In May of 1873 at the request of the United States Commissioner of Education, Vassar’s president, John Howard Raymond, submitted a report on the college’s first seven years. Commissioner Eaton wanted to present this early account of Vassar’s experiment in women’s education to the World Exposition in Vienna, to be held later that year. Raymond published his report as “A College for Women, in Poughkeepsie, N. Y.”
The small book more than lives up to its large subtitle, “A Sketch of Its Foundation, Aims, and Resources, and of the Development of Its Scheme of Instruction to the Present Time,” presenting an immediate account of the plans, obstacles, and accomplishments of the earliest years of the college, along with pointed challenges to those who opposed women’s education, those who would confuse the college’s aims with coeducation and those who should now give public and private support for the college.
To THE Honorable John Eaton,
U. S. Commissioner of Education:
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your request that I would furnish, for transmission to the International Exposition at Vienna, in connection with other documents relating to our American systems of popular and higher education, a statement of the aims and resources, the plan of organization and methods of instruction, of the institution with which I am officially connected. I comply the more cheerfully with your request from a conviction that, as an experiment of liberal education for that sex to which liberal education has in general been hitherto denied, Vassar College is the object of a deeper interest among the enlightened friends of human culture, on both sides of the Atlantic, than would be due to any intrinsic merits either of its plan or its administration. The same consideration will perhaps justify a greater minuteness of detail, especially as regards the development and present condition of its system of instruction, than would otherwise be called for. What is familiar to experience, and might be regarded as almost a matter of course, in a college for young men, may be novel and unique in a school for young women, and may need to be told in order to mark with precision the progress already made in this interesting enterprise.
Much has already been written and published in relation to Vassar College. But it has related almost exclusively to its exterior equipments, and to those aspects of its inner life which would be most likely to strike the eye and engage the interest of the transient visitor.* But little has yet been made public which would aid the practical educator to form an intelligent estimate of the value of its educational work, or to assign it its exact place among the educational institutions of our country and the world. It is hoped that the present exhibit may in a measure supply that deficiency. A sufficient reason for silence hitherto may be found in the fact, which will come out clearly in the course of the following statement, that the past has been a period of experiment and growth, the permanent results of which could not safely be predicted even by those most conversant with its progress.
I had reckoned upon, and should have preferred, a decade of this busy silence. But the specialty of the present call for information could not be overlooked. And perhaps now, after a full seven years’ trial, though we trust the college has not yet passed the period even of its infant growth, it may reasonably be expected that some definite report should be made as to what we are attempting to accomplish, and what amount of success we have thus far attained.
I have the honor to be
Very truly and respectfully yours,
John H. Raymond,
President Vassar College.
* All necessary information of this kind may be found in an authentic form, and accompanied by diagrams and numerous pictorial illustrations, in the volume entitled “Vassar College and its Founder, by Benson J. Lossing,” a copy of which is sent herewith. That volume was prepared by one of the trustees of the college and an intimate personal friend of Mr. Vassar. As, however, it was written soon after the opening of the college and when its educational work had only just begun to take shape, a supplementary statement has become necessary.
This institution is situated on a farm of about two hundred acres, lying two miles east of the city of Poughkeepsie, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, in the State of New York.
FOUNDATION AND RESOURCES.
The foundation of the institution was laid in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, of Poughkeepsie. The act for its incorporation passed the legislature of the State in January of that year. On the 26th day of February, Mr. Vassar formally transferred to the Board of Trustees securities to the amount of $408,000, which he had set apart for the carrying out of his design.
In 1864, he purchased and presented to the college, for its Art Gallery, a collection of pictures and books on art, at a cost of $20,000. The college was opened in September,1865.
Before his death, in June,1868, he had loaned to the college moneys needed for additional constructions, to the amount of $75,000; which indebtedness he canceled by his last will.
He also, by that instrument, made the college the residuary legatee of his estate, directing that the property should be invested and held in trust, the annual income only to be expended for certain specified uses, to wit:
- $50,000 as a “Lecture Fund,” for employing distinguished persons, not officers of the college, to deliver lectures from time to time on literature, science, and art;
- $50,000 as an” Auxiliary Fund,” for aiding students who are of superior promise, but unable to defray the full expense of their education, to an extent not exceeding in any case one half the regular charge for board and tuition;
- $50,000 as a “Library, Art, and Cabinet Fund,” for the preservation and enlargement of the library, art gallery, and cabinets; and
- The balance of the residue (which amounts to about $125,000) as a “Repair Fund,” to meet the expense of necessary repairs and additions to the buildings and other college property.
The gifts of the founder amounted therefore, in the aggregate, to about $778,000.
The only other important donations have been the following:
- A collection of North-American Birds, presented by Mr. J. P. Griraud, Esq., of Poughkeepsie, which, when completed, will be worth from ten to fifteen thousand dollars; and
- A permanent scholarship, presented by Alanson J. Fox, Esq., of Painted Post, N. Y., secured by an actual investment of $6000.
The last annual report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York, for the year ending September, 1872, showed the following to be, at that time, the
VALUE OF THE COLLEGE PROPERTY.
I. Unproductive Property. Grounds (200a cres) and farm house, $40,000 00 Main edifice, observatory, and all other builidngs, $408,308 48 Total real estate, $440,308 48 Furniture and fixtures, $66,022 79 Library, 11,721 05 Art Gallery, 27,097 86 Apparatus of Instruction, Mathematics and Physics, $5,380 00 Astronomy, 8,108 44 Anatomy and Physiology, 1,168 35 Music, 1,000 00–25,658 41 Cabinets of Natural History, Geology and Mineralogy, $8,500 00 Zoölogy and Botany, 4,367 41 Giraud Cabinet of Birds, 5,865 00–18,732 41 $149,232 52 Other personal property, 225 00 Total Personal Property, $149,457 52 Aggregate amount of unproductive property, $594,576 80
The above statement (excepting $5000, the estimated original value of the Giraud collection) shows only the money actually paid in the purchase of property, previous to September 1, 1872, out of Mr. Vassar’s gifts and the earnings of the college. It does not include additions since made, nor a large number of occasional donations to the scientific collections, which would add several thousands of dollars to the aggregate value of the property.
II. Productive Property. Founder’s Funds: Lecture Fund, $50,000 00 Auxillary Fund, 50,000 00 Library, Art, and Cabinet Fund, 50,000 00 Repair Fund, 125,000 00-275,000 00 Fox Scholarship, 6,000 00 Aggregate amount of productive property, $281,000 00
These funds are all invested in good securities, bearing interest at 7 per cent per annum.
It will be seen that no provision is here made to meet the current expenses of the college. Thus far, the salaries of instructors and other officers and employees, with all the necessary expenses of a domestic establishment of more than five hundred persons, have been defrayed from the only source of revenue available for these purposes, namely, the students’ fees for board and tuition. The regular charges are as follows: Board, (covering light, heat, and washing,) $300 per an. Tuition, in all collegiate branches 100 Making a charge (uniform for all) of $400 per an. Additional for extra-collegiate branches: Piano-forte or organ playing $80 per an. Solo singing 90 Drawing, painting, or modeling 60
The Founder’s “Auxiliary Fund” and the “Fox Scholarship” provide for the payment in full of the board and collegiate tuition of ten students.
PERSONNELL OF THE COLLEGE.
The following is an exhibit of all the persons connected with the college in 1871-72: Students,(average attendance through the year, the whole number being 415,) 390 Officers of Instruction: President and Lady Principal, 2 Professors, 8 Assistant Teachers, 28—38 Business officers: Registrar, Superintendent, Steward, Matron, Janitor, Engineer, Farmer, and Gardener, 8 Employees and Servants, 120 Whole number of persons, 556
All but ten of whom reside on the college grounds, and nearly all are members of the college family.
The average annual expenses since the opening of the college may be stated, in round numbers, as follows: Salaries of officers of instruction, $40,000 Salaries of business officers and wages of servants, 25,000 Table expenses, 50,000 Fuel, repairs, and incidentals, 35,000 Total annual expenses, (average,) $150,000
The average annual receipts from students during the same period may be stated, in round numbers, as follows: For tuition, (including all extras) $50,000 Board 100,000 Incidentals, (books and stationery, medical attendance, damages to property, etc.) 5,000 Total annual receipts, (average,) $155,000
The earnings have all been required to meet current demands for additions and improvements in the grounds, buildings, furniture, and equipments of the college.
If now it be asked what are the actual resources of the college, it will not be difficult, in view of the above exhibit, to answer. In addition to the handsome outfit received from its Founder, in grounds, buildings, furniture, and apparatus of instruction, the “Repair Fund” provides for keeping this property in good condition; the income of the “Library, Art, and Cabinet Fund” will make a moderate annual addition to the college collections; and the “Lecture Fund” will yield quite as large an amount as can profitably be expended for occasional lectures.
But there is no provision for the support of regular instruction in the college, nor any provision except the “Auxiliary Fund” and the “Fox Scholarship” (equal in all to ten full scholarships) for making its advantages accessible to any who are unable to pay the full cost. It was the hope of the Founder that, if the institution should prove a success, and the idea on which it was based (that of a true liberal education for women) should be accepted by the community, other benefactors would arise to carry out the work he began, by endowing professorships and scholarships, adding to the library and cabinets, erecting new buildings as they might be required, and otherwise augmenting the resources of the institution. These anticipations still remain to be realized.
NEED OF SCHOLARSHIPS.
The accommodations for the residence of students have hitherto been fully occupied, and the receipts have been adequate to the maintenance of the expensive system of instruction and the complete domestic establishment which the plan of the college requires. But the necessity of paying so large an annual fee for board and tuition excludes from the college many of the class who would be most benefited by its advantages, and who would render to the community the amplest returns. Comparatively few of its students indeed are from very wealthy families; and many enjoy its privileges only at the cost of privation, labor, and sacrifice on their own part and that of their parents, or through the generous kindness of personal friends. But multitudes who ought to be liberally educated are without such aids. Young women who have a vocation to intellectual pursuits, as teachers, authors, physicians, etc., and who therefore feel most deeply the need of thorough intellectual training, are usually unable to pay its pecuniary cost. Unless, therefore, men and women of wealth shall be found who, moved by the spirit of enlightened liberality which has lavished such vast treasures on universities and colleges for the other sex, will come forward to add to its endowments, though Vassar may continue to hold an honorable rank as an emporium of knowledge, it will not fulfill the most beneficent purposes of a school of liberal culture; the highest aim of its Founder will not be accomplished; and, unless other foundations are elsewhere laid, Christendom will still remain without a single establishment worthy to be called, in the best sense, a College for Women.
