Student Letters

Aaron, Fannie. Letters, 1919-1923.
VC 1923
Fannie Aaron (VC 1923) attended Vassar from 1919-1923. Her letters are of particular interest to researchers and students because Aaron was one of the only Jewish students on campus, and her letters detail the social, cultural, and religious challenges she faced while here. She wrote more than 750 letters (totaling approximately 1500 pages) in four years. The Fannie Aaron letters were donated by Judith and Louis Friedman in 2014, and their digitization was made possible by a generous grant from Dr. Georgette Bennett in honor of Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE. We are grateful to Dr. Bennett, the Friedmans, and the rest of Fannie Aaron's family for their support.
Adams, Juliet Amelia. Letter, 1869
1 letter from Adams to Minnie McInnes, a friend from home in Philadelphia, describing her first few days at Vassar. Topics include entrance examinations, classes, food, and the students' daily routine.
Adams, Ruth. Letters, 1900-1902
85 letters from Adams to family, written between 1900 and 1902, and 1 letter from Flora A. Clarke to Ida, April 1901. Some of the letters are very brief notes or postcards. Adams’ longer letters contain evocative landscape descriptions, references to student activities, orders for new clothing, and references to class examinations. She mentions preparations for the Washington’s Birthday pageant, visits to Williams and West Point, and a skating carnival. She also speaks of the presidential election between McKinley and Bryan.
Anderson, Irene. Letters, 1866
VC Spec 1866-1867
1 letter, dated 10 Oct 1866, from Anderson (VC spec 1866-1867) to her brother Norton B. Anderson. Anderson promises to write every week and keep a daily journal of her experiences at Vassar College. She describes the geology walks led by Professor Tennyson, provides a comprehensive outline of the daily schedule, and mentions extracurriculars in music, gymnastics, and horseback riding.
Arnzen, Laura Earl. Letters, 1865
3 letters from Arnzen to Caroline and Abigail Slade (all three were VC Special Students from 1865-1866) while the sisters were still home in Fall River, Massachusetts. The letters describe student life in the first few months of the college. Arnzen encourages the sisters to join her at Vasssar, describing entrance examinations, food, and the building in glowing terms.
Badgley, Mary M. Letters, 1866-1867
7 letters from Badgley to Kate Flanders, a friend from home in Milwaukee, about her 1866-1867 fall semester at Vassar. She describes entrance examinations, classes, the rooms, food, exercise, and prayer meetings. She also chats about news from home. In one letter (Oct 15) she talks about the students entertaining themselves in the evening by dressing up - as nuns, ghosts, and one person as an African-American woman. She also mentions the subsequent outrage of an unnamed English literature teacher.
Bagg, Sophia D. or Sophia R. Burnham. Letter, n.d.
1 brief thank you note to Annie Glidden Houts, possibly from Sophia D. Bagg or Sophia R. Burnham. All three were VC 1869.
VC 1869
Banfield, Edith C. Letters, 1888-1891
1 letter from Banfield to her friend (or relative) Mary Banfield, and 2 letters from Banfield to her family. The letter to Mary Banfield contains information about a visiting Episcopal minister, a prayer meeting, academics (including a brief mention of Professor Salmon), and social news about acquaintances and student life. One letter to her family contains a detailed description of a mock duel between two of her friends. The other describes elections for student government and Philaletheis, dinner at a professor’s house, and events leading up to Commencement and the associated issue of the Miscellany.
VC 1892
Barnes, Lucy (Sellers). Letters, 1870-1875
17 letters from Barnes to family. The 5 letters to George Taylor Barnes are transcripts only; Vassar does not hold the originals. The letters describe the daily student routine, food and meal time, prayer requirements, final examinations, student government and class government, traditions relating to class parlors, acting in a Philaletheis play, lectures, a sermon by James Chaplin Beecher.
