the College.
With regard to the work done on the College this spring and summer, it has not been as extensive as we expected. The scarcity of hands and high price of materials have greatly retarded its prosecution, (although I would not state this to be the only and exclusive reason,) which, if continued, may prolong the completion of the building beyond the period stipulated in the contract with Mr. Harloe. For these reasons, we do not believe it to be good policy to enter into engagements for furniture or to incur any expenditure whatever, until such time as we can see a prospect of opening the College within a given period. My wishes have been to finish the edifice, inclose and layout the walks and drives, plant the shrubbery and trees, but to incur no further outlay of capital at present.
And now, gentlemen, as you are my chosen associates in carrying forward this great work, I beg you to be frank and free to speak and express your unbiased judgment upon all matters connected with the enterprise, as it is only by a candid and open expression of our several views that we can hope to perfect our plans and remove from the public mind all doubts concerning this new feature or epoch of female education. Therefore I beg leave to repeat the expressions of my confidence in your interest, your wisdom, and your energy, by God’s blessing, to bring it to a happy consummation. I also renew to you the promise of my constant and earnest cooperation as far as my feeble health will permit; and I pledge myself to do all in my power to secure the success of the Institution while I live, and to perpetuate its blessings to my country and to the world for long generations after I have slept with my fathers.
GENTLEMEN: You will allow me, once again, to congratulate you that a kind Providence has spared our lives to assemble at this special adjourned meeting, to discuss the plan of organization for our College. I am truly happy to welcome you as my selected counselors, and beg your attention to some remarks upon the present and future aspects of our enterprise, and to such suggestions as have occurred to my mind.
As this paper, which I hold in my hand, embraces much thought and reflection, and will be the first I have ever addressed to you expressing fully my views and wishes on the several topics connected with the organization, so also it may be my last; and I therefore wish, if sanctioned by you, to have it placed on file in the archives of the Institution, for future reference.
With these brief remarks by way of preamble, I will attempt to read my address, craving your indulgence for fifteen or twenty minutes.
Perhaps, gentlemen, more than to any other, these reflections occur to me because a long and stirring life has developed habits of activity, which, physically, age may repress, but which, mentally, were never more in exercise. As I have now withdrawn from every other occupation my activities centre here to such an extent, that scarcely an hour occurs which does not bring with it reflections respecting the best mode of accomplishing this one great object which has become the nearest to my heart. Three years I have devoted to this cause alone-years full of information, discussion, and suggestion, from almost every source and every variety of experience and mind.
It is thus that my own education upon this special subject, in all its phases and relations, developed by such opportunities as offered, by reading and reflection, has given me a better confidence in my own convictions even upon matters not previously familiar to my thoughts; and yet it is due to truth to say that my great interest on the subject of female education was awakened not less than twenty years ago by an intimate female friend and relative, now deceased, who conducted a seminary of long standing and character in this city. That close intimacy and interest continued many years, until just before the institution passed into the hands of our President. It was this fact, more than any other, and more than all others, that awakened me early to the possibility and necessity of an institution like the one we now propose. This tendency of my mind is therefore of ancient date, and has gradually gained confidence and strength from my various associations, until it has finally caused me to devote to such an institution my property to a large extent; and it now occupies all my thoughts. Its complete expression is yet to be effected by your united aid.
Gentlemen, by the wise, constant, and careful aid of our Executive Committee, the College edifice and some of its appendages have gradually progressed, until we hope, if nothing unforeseen occurs, that it may be completed by the time limited in the contract, and without any serious loss or difficulty. Our funds have been wisely administered and protected; and my own efforts and your interest in these directions could not have been more ably, cautiously, and unanimously seconded, than they have been by these gentlemen. Up to this point there has been nothing wanted from that source that could have been properly expected or desired.
I take peculiar pleasure in thus publicly expressing my thanks for the aid I have derived from the Executive Committee, and my strong desire for and reliance upon a continuance upon the same wise counsel and assistance for the future.
We are far advanced in the exterior structure of the Astronomical Observatory, and have contracted, mainly, for its complete equipment under the valuable assistance and advice of Professor Farrar.
We have contracted for a Gate Lodge, which we hope to see finished by the coming midsummer.
We have excavated the road-ways, to some extent, and have adopted plans for completing, laying out, and planting the grounds. Their final completion must occasion much expense and occupy much time.
We have contracted for the cases of the Cabinet of Geology and Mineralogy. We have discussed and have obtained much valuable practical information upon the subject of heating and lighting the College: buildings. We have not altered our early design of introducing both from a building to be constructed specially for that purpose in the rear of the main edifice: and yet these subjects, especially that of heating, are undergoing such rapid changes as to require the greatest caution, if we hope to secure the best and simplest, most efficient and economical plan. We have secured plans and estimates for that purpose; but the work, thus tar, has not been commenced. For further information, I would beg to refer you to our Architect, Mr. Renwick.
The road-making, the walks, the planting, the farm buildings and sheds, and a heavy amount of grading, and boundary fences, as well as many details in various departments, remain to occupy our time and draw upon our funds.
The Library, the Art-Gallery, the Museum, and the Gymnasium are yet unprovided to any considerable extent. We have furnished to Professor R. A. Fisher, who is now in Europe, upon the recommendation of the appropriate Committee, five hundred dollars for the purchase of such apparatus and chemicals as’ could not be found so well in this country. We were led to believe that, notwithstanding the high rate of exchange, an exceptional appropriation of this kind might and should be made.
The furnishing and equipping of the whole interior of the College building has yet to be effected, and will inevitably cause startling inroads upon our treasury. A report will be presented to you upon this very important subject, in detail, from facts collected by your Treasurer and Secretary, and reexamined by the Executive Committee, who have given it an elaborate study.
Allusion has been heretofore made In respect to the purchase by Professor Jewett, with my assent, while he was in Rome, of certain copies of celebrated pictures made by Miss Church, an American artist. Two of these pictures have arrived, and cost about one thousand dollars, and may be seen at my residence. The other copy, at a cost of some twelve hundred dollars at Rome is nearly finished, and will be forwarded next month. For this latter, I have assumed the payment; and when it comes to hand, the proper committee can examine it, and take it for the College or not.
The President will submit a schedule of the prices and terms, etc., on a sliding scale, estimated by him to cover the running expenses of the College. The ifs and provisos upon this subject are quite inevitable, the whole scheme being contingent upon circumstances against which there is no possibility of providing. The President will explain to you the details upon which I have been unable to form a satisfactory opinion. It will be very wise, however, to leave a large margin for those possibilities against which no forecast can provide, especially in the opening of an enterprise which braves opposition, and depends upon its securing the public attention and favor without trial and at once. Having thus detailed briefly the existing facts, I proceed with a more general statement of my ideas and desires.
In regard to the cost of furnishing the College throughout, I believe the report, upon that subject, covers it completely in every detail that can be foreseen. It is, however, a matter of the greatest consideration, whether these heavy outlays, exceeding one hundred thousand dollars, should be made in inevitable haste, and at vast extra expense, for the sake of opening the College in the coming fall, notwithstanding my intense desire to see it in full operation before my head is sleeping under the clods of the valley. The various arguments on this point have been all, perhaps, already urged upon me, and are familiar to yon. I am not able, however, to bring myself to a conclusion favorable to our opening in less than a year from the coming spring, and perhaps even six months longer. I do not see my way at all clear to a commencement next fall, excluding from the continuation any but the most meagre Library, Art-Gallery, and Cabinet and Apparatus. If these are all to compare with the cost of the Geological Department, the outlay at present prices must be generous to an extent which must most seriously exhaust our means.