The supreme legislative authority is vested by the act of incorporation in the Board of Trustees, who act, during the intervals between their annual sessions, through several standing committees. The chief of these is the “Executive Committee,” which meets often to administer the finances and material interests of the college, and is empowered in general to act for the Board of Trustees in a11 matters not specifically intrusted to other officers or committees. The “Committee on Faculty and Studies” is charged with the supervision of all educational interests, and especially with the selection of the officers of instruction. The other standing committees are, a “Committee on the Library,” a “Committee on the Cabinets and Apparatus,” and a “Committee on the Art Gallery.”
The internal organization has two branches, educational and domestic. The two are intimately blended,* forming one organic whole. Domestic arrangements have of late been regarded in this country as of doubtful utility in colleges for young men; but they were deemed by the Founder and the Board of Trustees indispensable, for the present at least, in a college for young women. The plan of the buildings and the organization of the college have been adjusted to this view.
The executive head is the President of the college, whose duty it is to watch over all its interests, and to see that all laws and regulations prescribed by competent authority are carried out. He is specially charged with its discipline and with the moral and religious instruction of the students. The Lady Principal is the chief executive aid of the President in the government of the college, and the immediate head of the college family. She exercises a maternal supervision over the deportment, health, social connections, personal habits, and wants of the students. She is assisted by nine of the lady teachers, each of whom has immediate charge of one of the college corridors; and in matters of health she has the counsel of the “Resident Physician,” who is a regularly educated medical woman, and who has under her direction a well-appointed infirmary and a nurse.
Each Professor is the responsible head of a department of instruction, charged with the direction of its methods and apparatus, the organization of its classes, the distribution of its work, and the supervision of the assistant teachers therein.
The Faculty consists of the President, Lady Principal, and Professors of departments in the regular college course, and is empowered to make laws for regulating the internal life of the college, both educational and domestic, subject always to the authority of the Board of Trustees.
Subservient to the material wants of the college and the college family, are various business departments, namely:
- The “Treasurer’s Department” for the transaction of all financial business.
- The “Steward’s Department,” embracing the kitchen, bakery, dining hall, and laundry.
- The “Matron’s Department,” for the care of the private apartments of the students, with the chapel, the lecture and other college rooms.
- The “Engineer’s Department,” for the management of the apparatus for making and distributing gas and steam (for heating and cooking purposes), and for pumping and distributing water.
- The “Janitor’s Department,” for porterage, ordinary repairs, and the general mechanical care of the premises.
- , 7. The “ Farm,” and the “Garden.”
Each business department has a responsible officer at its head, all acting under the general direction of the Executive Committee. A superintendent residing on the grounds, and known as the “Local Agent,” sees to the execution of the committee’s orders.
THE COURSE OF STUDY.
HISTORY OF ITS DEVELOPMENT.
The Founder of Vassar College did not establish the institution to carry out any peculiar theory of education. His motive was one of general philanthropy. He sought for some beneficent object to which to devote the accumulations of an industrious life; and he found it in the erection of a College for Women. The scope of the idea, as it lay in his mind, was simply this, “to found and perpetuate an institution which should accomplish for young women what our colleges are accomplishing for young men.”
For methods of procedure he relied upon others, especially upon the board of gentlemen whom he had selected to be his counselors and the ultimate depositaries of the trust. “ In relation to matters literary and professional,” said he, in one of his early addresses to the board,” I cannot claim any knowledge, and I decline all responsibility. I shall leave such questions to your superior wisdom.” He stipulated only that the educational standard should be high—higher than that usually recognized in schools for young women. “The attempt you are to aid me in making,” he said, “fails wholly of its point if it be not in advance, and a decided advance. I wish to give one sex all the advantages too long monopolized by the other.”
The problem, then, which the Trustees had before them was this: to devise a system of intellectual training which, while adapted to the special wants of the sex, should be of as high a grade relatively, and should accomplish essentially the same ends, as the American college for young men—in other words, to devise a system of liberal education for women. What should it be? What elements of instruction and training should it embrace, and in what relative proportions? At what grade of advancement should the course begin, and to what extent should it be carried?
The question was embarrassed by several difficulties. In the first place, the only standard of measurement afforded them by the Founder’s words had become itself unsettled. What was the proper function of the college for young men was in dispute. The champions of a “new education” were demanding essential changes in the orthodox collegiate system. They claimed that the vast growth and importance of the physical sciences entitled these to a larger space in the curriculum. Some of them boldly impugned the comparative value of classical training; and all urged that at least a wider scope should be given to individual choice in the selection of studies. Institutions of venerable authority were ranging themselves on opposite sides, and it was not easy to predict the result.
Again, supposing the conditions of a liberal education for men to be settled, were those for the other sex to be the same or different, and if different, to what extent and in what particulars? The idea of a full scientific education for women was comparatively novel. Some sneered; many doubted; and those who had faith could point to no successful experiments to justify their confidence, and could find no recognized precedents to guide their policy. All was theory, and opinions were divided. There were those who believed that the physical organization and functions of woman naturally disqualify her for severe study, and that an education essentially popular, and largely ornamental, is alone suited to her sphere. These deprecated all such movements as ignoring the laws of God and nature, and striking at the foundations of the physical and moral welfare of the race. Others, on the ground that there is “no sex in mind,” demanded for women precisely the same educational treatment as for men—demanded, indeed, the admission of young women to the existing colleges, and their education side by side with young men, as the true solution of the problem. Between these extremes, a large and increasing number of intelligent educators and thoughtful parents were taking middle ground. Recognizing the possession by woman of the same intellectual constitution as man’s, they claimed for her an equal right to intellectual culture, and a system of development and discipline based on the same fundamental principles. They denied that any amount of intellectual training, if properly conducted, could be prejudicial, in either sex, to physical health or to the moral and social virtues. They believed, in the light of all experience, that the larger the stock of knowledge and the more thorough the mental discipline a woman actually attains, other things being equal, the better she is fitted to fill every womanly position, and to perform every womanly duty, at home and in society. At the same time, they could not but see that there are specialties in the feminine constitution, and in the functions allotted to woman in life; and they believed that these should not be lost sight of in arranging the details of her education. It seemed obvious, too, that young women away from home should be surrounded with more effective social safeguards; that special sanitary provisions should be made for them; and that they should be furnished with ampler means of personal and domestic comfort than are usually thought necessary for young men. They could not, therefore, recognize the existing colleges as fully meeting the case, until those colleges shall be prepared to assume the whole of this responsibility by providing adequate personal accommodations and by enlarging their curriculum so as to embrace all the elements of feminine as well as masculine culture.
The Trustees of Vassar College, in common with its Founder, held this middle ground; and two or three starting-points were thus determined for them.
1. A complete domestic system must be incorporated with the educational in the organization of the college. It was accordingly decided that all its students should be members of the college family; that they should live together under one roof; that the security and comforts of a well-ordered home should be assured them; and that the sanitary and social regulation of their life, as well as their intellectual training, should be taken under the responsible direction of the college authorities. Hence the erection of the large and costly edifice, with its suites of furnished private apartments, its thoroughly equipped kitchen and laundry, the extensive apparatus for the supply of light, heat, and water, and the complicated arrangement of business offices, which otherwise might have been dispensed with. Hence, too, the appointment of a lady principal and a resident physician, and the important functions assigned those officers in the internal polity of the college. And hence a complete system of house regulations, matured by the Faculty, and intended to harmonize the personal with the student life of its members. In this feature the plan of Vassar College resembles that of the ladies’ seminary or boarding-school, or that of the “college” or “hall” in the English university (as distinguished from the university itself), more nearly than it does that of the American college of the last half-century.
2. The course of study must be liberal, not elementary; thorough and scientific, not popular and superficial. In this respect it was decided that Vassar should resemble the American college, rather than the seminary, academy, or high school. It was obvious, on a very little reflection, that the moulders of this institution were no so much concerned with the points which separated the old colleges from one another as with those which discriminated them in common from the secondary schools in our American system. The advocates of the new education were striving to make liberal education more liberal, to advance the college in breadth and altitude one step nearer the university. The question here was whether woman should have liberal education at all—whether the course of study to be established should be collegiate in any proper sense of the word; and this question was settled in the affirmative. It should be collegiate, alike in the grade and in the method of its instructions. The text-books employed should not be the ordinary school-compendiums, but works of the highest authority in the several fields of knowledge. Not only the results of scientific and literary investigation should be taught, but (as far as possible) the methods. Mere memoriter recitations should be discarded; and the student should be not merely required to “learn lessons,” but trained to discuss subjects and to form and maintain opinions. This implied the devoting of some years, at the outset of the course, to disciplinary studies; and, for this preparatory discipline, no substitute was found for the time-honored grammatical and mathematical drill on which the successful schools of liberal culture throughout Christendom have always relied, and still unanimously rely, as the indispensable foundation. This, in the judgment of the Trustees, was the step “ in advance ” to which the Founder had originally pledged them. In no other way could the expensive professorships, the scientific collections and other costly apparatus of instruction which he had furnished, be utilized, or the pecuniary provisions made for their continuance and enlargement be justified. Their efforts, therefore, have had this as a uniform and leading aim, to make Vassar College a college, not in name only, but in fact—a college in the grade and in the style of its instruction.
3. But, finally, the plan should not be a servile copy of existing models. If the old college system could be modified in any respect, either by addition or subtraction, so as to secure a more perfect adaptation to the wants of woman, the change was to be made without hesitation. Whatever might be added to former ideals of womanly culture on the score of breadth and thoroughness, there must be no lowering of the standard of womanly refinement and grace. The claims of aesthetic culture were therefore at once recognized; the provisions made for instruction in the arts of design and in music must be ample, and adequate time be allowed for this culture in the regular curriculum.