Barus, Annie Howes. Letter, 1869
1 letter from Barus to Edith. Includes detailed descriptions of her entrance examinations, housing situations and furnishings, roommates, daily routine, meals, and classes. Also relates an account of her meeting the president to be accepted after the examination.
Brown, Frances Elizabeth. Letters, 1866-1867
7 letters from Brown to Abigail L. and Caroline E. Slade (both VC Special Students from 1866-1867) at Fall River, Massachusetts. The letters discuss housing, upperclassman recitations, social news, Founder's Day and faculty, including Henry Van Ingen and his wife. Brown details changes to the scheduled prayers, chapel sessions, and Bible studies that were made after the Slades had left Vassar. She mentions to Caroline (March 1867) a male correspondent's complaints against the workers on a plantation near New Orleans, and complains frequently about the strict behavior of the Lady Principal, Hannah Lyman.
Camp, Annetta Hortense. Letter, 1866
1 letter from Camp to her friend Abigail L. Slade (VC Spec 1866-1867) including gossip about their social set, as well as happenings at the college.
Chase, Almira (Cowles). Letter, 1868
1 letter from Chase to her mother. She describes a walk with a teacher and six other girls (all wearing "gymnastics dresses"). She also relates information about her health and discusses possibly bringing a friend home with her over Christmas vacation. She attaches an article in the Eagle by president Raymond calming fears of a typhoid epidemic at Vassar.
Cole, Elizabeth (Curtis). Letter, 1870
1 letter, dated June 15 1870, from Cole (VC 1870) to her friend “Mattie.” Cole invites Mattie to Class Day at Vassar College and instructs her on how to meet Cole and find a seat. She also encloses an invitation to the Class Day exercises on June 21st, 1870. The letter and invitation are stamped with the seal of the Vassar College class of 1870: the letters VC interlinked with the number 70.
VC 1870
Cornell, Mary Emma. Letter, 1866
1 letter from Cornell to her father. She asks for information about a men's college that her father is involved with. She gives a detailed and favorable impression of the morality of Vassar, concluding that most of the students are Christian and become closer to their faith during their time at the college. She also describes the importance of her Christianity and her own growing connection with religion. Cornell relates an accident with the scaffolding of the Gymnasium, badly injuring four workers.
Crippen, Ruth H. Letters, 1900
5 letters from Crippen to her family and unmarked recipients. Praises the amenities of student life, such as rowing, the floral club, the post-office, and the Self-Government constitution (Oct 1900). She mentions that college offers the freedom to "listen or not" during lectures (Sep 1900). Crippen describes her classes in hygiene, anatomical drawing, and recitation. She also describes surreptitiously using the oil heating stove to make hot cocoa. She anticipates a party with the students next door, ice skating, and the cotillion at Lehigh. Her fall 1900 letter details her freshman class trip to the Lake Mohonk landscape and hotel.
DeCaindry, Ida (Corson). Letters, 1870-1872
3 letters from DeCaindry to her sister Helen. DeCaindry uses the familiar "thee" form to address her sister. She writes about student and academic life, including the planting of the class tree.
DeWitt, Nettie (Brand). Letters, 1892-1894
12 letters from DeWitt (VC Ex 1896) to her mother, 3 to both parents, 2 to her brother, 2 to her father, and 3 addressed to the whole family. The letters describe finances, healthcare and the Infirmary, social life and organizations, academics, and religion & bible study. She describes some traditions like Founder’s Day, Class Day, Commencement, and Daisy Chain. Notably, she writes about Valentine’s Day and associated smashing (to mother, Feb. 16, 1893). She also includes some social issues, like a debate between the campus Republicans and Democrats about the campaign (to mother, October 1892), missionary work, a lecture from Jane Addams (to mother, Feb. 16, 1893), famous trials like the Lizzie Borden case (to brother), and events with the YWCA ( to mother Dec. 10, 1892). In particular, the letters to her mother include detailed descriptions of romantic relationships on campus (through events with male guests like Founder’s Day and dances), fashion and shopping trips to New York City, and food (along with updates about her weight). Throughout, she discusses her motivations to drop out of Vassar.