It must all the while be borne in mind that, when the time comes for a change of values, securities will fall less rapidly than articles of merchandise, which, being held for sale, and not as capital to be retained, must go upon the market to maintain credit – and meet obligations at whatever sacrifice. Capital, meanwhile, can and will control itself with more permanence of value, and a slower rate of decline. On what day this event will arrive is, of course, unknown to any of us.
Gentlemen, upon the subject of opening the College, I must be permitted also to remark, that all I hold dear is involved in our success-in a complete and absolute success. My utmost wish has been to survive so grand a result. I would not have a doubt, which human foresight or care can remove, left to cloud it with a possibility. Every arrangement, without and within, should be first perfected, and, so far as possible, subjected to a full preparatory trial, so that no contingency of safety, health, or ease of working might be left unprovided for. This involves, to a very large extent, the element of time. I have never – I do not now – look upon the period of opening as in any sense fixed, or as important at all, in comparison with the certainty of opening without accident or imperfection, and with every accessory in the most exact order.
In this particular, success may be demonstrated and proven, whatever else may abide the ordinary accidents incident to human affairs. Contingencies enough must be encountered, be as careful as we may. So far, therefore, as it is by any means possible, I desire to be entirely assured in advance; and in regard to the expense, which is by no means to be overlooked, every element of change or chance seems in favor of wise delay.
It is, moreover, to be borne in mind, that there is certain to remain, when the building contract is closed, a great variety of details of construction and convenience within the building, to be planned and put in place, which will require time and thought and care. Indeed, it has just now become apparent that the relative positions of some important parts of the domestic apartments must be entirely changed, which will cause them to be remodeled to a great extent. In so large a structure it is impossible to foresee every thing. It is as we leave the larger features and turn to the details that defects force themselves upon the attention.
I have thus alluded to the subject of opening the College, not less in justice to myself, to you, and to the permanent interest of the College itself, than because of its bearing upon the special subject of organization, which we meet especially to discuss this morning. In doing this, I have by no means lost sight of the fact that, however perfect and unexceptionable the structure and its aids and equipments may be, there is yet another vital step upon which, in the end, the final success will turn. A defective organization or method, or a lack of the best ability on the part of any of those who may be called to perform its functions, will cause the whole to fail.
In this respect, gentlemen, I have no partialities for persons or means, save that they must be the very highest and best. I place the very strongest stress upon this point. Let nothing of a personal nature, let no prejudice and no prepossessions, I entreat you, enter here.
This Institution, as an impersonality, is the object of our care. We launch it for a blessing to all time. We have the world from which to choose our instruments. We, each and all of us, as individuals, sink out of sight, in view of the permanence and greatness of this design. Let us forget men, forget prejudice, forget favor, forget every other consideration, while we plant this seed, whose branches shall be for the healing of the nations, and whose growth shall be perpetual. Scrutinize, sift, weigh, gauge every proposition, every plan, every person, frankly, freely, and honestly. We can never afford to do this so well as now. When we shall have once acted, a correction afterward will invite a convulsion. In every instance give the doubt to the College, and in favor of no method and of no man. Be sure that the means and instruments are fully abreast of the magnitude of the endowment, of the idea involved, and of the highest public expectation, and be such that they may all grow and expand together.
Among other things respecting the organization, I call your attention to the subject of the age and requirements requisite to an entrance to the Institution, with the single remark, that both should be fixed at a period so early as to preclude the necessity of causing a scholar to begin her career by unlearning what may have been badly learned elsewhere. Take your pupils from the threshold of study to the summits of knowledge by your own paths, and you secure a higher result with no loss of either money or time. No half-mother can then claim any share in the honors your graduates will wear. I regard this as a great economy to pupil and parent alike, and as securing the advantage of an unbroken systematic training, which is the most valuable element in every educated life.
In respect to the general system of the organization proposed by your President, I heartily approve it. My attention was very much occupied during the summer, and indeed the whole year of 1862, with what is here spoken of as the University System. It was my great advantage to have had near me, and to have corresponded during that period, at very great length, with a gentleman quite familiar with not only the theory, but, to a great extent, with the practice of that system, so that when our President returned from Europe, I was already prepared to advocate and urge its introduction here. While, therefore, I regard this system as by no means a novelty, even in this country, I am not aware of its application to any such numbers of young women as we hope to gather here. However, it is not easy to discover why a system already proven in its applicability to young men, upon a large scale, and to young women only upon a smaller one, is not capable of almost indefinite expansion. For myself, I have no fears as to the success of the main features of this system.
In regard to the details, I see about me too many experienced and educated gentlemen to fear that any minor defects will escape attention or amendment.
If there should be any grave doubts, even in reference to these points, I trust there may be no such haste as will prevent their very deliberate consideration, and calm and intelligent settlement. Let no single point or subject be passed as “well enough,” or as “one that will do.” When the matter is final1y disposed of, I shall not be satisfied with any thing short of the intelligent and personal indorsement of the various members of this Board, every man pledging his individual responsibility to his conviction that it is, at all points, the best that can be devised.
Gentlemen, while I do not anticipate nor desire any action as to any appointments whatever at this meeting, I do wish to lay before you frankly, and as fully as may be, my views upon the general subject of appointments for your future reflection.
It is my hope – it was my early hope and desire – indeed, it has been the main incentive to all I have already done, or may hereafter do, or hope to do, to inaugurate a new era in the history and life of women.
The attempt you are to aid me in making fails whol1y of its point if it be not in advance, and a decided advance. I wish to give one sex al1 the advantages too long monopolized by the other. Ours is, and is to be, an institution for women-not men. In all its labors, positions, rewards, and hopes, the idea is the development and exposition, and the martialing to the front, and the preferment of women, of their powers, on every side, demonstrative of their equality with men. If possible, demonstrative of such capacity as, in certain fixed directions, may surpass those of men. This, I conceive, may be ful1y accomplished within the rational limits of true womanliness, and without the slightest hazard to the natural attractiveness of her character.
We are, indeed, already defeated before we commence, if development be in the least dangerous to the dearest attributes of her class. We are not the less defeated, if it be hazardous for her to avail herself of the highest educated powers when that point is gained. We are defeated, if we start upon the assumption that she has no powers save those she may derive or imitate from the other sex. We are defeated, if we recognize the idea that she may not, with every propriety, contribute to the world the matured faculties which education evokes. We are specially defeated, if we fail to express our practical belief in her preeminent powers as an instructor, of her own sex especially.