So far all was plain; but it was not so clear whether any further changes were required on account of the sex of the students. Some thought there should be relatively less of mathematics and more of languages, less of science and more of literature. Some, that the classical or “dead” languages should be replaced by modern tongues; and others, that the study of the vernacular, and the arts of composition, should occupy a much larger share of the student’s attention in a woman’s college than in a man’s. The old controversy as to the comparative claim of practical studies in a course of liberal culture came in; and the old difficulty was found, of determining what studies are practical and what not. There was another point about which opinions differed, namely, whether the course of study should be prescribed or optional. In June, 1863, while the college edifice was building, a committee of the board reported a plan of organization, recommending the adoption of what was called the University System “an arrangement suggested by the system which prevails in European universities,” and which was thus described: “Similar or collateral branches are combined into distinct departments or schools, which are practically independent of one another. Thus, we have the school of mathematics, the school of languages, the school of natural history, etc., each having its appropriate course of study. The student selects whichever of these schools or studies his talents, tastes, inclinations, pecuniary circumstances, or objects in life may lead him to prefer; and when he has mastered the studies of a school, he receives a testimonial certifying to that effect. Each school confers a distinct testimonial. When the student has gained testimonials in a specified number of schools, he is entitled to a diploma as a graduate of the university.” This plan, though recommended by some theoretical advantages, other members of the Board thought not to be suited to the actual exigencies of the situation. It was believed that at the point indicated above by italics it would prove to be fatally defective; that the average student, or her friends, would not make such a selection or arrangement of studies as would attain the ends of a liberal education; and that in leaving so essential a matter wholly at the disposal of its students a college would be shirking its proper responsibility. The question was left at that time undecided.
To these theoretical difficulties a more peremptory practical one was added—the necessity of taking into account the opinion of the public at large. There could be no college of any kind without students; and in this case, since there were no endowments for the support of instruction, they must be paying students. In this respect, it may safely be said, the enterprise has had to endure a test to which no school of liberal education was ever before subjected, and which has not always been borne in mind by those who have criticised its management from a purely theoretical point of view. The great building must be filled at once with students, and kept full to the number of nearly four hundred, at full rates of charge, or the enterprise would be crippled at the start. Whatever theories might require, it was idle to adopt any scheme which would not attract a liberal patronage from the well-to-do classes of the community.
The best thing to be done was, manifestly, to begin with a provisional plan, allowing opportunity for the public sentiment to declare itself, and taking time to mature the permanent course in the light of experience. Such a plan was outlined, and published as a “ prospectus” in the spring of 1865. It offered instruction in all the branches of a collegiate course, but prescribed no uniform arrangement of them, committing the selection of studies in each case individually to the direction of the president and faculty. The only prerequisites to admission were that the candidate should be over fifteen years of age, and should be prepared for examination in arithmetic, English grammar, modern geography, and American history. The prospectus exhibited the titles of studies to be taught in the college, grouped together loosely in ten departments of instruction. But it was added: “ This scheme must be regarded as merely tentative. The board reserves its final decision on the distribution of studies until experience has developed the wants of the community, and the whole subject has been maturely canvassed by the Faculty.”
In September, 1865, the institution was opened for the reception of students. A large number, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, from all parts of the Union and from Canada, applied for examination, and about three hundred and fifty were accepted. A respectable minority of these, say one fourth, or one third, had been well taught—a few admirably. But of the great majority it could not be said with truth that they were thoroughly grounded in any thing. In the ordinary English branches, had the same tests been applied then that are applied now with unvarying strictness at every entrance examination, one half the candidates would have been refused. In these branches the advantage was notably with those who had been taught in the graded public schools of the country, particularly of the larger towns and cities; and none appeared to less advantage, as a general fact, than those on whom the greatest expense had been lavished in governesses and special forms of home or foreign education.
In the more advanced studies, the examinations revealed a prevailing want of method and order, and much of that superficiality which must necessarily result from taking up such studies without disciplinary preparation. Such preparation seemed not to have been wholly neglected; but in a majority of cases it had been quite insufficient, and often little better than nominal. Most of the older students, for instance, had professedly studied Latin, and either algebra or geometry, or both. But the Latin had usually been “finished” with reading very imperfectly a little Caesar and Virgil; and the algebra and geometry, though perhaps in general better taught, had not infrequently been studied in easy abridgments, of little or no value for the purposes of higher scientific education.
This part of the accepted training of young ladies, even in many respectable seminaries, has seemed, under the application of tests by no means severe, almost like a deception practiced on the pupils and their parents; of which, however, the teachers are not so much the voluntary agents as the enforced and helpless instruments—helpless because, being without the support of endowments, precedents, or an enlightened public sentiment, they are at the mercy of their patrons, and their patrons too often prefer to be deceived. As the great majority of the pupils do not, on leaving school, proceed to any intellectual pursuit which would test the quality of their training, the deception passes undetected. Those whom necessity compels to teach, or to win their bread by some literary or scientific profession, are the sufferers; and the intellectual reputation of the sex suffers most unjustly from an incompetency which is the inevitable result of the wretched sham that has been palmed upon them under the name of education.
One thing was made clear by these preliminary examinations: that, if the condition of the higher female education in the United States was fairly represented by this company of young women, with a great deal that was elevated in aim and earnest in intention, it was characterized by much confusion, much waste of power, and much barrenness of result, and admitted of essential improvement.
An inquiry into their plans for future study revealed as clearly their need of authoritative guidance and direction. There was no lack of zeal for improvement. Almost all had been drawn to the college by the hope of obtaining a higher and completer education than would be afforded them elsewhere. Indeed, the earnestness of purpose, assiduity of application, and intelligence to appreciate good counsel, which have, from the beginning, characterized the students as a body, are a noticeable and encouraging fact. But their reliance at first was largely on the adventitious advantages which the college was supposed to possess for putting them in possession of their favorite branches of knowledge and culture. Of the real elements and processes of a higher education, and of the subjective conditions of mental growth and training, comparatively few, either of the students or their parents, appeared to have any definite idea. There was no lack of definiteness of choice. Tastes and inclinations were, usually positive; reasons were not so plentiful. That the young lady “liked” this study or “disliked” that, was the reason perhaps most frequently assigned. If its force was not at once conceded, she strengthened it by increased emphasis, declaring that she was “passionately fond” of the one and “utterly detested” or “never could endure” the other. Practical studies were greatly in vogue, especially with parents; “practical” meaning such as had an immediate relation, real or fancied, some utility of actual life, such, for example, as that of chemistry to cooking, or of French to a tour in Europe. Appropriateness for the discipline of the faculties, or the equipment of the mind for scientific or philosophical investigation, might not be appreciated as practical considerations at all.
The deepest impression made by these preliminary examinations on those who conducted them was this, that the grand desideratum for the higher education of women was regulation, authoritative and peremptory. Granting that the college system for young men, coming down from an age of narrow prescription and rigid uniformity, needed expansion, relaxation, a wider variety of studies and freer scope for individual choice, there was evidently no such call in a college for women. In the field of “female education” without endowments, without universities or other institutions of recognized authority, without a history or even a generally accepted theory, there was really no established system at all; and a system was, of all things, the thing most urgently demanded. That it should be a perfect system was less important than that it should be definite and fixed, based upon intelligent and well-considered principles, and adhered to irrespective of the taste and fancies and crude speculations of the students or their friends. The young women who, all over the land, were urging so importunate a claim for thorough intellectual culture should first of all be taught what are the unalterable conditions of a thorough culture, alike for women and for men, and should be held to those conditions, just as young men are held, whether they “liked” the discipline or not. The rising interest in the subject of woman’s education, which so signally marked the recent progress of public sentiment, required a channel through which it might be directed to positive results. If Vassar College had a mission, was it not, clearly, to contribute something to that consummation? To adopt the “University System,” or any other based on the purely optional principle, was manifestly to throw away the opportunity, and to use whatever of power and influence the college might have derived from the munificence of its founder to perpetuate the deplorable state of things which it had been his chief desire to assist in changing.
To the task, therefore, of reducing to order the heterogeneous medley before them, the Faculty set themselves with all earnestness. Many have wondered why there should have been any delay in doing this—why a collegiate course was not at once marked out and the students forthwith formed into corresponding classes. The reason will appear on a moment’s reflection. It is easy to build a college on paper. To produce the real thing requires a variety of material, prepared and shaped for the purpose. There must not only be buildings and apparatus, books and learned professors, but there must be students—students who have passed through a preparatory process which requires not only time, but certain moulding influences of a very definite character; and it will not be found easy—at least, it was not found easy eight years ago—to get together four hundred young women, or one fourth of that number, so prepared. It was one of the great difficulties in the way of establishing a true Woman’s College, that there was an entire lack of organized preparatory schools to furnish it with students properly grounded in the disciplinary branches, and that the schools which could do this work were to so great an extent committed—not only by their prospectuses, but by their interests—to methods which tend rather to un-fit the student for commencing a college course.*
* Ten years have wrought an observable change in this respect. A number of first-class ladies’ seminaries now advertise special classes to prepare for Vassar; and the growing interest in the public mind in favor of affording collegiate advantages to women is producing its natural effect in the academies and public high schools, both in New England and the West. The probability now is, that the supply of the prepared material will be in advance of the opportunities to turn it to account.
One fact, however, the Faculty discovered, which went far to counterbalance all their discouragements. It was this: The most mature, thoughtful, and influential of the students perfectly apprehended the situation, knew what they needed, and earnestly sought it. They were really in advance of the men of years and experience with whom the decision rested. With the quick insight of intelligent women—or, rather, with that exact discernment wherewith the sufferer of an evil takes its measure, fixes its locality, and presages its remedy—they had worked out the solution of the problem; and they watched with the deepest solicitude the settlement of the question, what the institution was to be. Modestly, but firmly, earnestly, and intelligently, they pleaded for the adoption of the highest educational standard, avowed their readiness to submit for themselves to the most rigid conditions, and exerted a powerful influence to diffuse right views among the more intelligent of their fellow-students. It soon became evident that here was the vital nucleus for the future college; and around that nucleus the elements gathered with decisive rapidity. Before the close of the year, the Faculty found themselves supported in their desire for a full and strict collegiate course by a strong current of sentiment among the students themselves. The brains of the institution were enlisted on that side; and it was manifest that henceforth the best class of students would be satisfied with nothing less. The controversy was at an end. What remained was, to make the idea a reality.
As it was necessary at the beginning of each annual session to arrange the classes substantially for the entire year, the development of the organization proceeded necessarily by annual steps. For the first year, no attempt was made to grade the students by any common standard. It would hardly have been possible to do so, so dissimilar had their previous plans of study been. Their individual wants were, therefore, considered only; and they were classified in the several departments of instruction separately. A great deal of earnest and profitable studying was done; and much progress was made in the development of educational intelligence, and in habits of steady movement under a decided discipline.
