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Vassar Encyclopedia

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

Athletics, 1865–1945

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

Athletics, 1945–Present

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

Field Day

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

Posture and Photographs

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


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


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

Touch Football

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