VC Ex 1896
Duncan, Doris (Bullard). Letter, 1914
1 letter, dated Dec 2 1914, from Duncan (VC 1917) to Mrs. Charles Culver, mother of Mary (Culver) Pollock (VC 1917). Duncan thanks Mrs. Culver for hosting her on Sunday night, as well as Dr. Culver for carrying her “heavy” suitcase to the station. Duncan reports rumors that the President’s House at Vassar College is being renovated for a new president, complains about the smell of the “unhealthy” cheese that Mary keeps in the food-chest, shares an anecdote of the pastor missing his own service in the chapel, and sends Dr. Culver a joke related to the war. Includes envelope.
VC 1917
Eaton, Esther. Letter, 1905
1 letter, dated Apr 27 1905, in which Eaton (VC 1905) thanks “Miss Shipp” for the gift of a book. Miss Shipp is the sister of Eaton’s Vassar College classmate Margaret "Peggy" M. Shipp (VC 1905). Eaton expresses happiness that she lives close to Peggy and hopes that Miss Shipp will come to Commencement. Includes envelope.
VC 1905
Eaton, Julia (Hammer). Letters, 1888
2 letters, one from Eaton to her sister Emma Hoadley Tenney, the other from Eaton to her father. Both letters describe Eaton's experiences during her spring 1888 semester at Vassar. Eaton describes the Washington's Birthday Party, for which students costumed themselves as colonial women, George Washington, "Indians," Salem witches, and Quakers. Eaton also describes a brief illness and a notable snowstorm that cut off the mail and roads.
Elwell, Marion F. Letter, 1904
1 letter, dated March 4 1904, from Elwell (VC 1906-1907) to her family. Elwell describes a birthday party, several plays, the election of Esta Saville (VC 1906) as the class marshall for commencement, entertaining “stunts” [skits] performed by the Lathrop tables, and the costumes for Washington’s birthday.
VC 1906-1907
Fales, Helen Augusta. Letter, 1865
1 letter from Fales to "dear Aunt Susan." Fales complains about Vassar's strictness, particularly compared to the freedom afforded to students at men's colleges. She gives a detailed account of the faculty and staff at Vassar, including Dr. Raymond and Miss Lyman. She explains how meals are conducted and the food that is served. She also describes housing, the different areas of Main building, and the furnishings.
Faust, Frances (Patterson). Letter, 1888
1 letter from Faust to her brother George M. Patterson. Faust relates her participation in a play, which was deemed "immoral" by a faculty member and had to be rewritten by the cast before they performed. She also describes a spelling competition between the class societies of 1888 and 1889. She concludes with an anecdote about her friend receiving flowers from a male suitor.
Finley, Charlotte (Deming). Letter, 1886
1 letter, dated “Thanksgiving Night 1886,” from Finley (VC 1889) to her cousin “Effie.” Finley writes that an excellent Thanksgiving dinner was served at Vassar College, during which the students costumed themselves as English ladies and gentlemen. She describes the events after dinner as including meeting faculty in the parlor, dancing, listening to an organ and voice recital in the chapel, and unpacking boxes from home. Finley mentions that some of the students planned trips to New York City for winter recess, and that the play "Pygmalion and Galatea" was performed at Vassar. She closes the letter with news of family and mutual friends.