Toward the close of the second year, the first attempt was made to arrange a portion of the students (about one third of the whole) in college classes; and the result was as follows:
Whole number of collegiate students, 352
Of senior grade, 4
Of junior grade, 18
Intermediate between junior and sophomore, 9
Of sophomore grade 27
Intermediate between sophomore and freshman, 13
Of freshman grade, 45 — 116
Of the remainder, 71 were pursuing the regular preparatory course, and 165 were pursuing irregular courses.
But it was not until the close of its third year that the institution fully attained a collegiate character. During these three years the Faculty had been carefully studying the conditions of the problem before them, ascertaining, through an extensive intercourse with students, parents, intelligent educators, and through other channels of information, the nature of the public demand, and gradually maturing a permanent course of study to meet as far as practicable its conflicting elements. At the opening of the fourth collegiate year (1868-69) this course definitively replaced the provisional one adopted at the outset, and, with occasional modifications of detail, has remained in operation since. When the changes since made have in any way affected the standard of education, it has invariably been in the direction of its further elevation. Without dwelling upon these, it will suffice to exhibit the scheme of instruction as it is now in actual operation.
PRESENT SCHEME OF INSTRUCTION.
CLASSES OF STUDENTS.
There are three different classes of students:
1. Regular Collegiates or members of the four college classes, namely, the Senior, Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman. These constitute the college proper. None are admitted conditionally to any regular class. In order to membership in either, a student must have passed examination in all the required studies, though she may recite with the class in any branch for which she is prepared while bringing up deficiencies.
2. Specials or Irregular Collegiates: those who are pursuing, in the college classes, eclectic courses arranged for them individually. The privilege is allowed only within clearly defined limits. It is denied to young persons in the regular process of their education, and granted only to those who have already attained some maturity and are sufficiently advanced to study to advantage in college classes. They must be over nineteen years of age, and must pass examination in at least two thirds of all the preparatory and all the freshman studies. The class of students to whom an eclectic course is really appropriate, and who are qualified to pursue it without hindering the progress of others, are most welcome to the college. They are among its most successful students in particular lines; and its regular classes have been largely recruited from their ranks. For all others the practice of unsystematic and promiscuous study is rigorously discountenanced.
3. Regular Preparatories: those who are pursuing studies preparatory to the freshman class. Students of this kind are received only so long as the accommodations are not all required for the two former. Such only are admitted as are over fifteen years of age and have passed satisfactory examinations in English Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, and United States History.
DISTRIBUTION OF STUDIES.
There are nine departments of instruction, each under the responsible direction of a professor, who is assisted by as many teachers as the number of classes may require.
I. The Department of the English Language and Literature includes Rhetoric, Logic, History of English Literature, English Composition, and Elocution. The time allowed is as follows:
- Elementary Rhetoric, one semester (preparatory) 5 times a week.
- Grammatical Analysis, one semester (Freshman) twice a week.
- History of English Literature one semester (Sophomore) 5 times a week.
- English Etymology and Synonyms, one semester (Sophomore) twice a week.
- Rhetoric, one semester, (Junior) 5 times a week.
- Logic, one semester, (Junior) 5 times a week.
- Elocution, three semesters, (Freshman, Sophomore, Senior) 5 times a week.
- Composition, exercises extending through the course.
- The instruction is given by the professor and four teachers.
II. The Department of Ancient and Modern Languages includes Latin and Greek, French and German; Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern History. Latin, eleven semesters, (five preparatory and six collegiate) 5 times a week.
- French, seven semesters, (two preparatory and five collegiate) 5 times a week.
- Greek and German, each five semesters, (Sophomore, Junior, and Senior) 5 times a week.
- Ancient History, one semester, (preparatory) 5 times a week.
- Ancient History, one semester, (Sophomore) once a week.
- Mediaeval History, one semester, (Sophomore) once a week.
- Modern History, one semester, (Junior) once a week.
- Instruction in Latin, Greek, and History, by the professor and four teachers; in German by one native instructor, and in French by two.
III. The Department of Mathematics and Physics includes Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, General Geometry and Calculus; and Natural Philosophy and Chemistry.
- Pure Mathematics, five semesters, (one preparatory and four collegiate) 5 times a week.
- Natural Philosophy, two semesters, ( Junior) 5 times a week.
- Chemistry, two semesters, (Senior) one 5, and one 3 times a week.
- Instruction by the professor and three teachers.
IV. To the Department of Astronomy are assigned three Semesters, (two Junior and one Senior) 5 times a week. Instruction by the professor, who is also Director of the Observatory.
V. The Department of Natural History includes Physical Greography, Botany, Zoology, Mineralogy, and Geology.
- Physical Geography, one semester, (preparatory) 5 times a week.
- Botany, one semester, (preparatory) 5 times a week.
- Zoology, one and a half semesters, (Sophomore and Junior) 5 times a week.
- Mineralogy, one half-semester, (Junior) 5 times a week.
- Geology, one semester, (Junior) 5 times a week.
- Instruction by the professor and one teacher.
VI. To the Department of Physiology and Hygiene are assigned one semester in the Freshman year, twice a week, and one semester in the Senior year, 5 times a week. Instruction by the professor, who is also the Resident Physician, general health-officer, and lecturer on Practical Hygiene in the college family.
VII. The Department of Philosophy includes Intellectual and Moral Philosophy.
- Intellectual Philosophy, one semester, (Senior) 5 times a week.
- Moral Philosophy, one semester, (Senior) 5 times a week.
- Instruction by the professor, who is also President of the College.
VIII. The Department of Design includes Drawing, Painting, and Modeling. Except weekly class lessons in Elementary Drawing and Perspective through two se mesters, (preparatory,) the lessons in this Department are given to individual pupils, three times a week, and continued at their option. Instruction all given by the Professor.
IX. The Department of Music includes Piano-forte and Organ playing. Singing (Solo and Choral), and Musical Theory. The instruction on the Piano-forte and Organ, and in Solo singing, is given to individual pupils, two lessons a week; in Choral singing and Musical Theory, to classes, one lesson a week. The professor is assisted by seven teachers of the piano-forte, one of the organ, an two of solo singing.
The first seven departments are called “collegiate,” embracing all the studies prerequisite to a Degree in Arts. The last two are called “extra-collegiate [or art departments,” and it is optional with each student (the Faculty approving) whether she will enter either.
REQUIRED AND ELECTIVE STUDIES.
No student is allowed to take, at any one time, more than three full studies, (unless they are reviews,) with one art study. It is therefore impossible for any, within the prescribed four years, to pursue all the branches taught. Hence a distinction between studies required of all and those among which students are allowed a limited election.
All the preparatory studies, and all those of the freshman year, and of the first semester of the sophomore year, are required, and the course is consequently thus far uniform for all regular students. It embraces eigh semesters of Latin, four of either French, German, or Greek, four of Mathematics, two of Natural History, and two of Rhetoric and English Literature.
After the middle of the sophomore year, the studies are elective, within the limits of each semester, as laid down in the course. The students are presumed by this time to have laid a good disciplinary foundation, and t be able to make an intelligent choice, with reference to their special tastes, aptitudes, and objects in life. In every case, however, the students’ elections for each semester are made the subject of particular consideration by the Faculty, whose approval is necessary to give them effect.
To obtain the first degree in arts, (A.B.,) the candidate must have passed examination in all the required studies, and in a sufficient number of approved elective studies to make the complement of three for each semester of the curriculum. Candidates for the second degree (A.M.) must pass examination in studies which have been approved by the Faculty as equivalent to a post-graduate course of two full years, and must present an accepted dissertation on some topic connected therewith.
AIMS AND METHODS OF INSTRUCTION.
The aims and methods of instruction in the several departments are, of course, essentially similar to those of any well-organized college. They will be exhibited, however, somewhat fully, because the doubt has been expressed in influential quarters, whether in this “Woman’s College” a collegiate standard could be maintained, and because it is right that the public should understand precisely what measure of success has thus far attended the effort.
The limits of time prescribed to the several departments necessitate in each a selection of specific objects. The general plan is, to combine an outline of the entire field or branch of inquiry with a scientific investigation of so much of it as there is time to study thoroughly. The aim is invariably understood to be, not simply to charge the memory with facts, but to teach the methods and cultivate a habit of independent research, training the faculties to do in each department its appropriate work without a mentor.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.
The course in this department aims:
a. To teach, theoretically, the laws of thought (logic), of expression (rhetoric), and of utterance (elocution);
b. To train the student, practically, to a good style of writing, speaking, and reading English (essays, readings, and recitations);
c. To drill her in specialties of the English word and sentence (etymology, synonyms, analysis of sentences);
d. To introduce her to English literature.
Before entering the freshman class, she must be well grounded in some good school-grammar, and must understand, theoretically, the rules for constructing sentences, the principles of punctuation, the definitions of rhetorical figures and terminology of literary criticism, and the general laws of style, as taught in manuals of elementary rhetoric.
In the freshman year, she is exercised in the practical application of this knowledge. Every five weeks she must present for criticism an essay upon a prescribed theme, and, with the help of a teacher, studies the principles of rhetoric as illustrated by the excellences or defects of her own literary work. The specific aim, at this stage, is to call forth her natural style of thought and expression. Models are not used, and every form of imitative writing is discouraged. The criticisms are minute, personal, and free, being made in private interviews between the teacher and the individual student. This method of criticism is observed throughout the course. During the latter half of this year, she is drilled in the analysis of English sentences.
The first half of the sophomore year is occupied with the history of English literature. Here, limitation is imperatively necessary. Twelve writers are selected who have most potently influenced English thought and the English language since the beginning of the sixteenth century, and these alone are studied. The study involves, however, a general view of the progress of literary development during this period. From the lectures of the professor, and copious references to the college library made therein, the student gathers material which she is required, after reasonable time for digesting it, to put into the form of a carefully written essay on the writer in question, containing her own estimate of the man, his writings and their influence, and her opinion on mooted points. By this method she acquires a habit of studying pen in hand, gains much historical and biographical information, and cultivates alike the power of original reflection and facility of composition on literary topics.
During the latter half of this year, the periodical writing of themes is renewed, and twice a week there is a class exercise in English etymology and synonyms.