Gentlemen, no superior power has given, or will give us, an exclusive patent for originating the ability or genius of woman out of nothing. We must proceed upon the conviction that these are in the world before us. We shall fail to make all coming women what many already are. We can and shall fill up many valleys, elevate many plains, and build higher many natural summits. But we can scarcely hope that every future height shall wear our family crest alone. Go as high as we may, or can hope to do, and genius, which will not call our College mother, will stand al1 the time abreast of us. It is my wish to recognize not only the possibility, but the fact, of that genius and those high abilities at the very outset. Let us prove the certainty of woman’s higher possible future by the best examples from the present. Let us recognize and honor her existing talent ourselves first, before we demand that recognition from the world. In my judgment, it is clearly due to the idea which underlies our entire structure that we do not hesitate here. Let us not add another to the examples of man’s want of generosity, or of halfhearted recognition of the powers of one half of the world. We should be ashamed to do it, at least under the mask of an institution which professed to be her peculiar champion, and which is to be dedicated to her benefit alone.
We can not hope to maintain our belief before the world, when we voluntarily oppose it to our practice. We are to act upon our profession-to illustrate our idea at the very start; and I need not mention that this idea, since the commencement of our enterprise, has unfolded itself immensely. I have therefore no fear, of its failure. Only aid me judiciously in the selection of the best instruments to be found among the highly educated and accomplished women of this country, and let them take the hazard, if there be one. I, at least, have gone too far already to allow me to shrink one instant from sharing, or being intimidated, by that risk. Let woman at least share the most prominent and responsible positions in our gift, and let them be proffered her accordingly, as her unquestioned right, as far as she can fill them equally as well as man.
I spare you time by omitting here the great variety of reflections which have brought me unhesitatingly to this point. These will doubtless occur to you. I verily believe a generous partition between the sexes of all the professorships, is due no less to the idea underlying this enterprise than to woman herself, and the immediate and permanent success of our efforts. Inaugurate woman’s elevation and power, genius and taste, at the same moment you open the door to her sex; for it is vain to educate woman’s powers of thought, and then limit their operation. Give her a present confidence, and not push her back again upon a future hope. I have already staked my means upon my belief in her present practical powers. Let the foremost women of our land be among the most advanced and honored pilots and guardians of coming women, and I cheerfully leave my name to be associated with the result. I do not urge this point from any consideration of an economical nature. We must pay fairly, and even generously, whatsoever instruments we use.
Nine male professors, or even six, at any time, much more at the opening of our doors, will cause a perpetual drain upon our resources, which we may wish we had avoided when too late. Now, at least, it seems to me the dictate of the only enlightened prudence to reduce that number by at least one half, and to concentrate their duties of supervision and lectures, so that all the rest may be left to the natural province of woman as distinctly hers. I have not the slightest fear that those may be found fully equal to one half of the positions. Indeed, we have the testimony of our President that he finds the most distinguished student and copyist in Rome to be an American woman; and we also have his early recognition of the superior attainments of Miss Maria Mitchell. Music, languages, literature, the natural sciences, and hygiene are woman’s native elements, and she has not failed to reach the highest point in astronomy and mathematics.
Against the time when the subject of appointment shall arrive, and even now, while the distribution of duties in the various departments will receive your attention, I shall venture to refresh your memories in regard to the care to be taken in the exclusion of sectarian influences, and to that end, that the appointees, in every grade, shall fairly represent the principal Christian denominations among us. I would rather be remembered as one who earnestly sought to fuse the Christian element of the world into one grand Catholic body-at any rate, as one who has endeavored to remove all barriers, rather’ than recognize or cherish any exclusively.
As the legitimate and practical result of this idea, I would on this point invite to the College Desk, on the days of public worship, alternately the representatives of every Christian church. I am assured that no difficulty need be apprehended in effecting a permanent arrangement of this kind in this city. Let our pupils see and know that beyond every difference there is, after all, but one God, one Gospel; and that the spires of whatsoever church ‘forever point toward one heaven. And upon this point again, without disparagement to any other religious source, permit me to add that the strongest incentives to goodness, and the most valuable religious tendencies, will be found to flow most of all, like an emanation, from the presence of gifted, cultivated Christian women.
It has not escaped my attention, gentlemen, that, after the completion of the College and furnishing in every department, there will remain certain duties of a financial and business character, to be provided for as a permanency. At a future time I shall take pleasure in submitting to you my general views upon this head. This does not seem to be the moment to elaborate that subject, and I therefore pass it for the present.
With these remarks, gentlemen, we turn to the more minute consideration of the plan of organization, which has brought us together this morning. I ask your deliberate counsel-nothing in haste, nothing premature, nothing in doubt, nothing rejected only because it is old-nothing adopted only because it is new.
It is in this institution that we are to launch, your reputation as well as mine is embarked, and I invoke a full expression of every individual opinion. Indeed, our reputations are as nothing in the grand success of this scheme, if we equip and direct it as we must for the most distant future. I am willing to take the fullest responsibility of the positions I have advanced; but not in my own favor nor in favor of any other individual or plan whatever, are your deliberate convictions to be expressed or suppressed. If upon any point I seem to be in advance of any of you, that time will not be lost which may be necessary to bring us all abreast.
Though no one of you can realize the extent of my deep solicitude that I may be spared by my Heavenly Father to see the final and successful achievement of a life already prolonged, I still deliberation and not haste.
GENTLEMEN: It is now some ten months since we last assembled in this room. To me it seems but half that number. Time flies swiftly as age advances and intervening topics engross our minds; and these we have certainly not lacked. Just four years ago tomorrow, we staked out the ground for the foundation of our College, a day which was made singularly memorable by the fall of Fort Sumter. Then, or soon thereafter, hostilities began in open conflicts, which have spread desolation, grief, and sadness throughout our wide domain. But during all these upturnings and exciting agitations, our enterprise has gone steadily along until it has substantially reached its material climax, but not without partial1y sharing in the effects of monetary convulsions incident to a state of war. We have, nevertheless, much cause for gratitude to our Heavenly Father, that, amidst all these calamities, the lives and health of the members of our Board have been spared to this hour.
It would be impossible for me to mention a tithe of the incidents and reflections which have occurred to my mind within this intervening period of four years, or of the unremitting draught made upon my mental and physical energies. But I have availed myself of the opportunity for free consultation and converse with our worthy and able President (Dr. Raymond) and our Executive Committee on the various departments of the enterprise as it progressed, and on the present occasion.
I shall confine my remarks to one or two topics, in respect to which my views may be regarded as somewhat chimerical, being in advance of the public sentiment; but I am confident and strongly persuaded that the longer you reflect the more nearly we shal1 agree.
Among the many points of interest embraced in the plan of organization, one, in relation to which I have frequently conversed with the President, is that of arranging the College terms and vacations so as to maintain a just proportion between the periods (If rest and labor, and at the same time to secure for collegiate uses the largest possible amount of that season which, in our climate, is the most propitious of the year. Without counseling any rash experiment, or a premature departure from existing usages, I beg to propose, as substantially expressing my idea, and to serve as a guide to your reflections, some such division of-time as the following:
Fall term, from 1st September to 1st January………………….4 months.
Spring term, from 1st April to 1st August……………………..4 months.
Total term-time……………………………………………………8 months.
Winter vacation, from 1st January to 1st April………………..3 months.
Summer vacation, from 1st August to 1st September…………1 month.
Total vacation time…………………………………..………….4 months.