VC 1889
Fitt, Harriet (Bradley). Letters, 1910
VC 1913
31 letters, dated between 13 Jan and 8 Apr 1910, from Fitt (VC 1913) to her family. Fitt discusses a spring semester at Vassar College. She describes coursework, lectures, and exams in subjects such as geometry, Latin, medieval history, and Renaissance history. Fitt also discusses features of VC administration such as faculty members, administrators, elections for class officers, class meetings, the course sequence in English, the prohibition of phonographs, and administrative changes to the chapel cut system. She mentions athletic activities such as tobogganing, skating, and esthetic dancing. Traditions referenced by Fitt include the Maid’s [Goodfellowship] Club, the third hall play, the Shakespearean fourth hall play, senior parlor, and the ice carnival. Fitt reports having her theme published in the Vassar Miscellany and serving on the committee to organize the Founder’s Day dance. Because of her Annapolis family’s connection to the U.S. navy, Fitt often mentions students and social events at military academies such as West Point.
Fogg, Annie. Letter, 1870
1 letter from Fogg to "friend Annie." Fogg describes her entrance examinations for Vassar, along with her settling in at the college.
Foster, Frances (Harmon) Miller. Letters, 1864-1866
4 letters and a clipping from Foster to her cousin Louisa Burton and to Jennie Elizabeth Clark. The clipping is about the death in battle of Foster's husband Captain Oscar O. Miller on Sep. 2 1864. The letters describe Foster's dedication to her Vassar academic responsibilities and student life between 1865-1866, which she confides is a "refuge from sadness" (Jennie, Oct 1865). Foster depicts the Vassar buildings as "extensive, fine, beautiful" (Jennie, Oct 1865), and relates her impressions of the faculty, her roommates, and her entrance examinations. Her later letters refer to Founder's Day and enclose a program.
Frantz, Edna (Bachman). Letters, 1912-1916
10 letters, dated between 18 Oct 1912 and Feb 14 1916, from Frantz (VC 1916) to her friend Rosemarie. Franz provides detailed descriptions of her four years at Vassar College. Frantz discusses her academic experiences, including exams and final papers at the end of each semester, lectures, visiting her English instructor (5 Nov 1912), and transferring to a more advanced Latin class (5 Nov 1912). She mentions music and theater at Vassar in every letter, describing hall plays, glee club, an operetta, concerts, and choir. Frantz portrays the performing arts as connecting Vassar to the outside world, such as in her description of watching a movie starring Mary Pickford, using a phonograph, participating in a joint concert given by Euterpe club of Pough and choir (17 Feb 1915), and meeting an opera singer and a ballerina. In addition to vividly describing the buildings and grounds of Vassar (18 Oct 1912), Frantz recounts taking an eight-mile walk near the college (7 Dec 1912), walking along the Hudson River (5 Oct 1913), visiting the historic home of Governor George Clinton, visiting New York City (17 Feb 1915), spending junior week at Colgate (2 Jun 1915), and visiting West Point in 1916. She refers to athletic activities such as hockey, soccer, the mock Yale-Harvard football game staged by Vassar students, (24 Nov 1912), basketball, and ice skating. Frantz discusses her social relationships with her classmates, noting social invitations, visiting, and the departure of many students from the class of 1914 who marry (Oct 5 1913). Vassar traditions described by Frantz include the parties organized by each class, costumed “stunt parties” and the Masquerade ball (Feb 14 16), class elections, Halloween pranks, the “Maid’s” [Goodfellowship] Club, Founders’ Week, Field Day, the Sophomore Tree Ceremonies Slabsides, dressing dolls for charity, Thanksgiving dinner, prom, the ice carnival (30 Jan 1916), Valentine’s Day, and the class mascot (Feb 14 16).
VC 1916
G., Nellie. Letter, 1866
1 letter from Nellie G. to Isabel Treadwell Towne. Nellie G. reflects on Towne's absence from Vassar as well as other friends who did not return, expressing her loneliness. Nellie also shares concerns about her own health. She relates news from Vassar, including information about their friends' housing, events for the new students, and Miss Hanah Lyman.
G., Nellie. Letter, 1866
1 letter from Nellie G. to Isabel Treadwell Towne. Nellie G. reflects on Towne's absence from Vassar as well as other friends who did not return, expressing her loneliness. Nellie also shares concerns about her own health. She relates news from Vassar, including information about their friends' housing, events for the new students, and Miss Hanah Lyman.