In the junior year, the attention of the student begins to be turned to methods of thinking. The studies and exercises aim to increase her power of directing the processes of her own mind.
Whately’s treatise on Argumentative Composition is first made the subject of analysis, not more for the value of its rhetorical principles than as an admirable logical praxis. The sequences of thought are carefully examined, and the book is criticised in the light of its own criticisms.
In the second semester, the theory of the syllogism is studied; and the study is followed by six weeks of practice in applying its laws to an extensive selection of arguments from eminent writers in science, philosophy, and literature.
Essay-writing is continued through this and through the senior year; and the criticisms now are intended to help the student in analyzing her own habits of thought, to show her the indications of any mental idiosyncrasy that may need correcting, to enable her to understand both her strong and her weak points, and thus, by cultivating the points of intelligent self-criticism, to provide for her continued improvement.
In the senior year, the student is for the first time called on to read her productions in the presence of her teachers and fellow-students.
The exercises in elocution commence in the sophomore year, and are continued through half of that and of the two following years. The series comprises the study and rendering of select models, together with much vocal and physical drill, intended to strengthen the organs of speech, and to give flexibility and skill, correctness, variety, and force in their use.
The library is well furnished with books of reference in English grammar and philology, rhetoric, criticism and literary history; and the instructions of the department are so conducted as to accustom the students to use them freely. There is a choice collection of the English classics in standard editions, especially of the old poets, and complete apparatus for the study of Old English and Anglo-Saxon.
The studies in the classical languages, particularly Latin, aim primarily at formal discipline, that is, the exercise and development of the faculties as a basis, or formal preparation, for subsequent special studies. At the same time, they afford a fruitful material element of education, contained in the aesthetical and historical character of the Greek and Roman literature; since the student, through even a moderate autoptic acquaintance with the Greek and Roman authors, acquires a deeper insight than any history or mere translations can give into the life and culture of the two nations which in art, science, and literature have been the teachers of the Christian world, and whose influence may be traced, in many directions, still powerfully affecting the institutions and tendencies of modern times.
No attempt is made to educate the students in the details of the special science of philology.
Select portions of the usual standard authors are taken for study. The specific objects determining the selection, and the whole course of instruction, are the following:
a. To familiarize the student with the Latin and Greek idioms;
b. With the chief stages in the historical development of the languages;
c. With the laws of different forms of poetical and prose composition;
d. With the best characteristics of literary style;
e. With the historical periods to which the several works belong; and
f. With ancient life and culture as illustrated thereby.
During the first part of the time appropriated to an author, he is read very slowly and critically; but, after the students have become sufficiently acquainted with the peculiarities of his manner, the scope of his work, and the circumstances of its production, the remainder of the time is devoted to more rapid and cursory reading.
In the earlier stages of the course, the linguistic or grammatical element of instruction prevails; but as the student becomes prepared to appreciate them, the stylistic, the aesthetical, and the historical elements are progressively introduced. For grammatical illustration, comparisons are constantly made with the French, German, and English studied in the college course. But these, as well as all references to mythology, history, and antiquities, to points of prosody, rhetoric, poetics, etc., are strictly subordinated to the purpose of illustrating the text and teaching the student how to elicit therefrom grammatical, literary, and historical facts and principles.
At the end of appropriate periods, synopses of the previous reading are given by the professor in conversational lectures.
Written translations from Latin or Greek into English form a regular exercise through the course; and a moderate amount of Latin and Greek prose composition is introduced, mainly as a praxis in grammatical forms and rules.
The library is well supplied with good editions of the classical authors and the best works of reference.
The following is the order of the course, with the amount of reading actually accomplished last year.
In the two preparatory years, an amount of work is performed equal to that of five semesters of daily recitations, three in the first, and two in the second.
First year.— Allen’s Grammar. Caesar, Books I.-III. Aeneid. Books I and II
Second year.— Caesar, Book IV. Cicero, in Catilinam (I.-IV.), pro Archia poeta, and pro Marcello. Virgil’s Georgics, Books I, II, and six Eclogues.
After admission to college, the student is required to continue Latin through three additional semesters, two freshman, and one sophomore. The work accomplished last year was as follows:
Freshman, first semester.— Livy, Book XXI, 40 chapters. Allen’s Prose Composition, 13 lessons, with Madvig’s Grammar.
Freshman, second semester.— Horace, 40 odes, 3 satires, and de Arte Poetica, Grammar continued.
Sophomore, first semester.— Cicero de Oratore, Book III, 30 chapters.
Quintilian’s Institutes, Book X., 4 chapters.
The rest of the Latin course is elective. It embraces three additional semesters, one for each of the remaining years. The reading for the year was:
Sophomore, second semester.— Juvenal, Satires III, X., XL., XIV. Plautus’ Captivi.
Junior.— Tacitus’ Germania, Agricola, and Annals, Book I., 25 chapters.
Senior.— Cicero de Officiis.
The study of Greek is entirely optional; but, if a student commences it, she is expected (except for sufficient and unforeseen reasons,) to continue and complete the course.
The Greek course commences ostensibly at the middle of the sophomore year, and is necessarily limited to the five remaining semesters; but, as a student is, by a special rule, permitted at any previous point in the curriculum to discontinue French for Greek (entering whatever class she may be ready to join), many in that way are able before leaving to add another semester to the course; which they are allowed to do. Great advantage is realized in the study of Greek (as also of German) from the comparative maturity at which the students begin it, and from the thorough grammatical drill they have previously received in the Latin.
The following are the details of the work actually performed:
1st Semester.— Curtius’s Student’s Greek Grammar, through “Etymology,” with exercises.
2d Semester.— Grammar, completed. Xenophon, Books I, II.
3d Semester.— Homer, selections from the Iliad and Odyssey, amounting to three books.
4thSemester.— Herodotus, Book I, 80 chapters. Thucydides. Book II., 30 chapters.
5thSemester.— Demosthenes, on the Crown, 80 sections. Plato, Crito, and the historical part of Phaedo.
6thSemester.— Sophocles, Antigone, and the chief parts of Oedipus Tyrannus.
The only living tongues admitted to the curriculum are the French and German. A somewhat wider scope is allowed for the study of these than in ordinary American colleges; but they are subjected to the same rigorous restrictions as other branches, as to time, order, and method of teaching.
In the disciplinary part of the curriculum every student is required to take, in connection with Latin and Mathematics, some one additional language, (it may be Greek, German, or French,) beginning its study in the second preparatory year. French is usually selected at this stage, Greek and German being deferred till later. But any who prefer may omit French entirely, and take either Greek or German instead.
The course commences in the second preparatory year with Otto’s Grammar. In the second semester a reader is added, and the exercise of translation goes on side by side with daily drill in the forms and rules of grammar. Colloquial practice begins with the first lesson and is continued without intermission to the last, the student being stimulated to add continually to her stock of words and phrases, and by constant practice to accustom her ear and tongue to the French accent.
In the freshman class Otto is replaced by Borel’s Grammar, “ First Course,” and Pylodet’s selections from contemporary literature are read. The students state, in French, the prominent facts in the life of the author. After the freshman year, there are three optional semesters, one in each year.
Sophomore.— Borel, “Second course.” Pylodet’s Littérature Classique. French composition.
Junior.— Poitevin’s Syntaxe. Howard’s Aids to French Composition. Littérature Classique, finished.
Senior.— Select readings from Boileau, Moliere, Corneille, and Racine. Demogeot’s Histoire de la Littérature. Exercises in Composition and Conversation.
The French students sit together at table, and meet twice a week, socially, for French conversation. The college library contains a choice collection of standard French writers, and French periodicals are received in the reading-room.
The study of German is not begun until the middle of the sophomore year. As already remarked, the students have at the outset a special advantage from their previous drill in the grammar of three different languages—the English, the Latin, and the French— so that, after a brief attention to the specialties of German inflection, construction, and accent, they find themselves prepared to enter appreciatively into the study of the literature, and are able, within the five semesters assigned to it, to attain a pretty thorough knowledge of the structure and history of the language, together with some sympathetic acquaintance with its greatest writers. A good degree of proficiency is also attained in the practical use of it. In the later part of the course, coinciding as it does with the most advanced stages of the curriculum, it is endeavored to make the study of German literature a valuable praxis in literary criticism, and an inspiration to high intellectual activity.
The details of the course are as follows:
1st Semester.— Otto’s Grammar, Part I. Adler’s Reader. Schiller’s and Goethe’s Ballads.
2d Semester.— Otto’s Grammar, Part II. Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell. English into German.
3d Semester.— Schiller’s Wallenstein, Parts II and III. Select readings in prose and poetry.
4th Semester.— Goethe’s Torquato Tasso and Iphigenie. German composition.
5th Semester.— Goethe’s Faust. History of German literature.
The conversational use of the language is constantly exercised in the classroom, at the German table, and elsewhere. Occasional German evenings are held, in which dramatic and other recitations, songs, original essays, etc., afford the students valuable help in acquiring fluency of utterance. The library contains all the German classics and a copious collection of contemporary works, and in the reading-room several popular periodicals are regularly received.
An outline of ancient history is given to the preparatory students, and is required of all before entering freshman.
During the collegiate years, on account of the crowded state of the curriculum, no provision was originally made for any direct instruction in history. Reliance was placed on the introduction of the historical element in the instructions of the several departments, and on the cultivation of a habit of private historical reading among the students. These reliances having proved inadequate, an arrangement will go into operation in the coming college year, by which every student will be afforded a cursory survey of the field of general history.
In the first semester of the sophomore year, a series of weekly lectures will be given by a professor in the history of ancient civilization; in the second semester, a similar series will be given on mediaeval history, and one on modern history during a semester of the junior. A continual aim of the course will be to connect and correlate, from an historical point of view, the instructions of all the departments, drawing its illustrations therefrom, and exhibiting a synoptical view of the progressive development of human civilization and culture in literature, science, philosophy, and art, as well as in the course of political events.