It will be seen that this arrangement reduces the amount of term-time, during the year, from ten months to eight months, say about two thirds of the whole, leaving one third to be spent at home or in traveling under parental direction; at the same time, it assigns a somewhat larger proportion than is usual of the summer months to the term of the winter months’ vacation. The College, as you are aware, is already provided with an extensive and admirably effective heating apparatus, amply sufficient for the coldest winter weather, so that it is not from any economical necessity that this change is suggested, but from considerations of health, convenience, and utility, which, I think, will commend themselves to a reflective mind as of no trifling weight.
It is the late fall and winter season which, in our climate, is prolific of colds and the numerous diseases of northern latitudes, which are kindred to or consequent upon them. It will hardly be possible, I apprehend, to conduct the sanitary management of so large a school of young women through our inclement winter months in such a way as to prevent the occurrence of numerous such cases, and the occupation of our infirmary apartments with most undesirable frequency. And the tendency of the public mind would be to ascribe this to something unhealthy in the location, or unwise in the management of the. College. Besides, in carrying out what is not the least important part of our system-the thorough physical training of the students-extensive arrangements are to be made on the grounds for various gymnastic and athletic exercises, healthful recreations and physical accomplishments suitable for young ladies.
I also understand it to be the desire and purpose of our President to introduce into the College course a liberal supply of outdoor instruction, such, for instance, as geological excursions, the study of trees, plants, and flowers in living examples, drawing from nature, etc. Now, all these are suited to the summer; and in the winter season all the extraordinary advantages for them, possessed by the College, would be comparatively lost. To these advantages of the summer term, so intimately related to the health and perfect education of young ladies, may be added a portion of the winter. Those who reside in the rural districts could avail themselves of the long winter evenings assisting in household duties, repairing their own wardrobes, making up new garments, and, meanwhile, reviewing the studies of the preceding term, or preparing for those of the next; and those whose homes are in the cities or large towns, while doing the same, might enjoy the additional benefit of attending the intellectual and social entertainments usual in the winter months. It would not, however, be necessary to insist on the peremptory dismissal of all the pupils during the vacation. Such as had no parents or homes within convenient reach, could be allowed to remain, paying only for their board and for such special instruction as they might privately receive.
The fixing of the due proportion between term-time and vacation, is a matter of no less importance. In the order of nature, the Creator has wisely provided for the rest of man and beast. This is seen in the climatical division of the earth, the succession of seasons, the alternation of day and night. Even the earth itself amidst the untiring activity of those powers by which it generates, repairs, and fosters life, finds in the rolling year its appointed periods of repose -fall and winter contrasting with summer – seed time set over against the harvest, cold alternating with heat, and wet with dry. So in the conduct of our ordinary life, we divide our time from day to day, allotting one third for sleep, one third for labor, and one third to recruit our wasted energies by food and recreation. Is there not an analogy suggested here, in which we may find instruction in determining the proportions of the year to be assigned, first, to absolute vacation; secondly, to study; and third, to those refreshing and invigorating exercises with which even the term-time should be relieved and enlivened? Of this we may be sure, that wherever nature has fixed the limit we gain nothing and lose much by attempting to overleap it. Mind as well as matter is most healthily developed by observing the appointed seasons of growth. The latter we see expand and reach the zenith of its perfection within the natural allotted period. So, also, does the former; and if we attempt to force nature out of her regular channels by whatever means, we only impair her powers and hinder the accomplishment of her beneficent ends. Any overtaxation, mental or physical, defeats itself.
What I wish mainly to enforce is a more careful observance of these great laws, and a larger amount of physical exercises, pleasantly blended with the mental exercises of the College. I have long since seen, as you have, the pernicious effects resulting from the neglect of these precautions, and especially in our seminaries of learning, from stimulating the youthful brain to exhausting and protracted exertion, through long winter evenings, in rooms artificially heated and imperfectly ventilated, and by the light of lamps or gas. It is related of one of the most noted of the female seminaries in New-England, that incalculable injury is being done to the health of the pupils under the plea of thorough discipline, and by ill-ventilated apartments and over-taxation of their brains. Every hour in twenty-four is methodized. There is not a moment unoccupied, and the injury done is fearful. For proof of this, I refer you to the Transactions of the New-York State Medical Society’s Report for 1864.
I may add that winter sessions are preferred in this, and in the generality of seminaries, on the ground that the season is most favorable to this high-pressure system of severe study and thorough discipline. Let us look on the pale faces and fragile forms of our not over-educated, but unwisely-educated young countrywomen, and try to correct the system.
I close as I began, by disclaiming any purpose of urging the Board to any premature action, or insisting on any particular scheme of division for the College year. It is general principles to which I attach importance, and the momentous interest of health and true womanly education involved therein. To these, gentlemen, I do earnestly solicit your attention, and ask a prompt and courageous action in that direction which your mature judgment shall approve.
And now, gentlemen, in closing this address, allow me to recall to your minds the expression which I made, on a former occasion of my opinion and wishes concerning the character of the instruction to be given in the College, and concerning those upon whom the responsibility of imparting it should be devolved. My views have undergone no change.
It is my wish now, as it was in the beginning of our enterprise -nay, many years before- to build an institution for the culture of women of the highest character – an institution where women may be instructed in all the branches of literature and science suited to the sphere assigned them in social, moral, and religious life, and for preparation for the successful pursuit of every vocation wherein they can be made useful for their own maintenance, and for the good of society and the race-an institution, too, where, in due time, women shall be the teachers and educators of women.
I am pleased to observe that, since the inauguration of our enterprise in 1861, great changes have taken place in the public mind regarding what may be appropriately considered the sphere of woman. From two of our Female Medical Colleges alone, that at Boston and that at Philadelphia, between twenty-five and thirty ladies have received the full degree of M.D.; and many evidences are recorded of the rapid diminution of unworthy prejudice ‘which, for a while, denied professional recognition to female practitioners, however learned and skillful, and threw ungenerous obstacles in the way of their success. Among these evidences may be noted the fact, that the venerable Medical Society of Philadelphia that most professional, proud, and orthodox of cities-now permits its members to hold consultations with women physicians; a recognition which at first it sturdily refused. This is a long stride in the right direction, and I mention it merely as among many interesting facts which mark the drift in the current of the public mind. It is to me a matter of great encouragement. We have only to go steadily forward in the path we have begun to tread, and by a wise and liberal policy to give respectability to an idea which has already taken a strong hold on the conscience and heart of the community, and we may be certain, under God, of success. In dealing justly and generously by our sisters and daughters we may, with confidence, expect the favoring smile of our common ‘Father, and in the surest possible way confer incalculable benefit on the whole family of man.
And now, gentlemen, I have only one more thought to mention, and I shall merely mention it, leaving the consideration of the propriety of it to the decision of your body. I refer to the change of the name of your College from “Vassar Female College” to “Vassar College,” leaving out the word” Female.” Your President knows my views on the subject, and is intimate with the long discussion for the past two years in some correspondence on that matter. I beg therefore, for further particulars, to refer you to him and other gentlemen of the Board.
For matters referring to the College finances, I refer you to the Treasurer’s Report, etc., and to our Secretary, Mr. Swan.