VC Spec 1865-1866
Gallup, Lillie (Taylor). Letters, 1865-1867
2 letters from Gallup to her parents, in Jun 1867. Gallup sends the tuition bill and considers attending Vassar for a further two years. She reports on social events and her election as Recording Secretary of Chapter Alpha of the Philalethean Society.
Gaston, Mary E. Letters, 1874-1878
17 letters from Gaston to her mother. She describes academics and examinations, fashion (including the gymnastics suits) and shopping, religious life, faculty, and housing. Regarding her social life, she relates a freshman-sophomore dance, the Philalethean Society performing The Merchant of Venice and other Shakespeare productions, and concerts by the Cecilia Society. She also includes descriptions of numerous lectures on campus. She mentions the departure of Lady Principal Terry.
Greer, Florence. Letter, 1899
1 letter from Greer to Mary A. Mineah (VC 1870) about her social and academic experiences during her fall semester at Vassar. Mentions acquaintances, a lecturer, English classes, and German classes.
Griffis, Katharine (Stanton). Letters, 1877
4 letters from Griffis to Mary Grace Toll Hill between Jul 1874 and Nov 1875. Griffis discusses news of her family and friends, homesickness, and the excitement of student life. She describes the grounds and rooms at Vassar, her new classmates, social gatherings, clubs, and the Philalethean entertainment.
Griffith, Caroline. Letters, 1878-1885
VC 1884
19 letters to Griffith (VC 1884), dated between 6 Jan 1878 and 19 Jun 1885, from Vassar College students, alumni, and administrators. Both letters from Emma B. (Wentworth) Hull (VC 1880) and the letter from VC treasurer W.L. Dean concerning Griffith’s diploma were sent from Vassar. The 2 letters from Mary L Huckins (ex VC 1881) discuss Huckins’ decision to leave VC for health reasons. The letters describe numerous features of Vassar life such as coursework, horseback riding, travel plans during vacations from Vassar, the new society hall, hall meetings, the “Phil” play, senior parlor, junior party, news about VC students and faculty, commencement, course selections, and memorial services for the late VC President Raymond. They mention alumnae activities such collecting donations for the Raymond scholarship, attending alumnae association meetings, and discussing the book “Three Vassar Girls.” Griffith’s correspondents also mention social and family news and teaching school.
Hagerman, Mary E[lla] (Comstock). Letter, 1882-1884
4 letters, dated between 1882 and 1884, from Hagerman (VC Ex 1885) to her brother Will Comstock. Hagerman discusses her experiences at Vassar College, such as singing in the Glee Club, visiting Lake Mohonk, giving recitations, and attending Commencement. She also sends birthday wishes from herself and her family, exchanges social news, and asks him to look up several words in the dictionary on her behalf.
VC Ex 1885
Hatcher, Orie Latham. Letters, 1887
2 letters from Hatcher to Mr. Pace, Nov. 1887 on her intent to submit her impressions of Vassar student life to his magazine.
Hawes, Edith K. Letter, 1904
1 letter, from Hawes to her sick friend Ruth M. Adams. Hawes discusses history class, minor events on campus, and a lecture in the chapel.
Hollingworth, Ruth (Mann). Letter, 1895
1 letter from Hollingworth to her friend Alice M. Howland. The letter begins with a description of dinner at Strong Hall. She resumes with details about the end of the year, including campus preparations and decorations, a Baccalaureate service, Class Day, a burial service, a concert by the Glee Club, Commencement Exercises, and Alumnae luncheon. She also describes her journey home to New York and the results of final exams.
VC 1896
Hollister, Emma B. Letters, 1875
2 letters from Hollister to her mother from Dec 1871. Hollister reports that she attended a lecture by James Farton, listened to President Taylor read a selection from Nicholas Nickleby, heard a musical recital, and observed a friend performing a significant role in the Philalethean entertainment.