The college course in pure mathematics commences on a basis of common arithmetic and the algebra of simple equations, and assigns four successive semesters to the following branches: (1.) to the completing of algebra; (2.) to geometry; (3.) to trigonometry; (4.) to general geometry, including calculus. A cardinal feature of the plan in this as in other departments is limitation for the sake of thoroughness. Completeness, however, is indispensable here; and this is secured by selecting only the cardinal doctrines of the given branch, concentrating attention on these, and treating all beside as incidental, and, for the immediate purpose, unessential. By thus magnifying and continually reviewing the main points, and connecting each minor principle as a mere corollary to a great one, the student is surprised at last to find that, though she has omitted much, she has really comprehended the whole, the essence of the text-book being so much less voluminous than the book itself. The mental effect of this method is of the happiest character. A great and fertile principle once clearly understood by all the members of a class, the applications of it become the mere play of their knowledge; and problems involving it, original or selected, are often made matter of recreation and table-talk.
In algebra, for instance, the problems given in the text-book are regarded as no part of the treatise itself. Other problems are often substituted for them; and, in review especially, preference is invariably given to problems not used before. The motto is, “An old problem is no test; its solution may be, more or less, a matter of memory.”
So in geometry all corollaries are treated, not as things to be learned for their own sake, though useful with other tests in determining whether the main proposition has been mastered. The student is taught to discover corollaries. By thus acquiring the habit of searching for the implications of the proposition under consideration, she often comes almost originally to the enunciation of succeeding propositions. When she can trace an unbroken line of dependence, from any advanced proposition back to the definitions, she is pronounced “perfect” on the roll. The interesting problems appended to each book of Loomis’s Geometry, which is the manual employed, are passed over entirely, valuable as the effort to solve them would be. One only achievement is aimed at, namely, to master the logical consecution that connects about two hundred geometrical propositions into one argument, one line of irrefragable demonstration.
By this method, so great a reduction of ground is effected in algebra and geometry, that its thorough occupation becomes feasible. At the same time, the student is made to understand that what she has attained is but a skeleton of the sciences themselves, valuable mainly as a present training for her faculties and as an introduction to completer work should she choose a scientific career.
In trigonometry, a somewhat different method is pursued, every principle being concreted, (so to speak,) as much as possible, with its practical applications. To the student this branch of mathematics seems to exist mainly for mensuration, surveying, navigation, and problems of the celestial sphere. In this way she obtains some distinct illustration of the utilities of mathematical science.
With trigonometry the required part of the course in mathematics ends. About a moiety of the regular sophomore class, with a few “specials,” usually elect the remaining branch, analytical geometry and calculus, to which one semester is appropriated. Such parts of Olney’s treatise are selected as best represent the subject. All the conic sections are thoroughly discussed, with the full use of the differential calculus, the admirable generalizations of this author greatly facilitating the work.
Two semesters, of the junior year, are assigned to general physics, (natural philosophy,) the first of which is devoted to statics and dynamics. They are treated as branches of mathematical science, and demonstrations are required throughout.
The first two weeks of the second semester are spent in a brief consideration of electricity, limited almost entirely to three topics, namely:
1. Conditions of the excitement of frictional, chemical, thermal, and magneto-electricity.
2. Quantity and intensity, and the conditions for converting either to the other.
3. Varieties and effects of induction.
The greater part of the semester is given to sound, heat, and light. Undulations being the common basis, that subject is first taken up and discussed in the most general and thorough manner.
The method of instruction is the following: A subject, as, for example, Heat, is divided into topics; these are written seriatim on the wall blackboard in the lecture room. Appended to every title are copious references to the text-book in the hands of the student, and to other works in the college library. The professor first lectures on each topic in its order, with illustrative experiments. The students use note-books, whether listening, or reading, or observing, entering each new fact till the notebooks grow into the main text-books for review and examination. Finally, the students discuss the topics in the class, each in her own way and according to the amount of her available knowledge. No rule limits the student here. One will make a simple enunciation of a doctrine which another expands into a thesis, and both are accepted, so far as they are correct. If, however, a topic has not been exhausted by the first called upon, others are allowed to extend and complete the discussion.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week are appropriated to lectures; Tuesday and Thursday, to class drill and recitation.
A suit of two rooms is assigned to this branch—a lecture room, and a laboratory and apparatus-room.
The lecture-room is provided with water, steam, gas, and all desirable conveniences. The apparatus has been selected with specific reference to class instruction; and every piece is actually used in course. The experiments are chosen for exhibition before a full class. Decisive or “capital” experiments, rather than numerous, is the rule. New instruments are constantly added, and the old ones improved or reconstructed, to keep up with the progress of the science. No apparatus has yet been provided for original investigation.
The students of chemistry meet for lectures and recitations daily during the first semester of the senior year, and on alternate days during the second.
The work of the first semester embraces the theory of inorganic chemistry and the practice of qualitative analysis. That of the second semester embraces organic chemistry, and certain applications of chemistry to the arts, namely:
a. Chemistry of bread-making.
b. General culinary chemistry.
c. Toxicology and antidotes.
d. Dyeing and printing.
e. Coal tar and its products.
f. Curing, tanning, and dressing of leather.
g. The precious metals, electro-plating, and electro-casting.
h. Photo-chemistry and photography.
i. Metallurgy of iron, and manufacture of steel.
A suit of three rooms is assigned for instruction in chemistry: the professor’s laboratory in the centre; the lecture-room on one side, and the students’ laboratory on the other. They are all provided with cold and hot water, gas, and steam, and with sinks, basins, and wall tables.
The same methods of instruction are followed as in physics. The experiments, however, are for the most part performed by the students themselves. For laboratory practice they are distributed into sections of eight or ten members, each section having the exclusive use of the laboratory and the assistance of a teacher twice or thrice a week.
The students’ laboratory is furnished with practice tables, each supplied with the necessary reagents and apparatus for qualitative analysis, and appropriated to the use of one student. Large blackboards, high on the walls, afford room for a full statement of the methods in detail for the particular practice in hand.
In addition to a complete cabinet of the elements and compounds required, special cabinets have been commenced of the various objects studied in the second semester in different stages of the process of manufacture. These greatly assist in educating the faculty and habit of exact observation. The following are already tolerably complete:
1. Woven fabrics, dyes, and prints.
2. Combs— ox-horn, buffalo-horn, and shell.
3. Paper— cotton, straw, and wood.
4. Iron— ore, puddled, wrought, and steel.
a. Hides— ox, horse, hog, buffalo, deer, etc.
b. Skins— sheep, goat, kid, dog, cat, rat, etc., etc.
Others object-cabinets will be added, as they may be required.
A brief course of lectures on topics of descriptive astronomy is given by the professor to the sophomore class, as a popular introduction to the study. In the Astronomical Department proper, the instruction is conducted strictly on a mathematical basis. Before entering upon it, the student must have passed satisfactory examinations in the entire mathematical course. Two semesters of the junior year form a complete course in astronomy, to which those who specially desire it may add one more in the senior year.
In the junior year, the students are expected to become familiar with the simple problems of the sphere, involving spherical trigonometry, with the use of formulae, and with the computations necessary for the calculation of lunar eclipses. The text-book in hand is Norton’s Astronomy. Outside of the classroom, the students are encouraged to give all the time at their command to the use of instruments, and instructed in the manner of employing and handling them. Small refracting telescopes and a small transit instrument are put into their hands for free use, and they are allowed some practice with the large meridian instrument belonging to the college.
The students who elect astronomy in the senior year are expected to read Bessel’s Method of Computing Solar Eclipses (as given in Chauvenet’s Astronomy), and to go through with the computation of a solar eclipse by the most rigorous method. In a few cases they have also taken up the method of “least squares,” reading thoroughly the discussions on that subject in the appendix to Chauvenet’s work.
The practical working of the observatory is limited to the following classes of observations:
a. Observations of meridian passages of stars, for time of the college.
b. Observations for the longitude of the observatory, such as occultations, and moon culminations.
c. Observations for latitude, with zenith telescope.
d. Observations of phenomena of Jupiter and its satellites.
e. Observations of sun spots.
f. Observations of barometer and thermometer.
As the director of the observatory (who is also the professor of astronomy) has no regular assistants, the voluntary aid of the students is of the greatest service to her, while to them it is a valuable means of practical education. The meteorological observations are left wholly to students; and two students have, this year, made all the observations on sun spots. These are photographic, and the negatives are carefully preserved for future measurement. As far as other duties allow, the students are always present when observations are made. Observations made by them at any time on meteors, aurora, positions of planets, or other phenomena, they are requested to report at the observatory, 8,nd a portion of these are published in a scientific journal; the object being to stimulate their power of observing.
Students who remain in the department two years are not likely to give up their studies in that direction afterward. Some of these have purchased telescopes since leaving college, and are using them in their own homes; several have been engaged in teaching astronomy, and two in making computations and observations for another observatory.
The work of this department extends through five and a half semesters, in the preparatory and collegiate course. The branches pursued are physical geography, botany, zoology, mineralogy, and geology. They are taught partly by text-books and partly by lectures, accompanied by direct observation in field and laboratory.
From the outset, the student is taught that natural history does not consist in collecting specimens, learning names, or cramming with facts; that scientific knowledge comes from a study of things; and that the mind must form the habit of appealing directly to nature. The student is cautioned to discriminate between facts and the speculations founded on them, between what she knows and what she may believe. It is not expected that the department will graduate botanists, zoologists, or geologists. What is aimed at is, to arouse the spirit of inquiry, to cultivate a habit of observation, to fix attention upon resemblances and differences, and thus to teach the student to teach herself.
Physical geography is taught, in the preparatory course, by the use of Guyot’s wall-maps and a text-book.
Botany is placed at the entrance to the college course, and made obligatory. The developmental history and structure of the various parts of plants are first taken up; next the study of their functions; then, and not till then, the analysis of flowers for classification. For work in the botanical laboratory, the students are distributed in sections of eight or ten members, each section meeting the teacher three times a week for dissecting specimens collected by themselves. The time allotted to this branch does not allow the student to do more than master the characteristics of the principal orders; but those who have the taste pursue the science during the rest of their course, and form herbariums.
Zoölogy is commenced in the second semester of the sophomore year, and the method is similar to that employed in the study of botany: first the structural, then the systematic. From the lowest forms up to man, is the order followed. Every effort is made, by the use of specimens and drawings, to imprint the fundamental principles by sensible impressions on the eye, the ear, and the touch. The zoological collections of the college are freely open to all the students, and serve to kindle a love for nature and to stimulate inquiry. For the class-room, the collections are used on the “typical principle;” that is, only such specimens are selected as illustrate the leading structural modifications and modes of development of the representative forms of life. Around these, as so many fixed centres, other facts will collect by natural affinity.