GENTLEMEN: “We are assembled, as a Board of Trustees, for the last time before the completion of our preliminary arrangements for the opening of the College, and for the reception of those who are to enjoy its benefits.
It is fitting that we pause to recognize the favoring Providence which has conducted our enterprise safely and successfully through the preparatory stages, and shed the benignant light of promise upon the future. It is not given to mail to foresee the perils and perplexities through which his best laid plans must advance to their completion. A loving wisdom veils from our view the roughness and the dangers of the way, while it holds out, in clear relief, its glorious ends, which ever invite us on.
Had we anticipated, four years ago, when first we set our hands to the work, the stormy period of war that was before us and the immense augmentation of our difficulties consequent thereupon had we been able then to count the losses, the failures, the disappointments, the perilous crises, and the “hair-breadth escapes” on which we now look back, it may well be doubted whether we should have summoned courage to face the ordeal and embark upon this tossing sea. But all these trying experiences are now in the past. We may fairly number them among our victories achieved; and though in some respects our anticipations may not have been fully realized, in others, perhaps, they have been as much surpassed, and in the whole actual results, as they stand before us so full of present beauty and so fraught with prospective benefits, we may surely find occasion to thank God and take courage.
The last and finishing stroke will soon be put to our noble structure, the largest in the world and best appointed for the purposes to which it is consecrated, and whose fair proportions and graceful architectural lines have won universal admiration. The orders have been given out for the various fixtures and appliances, both domestic and educational, required to furnish its interior, and these, we hope, will be in place and ready for use by the time appointed. The park has been laid out and graded, seeded and planted with requisite shrubbery, shade-trees, and evergreens. The principal drives and foot-paths have been carefully studied and properly prepared.
The farm-grounds have been fittingly arranged and put under cultivation; and a vegetable-garden of several acres, eight of which have been laid out and planted with all varieties of small summer fruits, under the direction of an experienced workman. These already smile with the promise of a generous supply of esculents for the College family in the first months of its existence.
For myself personally, I feel especial cause for thankfulness in the fact that, contrary perhaps to reasonable expectation, my life and health have been spared, not merely to watch the progress of the work, but to participate in it, constantly and actively, from the beginning to the end, besides conveying the hundreds of distinguished visitors to the grounds without any expense to the College. As Chairman of the Executive Committee, I have taken a deep and lively interest in all the details, and have spared no pains to insure the most favorable conditions to every contractor, by watching with daily and sedulous care the manner in which every part of the work has been performed. As no one more than myself has borne the burden of solicitude, and performed the labor of daily and nightly thought incident to such a task, no one more than myself has a right to rejoice as this stage of the enterprise approaches completion.
I have, from the beginning, looked forward to this period, as the time when I might fairly claim to be relieved from the responsibility of superintending these details. My long experience in business life had perhaps given me some peculiar qualifications for the discharge of this duty, so long as it pertained to the collection and disposition of the materialities of the College. But now that the questions to be considered will relate, in a large degree, to its interior and educational life, I feel that there is a special fitness in calling to this service gentlemen who can add to general business capacity and an interest in the cause a more intimate acquaintance with institutions of learning and more experience in their management. Such gentlemen, fortunately, we have in our Board; and a sufficient number of them, I am happy to know, stand ready to accept the trust. If I am so happy as to be sustained by your concurrence in this view, (which I do not doubt,) I retire with perfect satisfaction from my post, and, during what remains to me of a life now surely drawing near its close, I shall look with assured confidence, by the divine blessing, for the steady development and final success of this the dearest object of my hopes. I retire, gentlemen, from my office and trust; thanking you kindly for your generous counsels and support hitherto. Wishing you all health and happiness in the future, I tender you my resignation of the position I have held on your Executive and Library Committees.
GENTLEMEN: There is a subject to which I have already alluded, and which, if not very important in your view, is quite so to mine, and which I am anxious to bring before you at this meeting of the Board, which, in view of my health, I think may probably be the last I shall be able to attend. I refer to the title of our College.
Its name, “Vassar Female College,” as you know, was given by our first President (Mr. Jewett) with, I admit, my full concurrence; for I had not then examined the subject, nor, I am convinced, had he. He had been at the head of a “Female Seminary,” and merely continued the title in “ Vassar Female College.” In 1864, however, Mr. Jewett wrote his report on organization. In that he had no running title, and he was very chary in the use of the term. “Vassar Female College” occurs but six times in the text, while “Vassar College” occurs thirteen times, showing that his former view was changed. You will probably remember, also, that in our first meeting, (February, 1861,) I stated to you that my object was to erect and endow a College for the education of young women. It is worthy of note that all places of learning mentioned in Mr. Jewett’s first circulars for the daughters of America, have the name” Female” set in their titles, but we can not find a single school or seminary bearing the title of “Female” in the old world, as reported by him. There is the “Merchants’ Maiden Hospital and School for Girls,” “The Scottish Institution for Young Ladies,” “The Ladies of the Assumption,” (a Conventual Seminary,) “City of London College for Young Ladies,” “Queen’s College for Ladies,” and various others.
This is important, proving as it does that our use of the term female is erroneous, and should be abandoned. Bear with me while I strive to show you my reasons for these views.
Woman is the root of humanity. – Whatever degrades her, lessens her moral influence and power for good. This degrades the race; and now I maintain that, to use the term” female,” which applies to all animals and living creatures that bear young, as the name and synonym for woman, because she also bears young, degrades her, and corrupts the speech we use. To call woman “female,” except in the one case of abstract terms, as in numbering the people where the masculine and feminine of all ages are included, is to her loss, injury, and shame. It is vulgar, because – it uses the lowest term, which is always imperfect; it is wrong, because it inflicts on her a title which she did not choose; it is vicious, because it signifies only sexual and sensuous qualities in woman. It violates good sense, that always selects the best terms; and good breeding, that always seeks to avoid unpleasant words. This term is also unscriptural and ungrammatical. The word“female” used for woman-the animal adjective of distinction for sex only-has been dragged into our Anglo-Saxon language, and has, unfortunately, gained considerable currency in its use, thus degrading the idea of feminine humanity to the level of the brute creation. Feminine is the true adjective for woman. “Female” does not certainly mean woman, unless placed in contradistinction to man or male. Truth is always definite – errors confuse. Truth dignifies – error degrades. The real meaning of a “Female College” is not definite, because it means all feminine humanity. Aged women,’ little girls, and married women are females; but these are not included in the class of young women for whose benefit Vassar College was established. We have in this matter high legal authority on our side, which says: “The term Woman is the only one that distinctly expresses the being who is the mother of our race; the term female does not, without the other explanation, morally or intellectually express that being.” It appears to me to be an affectation in the use of language, and to indicate an absence of a true conception of the dignity of the subject. This is no trifling matter. I certainly urge upon the members of this Board to look at the question seriously. This College is now in its infancy; it rests with you to make it what you will, an honor and a glory to America, or to foster and perpetuate an error which has more in it than the mere changing or retaining a name – an error which must have a moral effect upon every girl who is educated within these walls. Is it nothing to her whether she bears the holy name of woman, the name which our blessed Savior ever accorded to her-rather, we might say, selected for her in his own form of address-or whether she is to be merely known as a female, and ranked among other females of every species of the animal creation? It does seem to me that one can look at the title of our College calmly and without prejudice, and not feel that it contains a word too much; a word which we are constantly tempted to drop, and which our young pupils invariably do in every instance when they can, not only because it is too long, but that there is an innate feeling, whether acknowledged or not, that it mars the meaning of the title, because it does not fully describe the class of persons for whom the College was or is intended.