Holtz, Eliza. Letters, 1865-1866
3 letters from Holtz to her brother and mother between 1865 and 1866. Holtz wishes her family a happy new year and describes the Christmas festivities at Vassar. Later letters describe her algebra field trip to Rhinebeck, her visit to the home of a trustee, and meeting a well-known missionary. There is also an undated letter to her brother with an extensive description of Vassar College.
Houts, Annie (Glidden). Letters, 1866-1874
1 letter from classmates Abby F. Goodsell and [Emma], 2 letters from Houts to her fiancé Frank, and 27 letters from Houts to her brother John Glidden. Houts' letters to her brother include discussions of extracurriculars (e.g. her participation in a baseball club and drama productions), Founder's Day, Commencement, academics and lectures (e.g. history, chemistry, German, calculus, astronomy, physical education etc.), her perspective on her time at Vassar and paths for her life after Vassar (e.g. teaching), detailed discussions of family life such as the death of their parents and conflict with her brother over his character and debts. She also writes about religion at Vassar. See the December 1866 for a summary of sermons throughout her correspondence. In her later letters to Frank, Houts discusses a visit back to Vassar including events like a party thrown by the Lady Principal and Maria Mitchell's annual Dome Party.
Hoyt, Emma L. Letters, 1872
1 letter from Hoyt to Mrs. Reed accompanied by a later letter from Susan Crampton to her friend Amy, concerning the discovery of Hoyt's letter. The Apr 1872 letter to Mrs. Reed discusses the historic election of a woman to Montpelier's school committee, meeting the famous author Gail Hamilton, and religious denominations. Hoyt then describes her room, roommates, and Matthew Vassar's bootjack souvenirs of the founding of Vassar. In the undated letter, Susan Crampton asks Amy to forward Hoyt's letter to a committee on Vassar's early days.
Jackson, Helen (Basfield). Letters, 1875-1877
2 letters from Jackson to her cousin Ann Scholfield in April 1875 and Dec 1877. She shares family news, plans visits, and discusses the logistics of feeding Vassar's 400 students. In the later letter she describes winter visits, the Philalethean Anniversary, and the departure of Lady Principal Terry.
Johnson, Caroline (Curtiss). Letter, 1878
1 letter, dated 16 Oct 1878, to Johnson (VC 1883) from her father Abijah Curtiss. Curtiss writes that he cannot bring Johnson home from Vassar College for vacation the following week, remonstrating that “life is not all pleasure” and that she has already visited Hyde Park without his permission. He instructs her to endorse an enclosed check to pay for her music lessons, keep an account of her expenses in the enclosed memo books, and learn the value of money.
VC 1883
Jones, Martha (Boyd). Letter, 1882
1 letter, dated 19 Mar 1882, from Jones (VC 1883) to her mother. Jones writes about the dedication of the organ in the Vassar College Chapel and an organ recital by Walter [Damrosch]. She also discusses the insensitivity of addressing sickness and death in a sermon after the death of Professor Dwight’s baby. Jones closes with a description of social visits in the residence hall, and a request for money to spend on clothing.
VC 1883
Kiliani, Lillian (Taylor). Letters, 1877-1944
3 letters from Lilian Kiliani to her grandmother and 2 letters regarding the forwarding of Kiliani's letters to the Vassar collection. Kiliani's April 1873 letter, written while she was abroad in Baden, Germany, discusses her desire to study at Vassar. Her February 1877 letter describes the features of student life during her first semester at Vassar, such as gymnastics, plays, and coasting [sledding] on hills. That letter also describes surveying work for mathematics. Her October 1877 letter focuses on friends and family, describing the Christmas presents and artistic projects she is planning. In this letter, Kiliani asks her grandmother for advice on how to write to a grieving acquaintance. The remaining two letters regard the 1937 donation of Kiliani's letters to the Vassar collection by Kiliani's granddaughter Natalie Kiliani.