Instruction in mineralogy (including lithology) and geology is given by means of Dana’s text-books, with occasional lectures; by the aid of unusually fine cabinets of minerals, rocks, and fossils; and by excursions. Attention is mainly confined to American geology. The students have the free use of an extensive series of “working specimens,” and are taught how to construct geological maps and sections. None are allowed to enter geology who have not passed in the preceding branches. During the last semester of the senior year, an advanced course is provided, in which many of the great questions rising out of geology and its kindred sciences are discussed, and papers are read alternately by the professor and members of the class.
Growing out of the department is a Society of Natural History, a voluntary association of students specially interested in the study of nature, who meet periodically for mutual improvement.
The Museum of Natural History is unusually well adapted to educational uses, and is made in all its parts to serve the purpose of its creation. It consists of a cabinet of minerals, rocks, and fossils, the Giraud Collection of North-American Birds, a cabinet of comparative zoology, and an herbarium. The minerals number about four thousand specimens, selected specifically for their educational value. The aim has been to form a well-proportioned cabinet of choice specimens, each class having the representation which properly belongs to it, and no more. Both the crystallized and amorphous conditions of the mineral are represented. Every specimen is separately mounted on a varnished block, which bears a printed card with the name and locality legibly inscribed. Besides this systematic collection are series of models in wood and glass, solid, transparent, and dissecting, for illustrating crystallography, a series exhibiting the physical characteristics of minerals, and a “working series” of specimens for the use of the students.
The Lithological Cabinet is a classified series of all the important rocks from granite to peat. The specimens number about seven hundred.
The Cabinet of Palaeontology contains forty-five hundred fossils from the standard localities of Europe and America, distributed according to geological formation. Each specimen is mounted and labeled as in the mineral cabinet. Besides these are many valuable models, restorations, relief-maps, sections, and landscapes.
The Herbarium consists mainly of plants from New England and New York, of which there are about five hundred species. It is uniquely arranged for ready reference, and is accessible to the students. It is gradually increasing by a system of exchanges.
The Cabinet of North-American Birds, founded by the late J. P. Giraud, Jr., of Poughkeepsie, is one of the most valuable collections in the United States. It now contains about one thousand specimens, representing over seven hundred species, including several type specimens and many of historical interest as the originals of Audubon’s celebrated drawings. Mr. Giraud left a fund for its completion, which will eventually make it a perfect collection of all the species between Panama and the Arctic Ocean, The specimens are all mounted, chiefly by Mr. Bell of New York, and each has a printed label, giving scientific and common names, with the range.
The Cabinet of General Zoölogy, already numbering over five thousand specimens, is rapidly increasing. It comprises about five hundred mammals, birds, and reptiles from South America, collected by Professor Orton, including, probably, the largest series of hummingbirds in any college museum; representative vertebrates from our own country; a small collection of insects and shells, sufficient for class-purposes, but inadequate at present to give a proportionate idea of these great sub-kingdoms; a fine collection of corals and other radiates, including an unusually perfect specimen of the rare Pentacrinus Mülleri, “the last of the crinoids;” a choice osteological series, without which it would be impossible to give an intelligent view of structural zoölogy; and some clastic anatomical models prepared by Dr. Auzoux of Paris. Comparative rather than descriptive zoology is taught by the use of these specimens. Annual additions are made to this cabinet by means of a fund established by Mr. Vassar; and it is the aim to give the fullest expression to New-World forms, a limited number of foreign representative types being added for classification and comparison.
The college museum is not regarded as a luxury, nor as a mere appendage for display, but as an essential and most important instrument of education; and, as such, every part of it is kept vigorously at work in the instructions of the department.
PHYSIOLOGY AND HYGIENE.
This department has a twofold object:
a. The instruction of the students in the fundamental principles of human physiology and the science of health;
b. The maintenance of sanitary regulations in the college family.
The means employed for the first are the following:
1. Lectures given once in two or three weeks before the whole body of students upon topics of practical and general importance.
2. A course of instruction in elementary physiology given in semi-weekly lectures to the freshman class during the first half of the collegiate year.
3. Daily recitations for those members of the senior class who elect that study in the second half of the collegiate year.
The chapel lectures are on such themes as the following: Food and Digestion; Circulation; The Skin; Bathing; Dress; Sleep; Exercise; Care of the Eyes; Care of the Sick; etc., etc. They are designed to help all the students, from oldest to youngest, at the outset of their residence here, to form some definite ideas of what constitutes a healthful regimen, and to inspire them to establish their college life upon that basis.
The lectures to the freshmen aim to give such anatomical and physiological facts as will add intelligent interest to gymnastic and other physical training, encourage each student to seek to combine in her college course the best mental culture with the development of physical strength and grace, and fix the conviction that sound health is the prime necessity for success in such culture.
The study of physiology, (including an outline of anatomy and hygiene,) to which one semester of the senior year is assigned, is of course only an introduction to the vast domain of physiological research. It is intended, however, to give something more than a superficial glimpse of the most essential portions of the field; and, with the degree of maturity and discipline for study which seniors bring to the work, a good deal can be accomplished in half a year. The text-book used is the “Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene” of John C. Draper, which suggests the topics and the order in which they are discussed; but the students are referred to more complete and carefully written treatises, in the college library, for their study of every point that comes under consideration. The topics to which attention is principally limited are, the skeleton, the muscular system, the respiratory, the circulatory, and digestive apparatus, the nervous supply, and the special senses. The main facts regarding these are carefully considered. The controlling aim of the instruction is, (1.) to lay a thoroughly substantial foundation—so far as it goes—for special studies in physiology and the related sciences, should the student have subsequent opportunity and desire therefor; and (2.) to fit all to be teachers and exponents of the laws of healthful action, in whatever sphere they may be called to act.
The section of the library appropriated to this department contains about two hundred volumes, embracing the best works on physiology and its kindred sciences. Means for illustration are had in the apparatus of a well-selected cabinet and the fresh specimens that can always be obtained in market. The cabinet consists of skeletons, articulated and non-articulated; a complete dissectible manikin; large dissectible models of the larynx, eye, and ear; various desiccated specimens, etc., etc.; all chosen for the single purpose of elucidating the selected topics of study.
The sanitary regulations of the household are under the official direction of the same professor, as resident physician and general health officer. These aim to insure the following objects:
a. Regularity in hours for work, recreation, rest, bathing, and eating;
b. The ventilation and cleanliness of the college buildings;
c. The abundant supply of simple nutritious food;
d. The careful expectant treatment of any who are threatened with illness;
e. The isolation of any who have been exposed to, or are attacked by, contagious disorders.
Improved health and increased vigor of mental and physical force have been the rule among the students since the college life and work were fairly systematized. During the present year, the average of daily health-excuses from regular duties has been scarcely one per cent of the whole number of students
The only branches of philosophy hitherto attempted are psychology and ethics, to each of which one semester of the senior year is devoted. The leading objects of the instructions are:
a. To afford the student an additional variety of, intellectual discipline, by exercising her powers in a new field of scientific inquiry, where a different sort of problems from any she has before considered are to be solved by new methods of reasoning and research.
b. To give her some general knowledge of the great questions which have divided the opinions of thinking men in regard to the nature of man and his relations to the universe, of the progress of human thought respecting these subjects, and of the different schools of philosophy which they have originated.
c. To furnish material and guidance for forming some philosophical beliefs which she may fairly call her own.
In the class-room memoriter recitals are systematically discountenanced. After a brief analysis of the views presented in the lecture or text-book, the door is opened for discussion. Entire freedom of thought is allowed and encouraged, light is welcomed from whatever quarter, and special interest is attached to the more recent and advanced phases of opinion. At the same time the professor endeavors to inculcate, both by precept and example, a prudent conservatism and proper respect for authority, and, by every legitimate influence of explanation and reasoning, to establish intelligent convictions of the reality of man’s spiritual existence, of the certainty of his knowledge within definable limits, and of his responsibility to moral law as an ultimate fact of his nature.
For the sake of definiteness and precision, the Scottish school is selected for special study, in both intellectual and moral philosophy, as affording the basis of the most current ideas and of the popular philosophical terminology among the English-speaking peoples, and therefore the most convenient point of departure for the tyro in these studies. Sir William Hamilton’s psychological system is studied in detail, and compared point by point with the doctrines of his predecessors, especially those of Reid, the founder of the school. Bowen’s and Murray’s Outlines are in the hands of the students; and Hamilton’s full works, with duplicates of Reid, Stewart, and Brown, are placed on the library shelves, in sufficient numbers to allow of convenient daily consultation by the entire class. Additional information respecting related schools, especially the later German and French, and respecting the criticisms of Hamilton by Mill and other English writers, are supplied in the lectures of the professor.
In moral philosophy, the text-books have been Wayland’s Moral Science, and Calderwood’s Handbook. The latter is specially valuable for class use as a thesaurus of references, and as presenting the latest phases of antagonism in ethical science. The details of the work, at the same time, afford ample subjects for criticism in the discussions of the class-room. When there is time for an outline of practical ethics, Dr. Wayland’s manual has been taken as a guide.
The results attained by the training in this department are more and more satisfactory, especially in developing habits of free and independent reflection on philosophical questions. The students are made as much as possible to feel that one intelligent conviction which is really their own, gained by honest reflection, and, maintained with earnest candor, is worth an army of borrowed opinions, however profound, whether as an element of thought or an inspiration to life.
It is understood, in the outset, that the college is in no special sense an art school. The claims of general intellectual education are paramount. Aesthetic culture, however, has a recognized place in a complete and well-proportioned training, whether for man or woman; and of the two, is certainly not the less important for the latter. In providing for instruction in music, therefore, and in the arts of design, the aim has been to reconcile two things— a proper subordination to the claims of the academical course, and a high order of instruction in the arts themselves. The first object has been secured by allowing no regular student to take more than one art study at a time, and by strictly limiting the time spent in lessons and practice; the second, by adopting the highest standard of taste in the instructions given, and placing them under the direction of accomplished masters.
The branches of music taught are piano-forte and organ playing, singing (solo and chorus), and harmony. To each student two lessons only a week are allowed, with one practice period of forty minutes daily. The rule of the department is to admit no models of inferior merit to its rooms. For the piano-forte, the works of Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Haydn, Clementi, Mozart, Cramer, Beethoven, Moscheles, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Liszt, form the foundation; for the or- gan, those of Rink, Hesse, Ritter, and Bach; for singing, the methods, vocalises, solfeggi, etc., of Garcia, Vaccaj, Concone, Bardogni, and Marchesi, together with arias from the best Italian and French operas, and songs by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, R. Franz, and other good German composers.