My friends, I wish you to look at this matter, and I beg of you to agree, at this meeting, to change the title of the College to “Vassar” College, or Lady or Woman’s College, so that it may be presented to the next legislature at the early part of the session, and thus make “ Vassar College” in name, as we hope to make it in fact, the blessed means of raising woman to her true position physically, intellectually, and morally.
RESPECTED FRIENDS: The second collegiate year of our institution has passed, with all its attending and varied circumstances, among which are some worthy of our special and devout consideration and of gratitude to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, for his great goodness and protection over us, from our first business organization in 1860. No serious sickness or a death, to my knowledge, has occurred in our large circle during the past two years, nor any changes in the official membership or other matters save in the legal title of the College. By an act of the Legislature last winter, the middle word, “Female,” was stricken out. Our institution is now and will henceforth be known and distinguished as the
We are indebted chiefly to Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, of Philadelphia, for the suggestion of this change of title. I would now advise that the middle marble slab on the front of the College, containing the word “Female,” be removed and the place filled with brick.
Since our last annual meeting, new additions and improvements have been made on the college grounds. A building for a riding-school and gymnasium has been erected, and is admitted by good judges to be the best fitted and best arranged establishment of the kind in this country. Its length is 156 feet, its width 130 feet, its roof is covered with double X tin and slate, and its walls are of brick with blue-stone trimmings. It contains a music-hall 30 by 52 feet, a gymnasium-hall 81 by 30 feet, a bowling-alley 82 by 30 feet, and apartments for the accommodation of several families; also carpenter and joiner’s shops, stalls for stabling 20 to 25 horses, and closets, etc., etc.
Baron Von Seldeneck has charge of the riding-school department, and Miss E. M. Powell, a lady of distinguished merit, of gymnastic exercises, who, by a letter I hold in my hand, which I will read directly, recommends to your consideration some improvements or arrangements in the apparatus of the rooms.
Among other physical exercises claiming consideration, dancing has been presented to our Executive Committee for their consideration, and been urged by many citizens. The attention in the Christian community has been awakened by recent writings pro and con on these questions. The latest is an “Essay delivered at the International Convention of the Young Men’s Christian Associations,” held in Albany last June, by the Rev. Marvin R. Vincent, pastor of the First Presbyterian. Church of Troy, and a reply thereto by the Rev. E. K. Keys, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Poughkeepsie, on the “Incompatibility of Amusements with Christian Life.” Both are ably written papers. I present copies of them for your examination. Years ago I made up my judgment on these great questions in the religious point of view, and came to a decision favorable to amusements. I never practiced public dancing in my life, and yet in view of its being a healthful and graceful exercise, I heartily approved of it, and now recommend its being taught in the College to all pupils whose parents or guardians desire it. The gross cost of the gymnasium building, with its appurtenances, is some $46,000. Notwithstanding this large expenditure, its income from pupils engaged in these physical exercises will more than pay the interest on its cost.
I would now recommend some additional finish to the central front of the main college edifice, to break the long plain sweep of the heavy cornice. Also the putting up lightning-rods and the erection of a few sheds for protection of coal from storms. I would also advise the construction of a dam for a pond at the junction of the streams of Casper’s Kill and the waters of “Millcove Brook,” so graphically described by Mr. Lossing in his history of “Vassar College and its Founder,” for the purpose of erecting bathing-houses, and the planting of willow shade-trees to screen the building from public view.
The first year of our college workings was rather experimental, and in common with all new schemes and enterprises were partially indefinite. Subsequent experience has fully demonstrated that, in the main, we were right; and now that all doubts of its future working with success have been removed, our bark may once more venture in confidence upon the educational sea on which we have been voyaging. With regard to the interior official management of the College, it is not my special province or duty to speak. These matters will be laid before you by the proper: heads of the several departments. Such as pertain to the exterior management perhaps it would be well to consider and examine more in detail. First, considerable expenditure has occurred and must continue to occur in this branch of the college management; but whether there is not room for retrenchment and yet progressive improvements, is for you, gentlemen, to consider and direct. I make these suggestions in order that some permanent system of operations may be adopted to guide our Superintendent. I fear the interest of the College has suffered for want of system. It is for you, gentlemen, to appoint a committee to determine on a plan of improvement, and place it in the hands of our agent to work it out; and I would suggest whether it would not be wise for that agent to live in the College, in order that he might have a constant eye and supervision over its internal and external affairs, which properly pertain to his duties. The lack of his personal presence can not be fully estimated. As the old proverb is true, “that the eye of the master is worth two of his servants,” much would be saved, as it often happens that wrongdoings by unskillful operatives make it necessary for work to be done over again. Our Chairman, with his large and long experience, will concur with me.
It has been suggested by the Chairman of the Executive Committee (Doctor Bishop) that an enlargement be made to the dining-hall by adding to it the rear hall at the east end of the dining-room. Also, that some additional lodging-rooms for fifty more pupils be prepared, taking the rooms now occupied by the servants, and to finish off part of the basement for the lodging-rooms of the latter. But I must question the policy of these suggestions, especially as cheaper and better accommodations can be obtained by the erection of a building fifteen or twenty feet from the rear of the College, connected by a covered passage, a draught’ or sketch of which I expected Mr. Wood, the architect, to have furnished me to accompany these suggestions. Such a building would contain twenty to thirty sleeping-rooms for our domestics, and thus they would be always near their work and retired from the College proper. By this arrangement we could then accommodate fifty more pupils, and then raise our terms of tuition, etc., etc., to $500 a year. The more I reflect on this subject, the more lam satisfied of its policy-that is, to do things better than the best, if possible, and charge accordingly; at least, I made my money by this rule. Almost the whole community are expecting an advance of our terms next fall. This would enable us to take some beneficiary students. A number of visitors this past year have asked whether we were not intending to raise our terms. They are below the average prices of other seminaries of learning in this city, and much below those in the city of New-York and elsewhere.
As physical health is more or less indebted to physical resolution and vigor, I recommend progression in this department by the erection of a few simple swings on cross frame-works located on the lawns. While we are expending so liberally for the mind, I would urge that some useful additional arrangements should be made for the well-being of the body. I would, therefore, suggest the erection of a building for special training in the knowledge of the culinary art, where pupils, with the consent of their parents or guardians, may be instructed how to make a pudding, boil an egg, cook a potato, prepare a dinner, and, in fine, arrange in a proper manner the affairs of a household. Simple as these suggestions may appear, they are the fruits of long thought and reflection. There is nothing more needed than order and fitness of things in domestic economy; for without such provisions all is discord and confusion, like Hogarth’s burlesque perspectives.