The unusual limitation of time for study and practice was at first discouraging to both teachers and pupils; and the impression seemed to be general that little could be accomplished for musical cultivation under such restrictions. The result has been a pleasant surprise to all concerned. Thanks to a sound method, a rigid economy of time and effort, and the healthy effect of the college course in strengthening the power of concentration and general capacity for improvement, the proficiency of the pupils of this department has attracted general commendation; audit is a noteworthy fact, that the students who are most diligent and successful in the severer disciplinary studies, as a rule, become the most thorough musicians.
To extend the horizon of musical knowledge, lectures in different epochs of musical history, illustrated by practical examples, are given by the professor. A selection of standard works, in different languages, on musical theory, history, aesthetics, etc., forms part of the college library.
DRAWING AND PAINTING.
The studies in this department aim—
a. To impart the power of imitating natural objects by means of drawing or painting;
b. To train the eye of the student to observe beauties of form and color in nature;
c. To make her acquainted with the best productions of art;
d. To instruct her in the history and theory of art;
e. To improve her taste by means of these acquirements, not only in general, but specifically for the aesthetical questions which arise in the ordinary life of woman.
The following is the course of instruction:
1. Drawing of projections of simple figures, like cubes, cones, cylinders, etc., using rule and measurement.
2. Drawing the same objects in perspective, after perspective rules. 3. Drawing, by sight alone, different objects, beginning with casts from simple ornaments, proceeding through a series of more difficult forms, and ending with casts from busts and entire human figures.
4. Out-door lessons in landscape drawing.
5. Painting, in oil and water-color paints, after pictures belonging to the college gallery.
6. Painting, in oil and water-color paints, from natural objects, the different cabinets of natural history affording a choice selection of models for the study of color and touch.
7. Lectures on the history and theory of the arts of painting and sculpture, and on the principles of decoration as applied to dress, personal ornaments, house-furnishing, etc.
As aids to this department the college possesses—
1. A collection of five hundred oil and water-color paintings by living artists;
2. A collection of excellent plaster casts from ancient and modern sculpture, imported from the house of Antonio Vanni;
3. A collection of photographs from sculptures, paintings, architectural works, and from original drawings by the old masters; 4. A library of six hundred volumes, comprising some of the most valuable standard works on art, such as Winckelmann’s “Ancient Art,” Lübke’s “Monuments of Art,” D’Agincourt’s “Art par les Monuments,” Flaxman’s works, Gruner’s Ornamental Art,” etc.
These paintings, casts, photographs, and books form the college Art Gallery, to which some additions are annually made from the fund provided therefor. Several of the pupils of the department, after leaving college, have taken up the study of art with the aim of making it their profession, and some are teaching drawing in other schools.
From the above statements it will not be difficult to determine about what grade and system of instruction have been attained in the institution within eight years from its somewhat discouraging commencement. It should be remembered that this is not a prospectus, but a report—not a programme of expectations and promises, but a record of what is actually doing, on a slowly matured and permanent plan, in the development of which all violent or exceptional influences have been carefully eschewed. The following are features in the educational policy of the college, from which its students have ceased to expect or desire any departure.
1. The course of studies is a prescribed one to the middle of the sophomore year, and a regulated one through-out. The judgment of responsible educators determines the branches to be pursued, and the order of pursuing them, until the students are in a measure fitted to elect for themselves, and even then supervises their election so far as not to permit a waste of time, or positive injury to education.
2. The prescribed part of the course embraces a due proportion of those strictly disciplinary branches which, when left to the option of the student, are almost always either wholly neglected or so slightly studied as to be useless, but which, if thoroughly taught, experience proves to be the best possible preparative for advanced studies in science, literature, or philosophy.
3. The number of branches which any student may simultaneously pursue is rigidly limited. Three distinct branches, not previously pursued, together with one art-study to which a definite time is allotted, are the established complement. This rule prevents an evil often charged upon young ladies’ seminaries, and avoids the danger of sacrificing both health and education to over-haste or a misguided zeal of acquisition.
4. The diploma of the institution, and membership in its regular classes, have a definite educational significance, on the recognized collegiate scale—each being a guaranty that the student has passed examinations, intended to be test-examinations, on a certain number of specified branches, in a well-adjusted and comprehensive curriculum.
To this extent, it may be claimed, the attempt at regulating the higher education of women has been successful; and, though a thorough-going criticism can not fail to notice remaining deficiencies, what has been accomplished presents at least a fixed point of departure for future improvements— a point, too, bearing a clear relation to a standard of established authority.
An encouraging fact attending the progress of this experiment is the changing ratio from year to year between the number of regular and of irregular students. During the first year, as has already been stated, all were irregular. The following are the figures for the subsequent years:
With each succeeding year, the list of irregulars has consisted more nearly of such only as properly require a special course, until now the restriction has become absolute, and the irregulars are all of collegiate grade.
The number of collegiates proper, as distinguished from both specials and preparatories, has also steadily increased, as thus:
This steady growth in the size of the college classes, notwithstanding a simultaneous advance in the requirements of admission, encourages the hope that erelong the accommodations of the college will all be needed for the college proper.
To estimate the full significance of the success attained, it must be remembered that the experiment has not been made with an exceptional and limited class of students, nor on the basis of endowed and gratuitous instruction. It is the success of a fully organized school, with a large number of students, drawn from all parts of the country and all classes in the community, and paying full price for their advantages. It has been won in an open and fair competition with the numerous, well-appointed, and well-conducted ladies’ seminaries and academies all over the land, and may therefore fairly be taken as the exponent of a decided and permanent advance of public sentiment in regard to the distinctive principle which it represents, that of a strictly collegiate education for women.
Of this progress in American opinion there are other encouraging indications. The idea has ceased to be a strange one to the public mind. No subject has been more frequently or earnestly discussed for the last five years in the newspapers and magazines, and no one can doubt that the drift of the discussion has been toward a favorable verdict. Two large bequests have been made, in Massachusetts, to found colleges where women may be educated. Michigan University, Cornell University, and some of the older and most respectable New England colleges have formally opened their doors for the admission of young women. Others are pressed with urgent applications to take a similar step; and where such applications are met, as at Harvard, with a decided negative, the refusal is noticeably grounded less and less on any general objection to furnishing such advantages to women, and more and more on doubts as to the expediency of educating the sexes together, and on the unreasonableness of requiring institutions already burdened with responsibilities beyond their means to assume the risks of a new and (if rightly conducted) expensive experiment.
With the theoretical question of “co-education,” which these efforts to open the old colleges have pressed into prominence, Vassar has no concern. Whatever hazard may attend the gathering into the same academical community of large numbers of young men and women, or whatever difficulty there may be in adjusting a common curriculum to the claims of both a masculine and a feminine culture, she is free from such embarrassments. She has fairly tried the experiment of the capacity of women, under conditions specially adapted to their wants, for the most thorough, systematic, and comprehensive education. Under such conditions, at least, she has furnished a practical refutation of ancient prejudices on this subject. Her examination-rooms are open to the inspection of competent judges, and her daughters will not shrink from comparison with young men of corresponding grade and equal advantages. For rosy health and vigor, she challenges the production of four hundred young women thrown together under any other system of training, or in any other line of life, who will surpass or equal them. And if any still labor under the impression that earnest study and high intellectual culture are destructive of feminine grace and refinement, a visit to Vassar will dispel the delusion. No parts of the system there adopted have yielded more thoroughly satisfactory results than the provisions made for health and for social and moral culture. The success attained in these respects is believed to be attributable to the systematic care which has been extended over those invaluable interests, and to the presence and tireless efficiency of responsible officers charged with their protection. Without the vigilant supervision of the lady principal and the resident physician, and the lady teachers associated with them in the care of the college family, there is no reason to believe that the same results could have been secured.
Whether it is practicable to engraft on the existing colleges for young men the special provisions for social and sanitary care so important for young women, and to incorporate in their curricula all the elements of a finished womanly culture, is a question for the managers of those colleges to decide. Vassar only protests, in the name both of education and of woman, against the assumption of this great responsibility lightly. To admit women by a side-door into a man’s college, to assign them seats at the lower end of the bench as mere tolerated intruders, and the crumbs of the table as their share of the banquet, is not to provide for the higher education of women. Indeed, means could hardly be devised more likely to lead to unfortunate results, or to bring the cause itself into contempt. If the experiment is tried at all, let it be with a distinct recognition of all that it involves, and not without sufficient means to warrant a reasonable hope of success.
In every respect but one the managers of this institution have reason to be satisfied, not only with its past success, but with its promise for the future. One great desideratum remains, which has already been named, but which may be well emphasized by a second mention at the close of this report— one additional feature needed to perfect it as an instrument for the beneficial purposes to which its founder pledged it.
Provision is imperatively needed, in the form of State grants or of scholarships endowed by private liberality, to bring its advantages within the reach of that large class to whom they would be most of all useful, and who would turn them to the most profitable account, both for themselves and for others.
It is as true now as when Luther penned the declaration, in his celebrated “Letter on Education to the People of Germany,” that it is God’s way to take the children of the poor, and make them the princes in the realm of literature—the thinkers, writers, and teachers of the world. And it is the glory of Christian universities and colleges that, through the bounty of generous men and women, their advantages have always been made freely accessible to the children of the poor. Church and state, learning and science and religion, have all reaped rich harvests from this wise planting. Hitherto, however, this beneficence has inured exclusively to the benefit of the sons; the daughters, though equally ardent in their desire for culture, equally capable of acquisition, and equally able to repay, have been debarred from all participation. The age is rebuking the policy as alike cruel and short-sighted.
The great State of New York, which gave its hundreds of thousands to the colleges for young men to help their struggling infancy and enable them to educate those who were too poor to educate themselves, has not yet contributed anything to endow institutions for the similar culture of its daughters; no other State has done any better; and but one solitary person in all the land has been found to emulate the far-sighted benevolence of the Founder, and plant a free scholarship beside the Vassar Auxiliary Fund. There is nothing to discourage in this fact. Time is necessary to complete the demonstration and work conviction in the public mind, and time will surely vindicate all that is true and provide for all that is precious in the idea of liberal education for woman.