I would now call your attention to the suggestion and recommendation of the Executive Committee, that a full history of our College and its Founder ought to be written. This has, through my instrumentality and expense, been done, and handsomely done, by your associate trustee, Benson J. Lossing, Esq., at a cost of some $8000 for 2000 copies, or $4 per copy, and I now present each of you, gentlemen, with a copy, with the compliments of the Founder. The importance of this history can only be appreciated by the magnitude, character, and duration of your institution. Without it, posterity might seek in vain for its early history after our bodies lie crumbling in the grave.
In connection with the same idea, a statue of the Founder has been suggested. The delicacy of the subject admonishes me to keep silence, and I would not now bring it to your notice but to redeem my promise to a young lady artist of our city, who has already executed an exceedingly fine bust of myself in marble, and now proposes to construct a model in clay for a bronze statue, seven feet high, at her own cost and risk, for which, if it is not approved by a committee of your own selection, no charge will be made; if approved, the terms to be settled between them and her. But, as intimated above, the delicacy of the subject forbids my urging it upon your consideration. Still, should you decide favorably, the Founder will advance the means to pay for the same and its erection. This artist’s name is Mrs. Laura S. Hofmann. It is contemplated to erect the statue within the circle’ fronting the main entrance of the College. I had the promise from Mr. Wood, on Saturday of last week, of a rough drawing, in this connection, of a proposed front colonnade, or what the French call porte-cochere, but in this I was disappointed. The colonnade would be both an ornament and a comfort to visitors in stormy or hot weather.
While making these improvements, I would ad vise the painting of the farm-buildings, mill, and dwelling-house; whitewashing the ice-house; also putting up lightning-rods on them, and on the gymnasium and riding-school buildings, and the erection of a few sheds for the college fuel. Also the bridging of the upper end of the lake or mill-pond, by a light, suspension, wire footpath, crossing directly in range with the eastern boundary line of our grounds, and opposite the Gate Lodge, coming out at “Wheeler” farm-house on plank-road. This would save, in a walk to the city, a quarter of a mile.
Since our last annual meeting we have had evidence, in this and other countries, of the popularity of this institution. Letters from distinguished individuals in science, literature, and art have been received, bearing favorable testimony; and I would here call your attention to one, an amateur ornithologist living in this vicinity, a comparative stranger to most of the Board, who has, out of his beneficent heart, donated to the institution a collection of birds, etc., with all the glass cases, of not less value than $5000. That gentleman’s name is J. P. Giraud, Jr., and I recommend the Board to pass suitable resolutions of thanks, and place them in his hands and on the records of the institution. Referring again to the financial affairs of our College, I recommend the setting apart of a fund for the express purpose of paying the contingent expenses of repairs to the College buildings and grounds, the interest of which fund only to be used. And in closing these remarks I would here say, that I do not expect all the suggestions herein made to be literally executed at once, but by degrees, as circumstances may from time to time warrant; yet I do hope the net income of the College may be such as to justify their being done soon. Even then my purposes and plans will not all be completed. Progress is my watchword.
Referring again to the office department of our College, I would recommend the appointment of a sub-clerk as an assistant to our Treasurer, who feels his duties to be too arduous and confining, and I will name for that position our book-keeper, Mr. Schou. Long experience has taught me, in business pursuits, always to have more than one string to your bow, which is economy in the long run.
Our Treasurer (M. Vassar, Jr.) will lay before you a report on the financial condition of the College, its prospects, etc. Our Secretary and Superintendent (Mr. Swan) will inform you, in his statement, of the general condition of the material outside matters of the College. The figures are embraced in the accounts, which are kept by our Clerk and his assistants in the most satisfactory manner.
I close my suggestions and statements with a request that this paper be filed with my former ones in the archives of the College. I only add that I would recommend that our Annual Meetings hereafter be held in Commencement-week.
Now, gentlemen, having given you a brief statement of the generalities of the outside matters of our College, I wish I could close my remarks here; but some Occurrences have transpired within the past year among your faculty which I deeply regret, and would not now allude to them, had they not been forced upon my consideration. I allude to the resignation of Professor Knapp, an event as sudden as it was unexpected; and perhaps just one of those cases incident to college experience, which are not easily prevented or provided for. It seems that some disagreement has occurred between Professor Knapp, the President, and Lady Principal, as to the extent of their respective official prerogatives, which has been the occasion of some misunderstanding, and, consequently, unpleasant feelings. While Professor Knapp has discharged his duty with remarkable ability, zeal, and industry, securing the favor and love of all his classes, there seems to have been some element of discord which has cramped and retarded his efforts. Of this he complains; and he has, in consequence, tendered his resignation to your Executive Committee. This, gentlemen, is a delicate and difficult subject to be dealt with; but is one which must be met with discretion and promptness, as the remedy now applied will be a precedent for the guidance of us and our successors in all after time. I hope the Board will give it all the consideration which the subject demands after obtaining from the parties all the facts in the case, and do all in your power to remove the causes for his resignation, and retain him if possible.
One word more before I close this address. I have to request of this Board of Trustees, that they respectively furnish the College, at their own expense, a half-length portrait of themselves, which I shall regard as a compliment to me, and respond to it by a written note, and have them hung up in the Gallery of Fine Arts in the College, that future generations may know who were the dignified friends I called to my assistance when I commenced this great educational work for WOMAN.
TO THE HONORABLE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF “VASSAR COLLEGE,” ASSEMBLED AT THE INSTITUTION JUNE 23, 1868.
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: Some three years have now elapsed since the first opening of our College for the admission of pupils, the workings, doings, and fruits of which it is unnecessary for me to particularize, as the reports of our President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Registrar will be submitted you for examination, and afford you all the necessary information, especially that of the Treasurer, from which you will learn the condition of our funds, and then be able to decide upon future expenditures. I will therefore confine my remarks chiefly to two topics, namely, the running yearly expenses of the College, and its receipts and incomes, and ask your patient indulgence and attention for the purpose of understanding our true financial condition, and ascertaining whether the College, as a whole, is sustaining itself, or in other words, paying its way; and if not, what are the remedies, and what changes can be made to increase its income. For it seems necessary that unless the College can command an increased business patronage, and at advanced prices for tuition, or the running expenses reduced, a further loan on our property must inevitably occur. The present indebtedness is some $ 25,000, say $75,000 by bond and mortgage and about $35,000 balance of floating debt. Yet, considering the times through which we have passed, and the inexperience in female educational enterprises, that debt is not very extraordinary or alarming, being only about one fifth of the valuation of our property. But the day will soon come when new outlays will be needed for furniture and repairs, etc.; and therefore, one of two things must happen, either a reduction of our out-goes or an increase of our incomes, as it is self evident that the College, as a whole, is not, thus far, self-sustaining. It is now left to your judgment and discretion to apply the remedies.
From past experience and observation, it is very certain that an institution like Vassar College cannot be long successfully conducted on the principle of pure voluntary services, however ably and liberally conferred in the beginning. Experience has proved that continued monotony renders these services in time inconvenient and often irksome, resulting in the non-attendance at the meetings of the Board, and, as a consequence, a want of information of its internal workings. I would therefore recommend the appointment of a middle-man-a paid officer, in or out of the official members of the College, whose special duty it should be to fill up such business delinquencies and deficiencies, and to superintend all other business matters which the official committees can not or do not discharge, subject, of course, to their instruction. His duty should also be to attend to all matters of a literary character, namely to invite public lecturers, report their addresses, or so much of them as the Executive Committee might approve and direct to be published in such journals of the day as they may select. Also to invite the different clergymen of Poughkeepsie to preach in the College Chapel, with permission to publish such discourses or portions thereof, and to pay, if necessary, a reasonable compensation for such sermons or addresses as may be calculated to promote the interest and reputation of the College. Some such general officer might also be appointed the Librarian, and attend to all matters not delegated to other officials, and to be known as the Reporter of the College.
I would next in order call your attention to the Astronomical Department, and ask whether that is self-sustaining, or doing the amount of work at first anticipated; if not, how it can be invigorated and made more useful; and whether the present incumbent (Miss Mitchell) could not aid in other departments of instruction without inconvenience. If not, I am nevertheless persuaded that her services had better be retained. Her reputation as an astronomer alone is worth to our College all you pay her and her father. Besides, the College has already had some large draughts on its literary capital, and any further disbursements in that line may materially affect its interest, as we have no surplus intellectual popularity to spare. Besides, it is worthy of consideration whether the application of the words would not apply to us, “He that is not for us is against us.” I would also remark that whereas our Treasurer has often intimated his wish to be relieved from a part, at least, of so close attention to the labors of his office, now gratuitously bestowed, the Executive Committee, considering the reasonableness of his request, immediately provided for his relief by the appointment of a treasurer pro tem – John N. Schou – as his assistant. And now I do hope that he will reconsider his determination to resign, especially in view of his uncle the Founder’s advanced age and physical inability to render any material aid to our institution.
I would further call your attention to the consideration and policy of taking pupils applying for admission to the College from the city and vicinity of Poughkeepsie, living with their parents or boarding with their friends, to be taken from the College and returned to their respective homes daily by the college conveyance. I would once more refer you to the subject to which I have heretofore alluded, namely, the erection of a low glass structure for a hot-bed or house, east of and midway of the main college building, for the purpose of the culture of exotic and other plants, and the finest specimens of florals, for the purpose of instruction to such of the pupils requiring the same in the study of botany. A simple glass structure, ordinarily termed a bot-bed, could be erected at comparatively small expense, and kept at a proper temperature by the waste heat of the tunnel leading from the steam and gas-houses to the College, which, I am authorized to say, can be leased to responsible parties at ten per cent on its cost. The young ladies of the College are expending much money and time going to and from the College, to procure from gardeners and florists these decorative and instructive specimens in the floral kingdom, costing, at least, $1500 a year.’ I would therefore recommend the erection, during the present summer, of this hot-house.
While speaking on the subject of improvements, we are reminded of the gratifying evidence of a benevolent interest being manifested in our Cabinets of Natural History, especially in that of Ornithology. The room set apart to receive the gifts by our friend and benefactor, Mr. Giraud, is already crowded, while his liberality seems unabated; therefore it would be well to take into early consideration how, and in what manner, other apartments for Cabinets of Zoology and Ornithology may be constructed. And here I would suggest that, instead of erecting a separate building for them, whether it would not be better to take one wing of the College for this purpose; now occupied by the professors, and make or convert their apartments into cabinet-halls, lecture-rooms, etc., and build two independent professors houses on the new college avenue proposed to be opened, opposite the Gate-Lodge. I accompany these suggestions with a draught of such avenue and a sketch of the cottages, which you will please examine.
Although I may be somewhat deviating from my purpose suggested at the opening of these remarks, I will nevertheless briefly call your attention to one more subject which I regard quite important, and which has occasioned me much thought and anxiety. You remember, gentlemen, that at the commencement of the College enterprise I addressed to you several reasons why I located and selected its site so distant from the city; and one of the reasons I mentioned at the time was, for its retirement and quietude. But this quietude is now likely to be disturbed, unless some action is taken by you soon to prevent it. I refer to the continuation of the new avenue, now in process of opening by other parties through the north side of the college grounds, west of the Filkins road, and which avenue is far advanced, and the parties are only waiting the legal sanction of the Town Commissioners to continue it in a straight line eastward, crossing the Filkins road aforesaid, with the ultimate intention of running it to Manchester. This project would cut off a portion of our lands, and particularly the high hill or rock bluff, where I purposed making other improvements for the use of the College. Should their road be laid through on the south side of the hill, or rocky bluff, it would defeat this object. However, gentlemen, this is a matter for your consideration, and I leave it in your hands.
I renew, gentlemen, my wishes heretofore intimated and expressed, about the erection of a building upon some convenient part of the college grounds for the purpose of instructing pupils attending College, whose parents or their guardians desire and approve of the same, in a thorough knowledge of domestic economy, and that provisions be made in the edifice, with all the modern apparatus, for the full instruction of that science, so that the pupils may not only be prepared theoretically, but practically, and thus be qualified to guard against imposition so often practiced upon novice housekeepers by servants in their employ, I consider, gentlemen, this knowledge one of the most important for our pupils to possess, and its usefulness will be so verified and regarded in due time. I therefore repeat my earnest wishes, that a suitable structure may be erected, or other arrangements made, as part of the curriculum of the College for such of the pupils whose parents may desire it.
There is one more topic to which I desire to call your attention, and upon which I would offer a few suggestions. That is, to establish a regular system of education for women, peculiarly adapted to the fitness or wants of woman’s life, similar to those in the universities for young men. I would suggest the appointment of a committee of ladies, whose duty it should be to organize and define the course of education for women. I have thought the suggestion might be best acted upon by inviting experienced, well-known lady educators, outside of the College, to cooperate with the experience which our Faculty must have attained by this time, and thus establish a regular course for the future, which would be known as having emanated from Vassar College. I do but repeat my wishes, expressed in 1865, that this may be truly a Woman’s College. But, gentlemen, I do not pretend to understand much about education, and I only offer these brief remarks as suggestions for your more careful consideration, and hope you will give them such attention as you may think the subject demands for your future, but not present, action; for it is quite certain, that if we only follow on in the old beaten paths, we will make no progress, We do no more than others have done before us, we are only copyists, and not progressionists. My motto is progress.
Lastly, gentlemen, I would suggest for your early consideration the expediency of establishing a more frequent and regular communication to and from the College than at present exists, and with lighter carriages, similar to those running on the Hyde Park road, and to be entirely under your own control. Such an arrangement can be economically made with Baron Von Seldeneck, he having horses and some light conveyances, stabling, etc., already, and would be a great convenience and saving to all visiting or going to the College. The Baron – will report to you more particularly about details, etc.
And now, gentlemen, in closing these remarks, I would humbly and solemnly implore the Divine Goodness to continue his smiles and favor on your institution, and bestow upon all hearts connected therewith his love and blessings, having peculiarly protected us by his providence through all our college trials for three consecutive years, without a single death in our Board or serious illness or death of one of our pupils within its walls. Wishing you, gentlemen, a continuance of health and happiness, I bid you a cordial and final farewell, thanking you kindly for your official attentions and services, not expecting, from my advanced years and increasing infirmities, to meet with you officially again, and imploring the Divine Goodness to guide and direct you aright in all your counsels and social business relations,
Yours truly, etc., etc.,