Re: Anita Hemmings (Winter 2001)

Perhaps by now others have written to you re: cover story of VQ winter 2001, vol. 98, issue 1. The cover shows Anita Hemmings 1897, the subject of Olivia Mancini’s article “Passing as White.” Mancini concludes her article, praising President Fergusson for integrating officially Anita Hemmings’ truth into Vassar history at the Vassar Centennial. As a member of that Vassar Centennial class, I am reeling from the author’s conspicuous omission of the fact that Anita Hemmings is a direct descendant of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. Jill Sim who was Mancini’s source for the story must have made this fact clear since she published her story in Jefferson’s Children. Jill Sim is the great-granddaughter of Anita Hemmings.

Diana Korzenik ’61
Newton Highlands, Massachusetts

[Ed. note: At press time of the Anita Hemmings article, Winter 2001, research compiled by Hemmings’ great-granddaughter Jillian Sim had not confirmed a connection to the Jefferson Hemings. However, when the VQ recently asked Ms. Sim for an update she stated, “While we don’t hail directly from Sally Hemings herself, we do indeed come from that family.”]

Reunion Festivities

I am distressed to learn from the photograph in the recent alumnae/i magazine that returning alumnae/i still release helium-filled balloons during reunions. The latex balloons eventually come down to earth. They are not readily destroyed and form a real hazard to wildlife, potentially choking them. Furthermore, latex allergy is a rare disorder but a life-threatening one. Please let’s use a more environmentally friendly way of celebrating!

Marjorie Bass Zucker ’39
New York, New York

[Ed. note: AAVC recognizes Ms. Zucker’s concern and are currently exploring new ideas. We welcome anyone with an environmentally friendly solution to contact AAVC.]

MacCracken's Generosity

Regarding the discussion (letters, fall 2000 and fall 2002) as to when men first attended classes at Vassar: men were admitted even before World War II. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President MacCracken opened the college’s classrooms to unemployed young men from Poughkeepsie who were invited to sit in on as many classes as they chose. They paid nothing, earned no college credits, handed in no papers, and were never called upon by the instructors. They simply came, listened, and, if they wished, took notes. Many took advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. I remember two or three in my Physics 105 class, sitting unobtrusively in the back of the room. I have always thought it was a marvelous thing Prexy did — giving young men, often destitute and hopeless, such an unheard-of opportunity to absorb the educational offerings of a great college they could never otherwise have obtained.

Joan Deming Ensor ’36
W. Redding, Connecticut

Artwork in Jewett

About the wall paintings found in Jewett — I do remember my roommate Peter and I (both class of ’74 and both painters, residents of MJ-402, a triple at the time) frequenting those rooms in Jewett because of the skylights, which existed there. I remember personally petitioning then-Dean of Residence Elizabeth Drouilhet for permission to use those storage rooms for painting, because of the skylights. She denied our request. As to the wall paintings themselves — well, I don’t remember specifically, 32 years later, but it’s possible we were the original perpetrators, although they may have been repainted since.

Brian Corll '74
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

More on Men at Vassar

In the Fall 2002 Quarterly, Elizabeth St. John Dunn '46 pushes back the time of the first males at Vassar to when she attended, before the smaller group of WW11 veterans took classes in the "c" term of 1946 and the larger group (about 92) were admitted for the subsequent "a" term which began in September of 1946. I suppose the actual date of the first males to attend Vassar classes will probably never be determined precisely. In the Vassar Alumnae Magazine of October 1946 Professor Margaret Myers reported that "This action [admitting males] was not without precedent, for during the depression years, a few men had attended classes at Vassar. Nor was the presence of young men on the campus a novelty; many a Yale and Princeton reading period, and more recently, many a furlough, has been spent at Vassar." I suppose that if anything distinguishes the veterans who attended Vassar between 1946 and 1953 it is that they were the largest single group of males ever admitted to Vassar before it went coed, and that sixteen of them, who initially were granted the baccalaureate by the University of the State of New York upon the recommendation of the Faculty and Trustees of Vassar College, were subsequently offered the Vassar degree. Thus, those who accepted, no doubt became the first males to ever receive a Vassar baccalaureate degree.

Ralph LoCascio '50
Lincoln Park, New Jersey

Captions, please!

It would be helpful, and pleasant, especially for the older alumnae, if Vassar would label its photographs. We would like to know who the people are in the reunion pictures .The woman in the open car (2nd row far right, page 22) looks a lot like Miss Blanding. Is it? Who is the couple? (She looks familiar) When a photo is taken of a group of six or less, names should be taken as well. The early ART 105 lecture picture looks as if it was taken in the 50s. Surely Vassar's archives must be able to identify years or at least decades! As for pictures of buildings, renovated or not, it would be helpful to label them as well. The photos illustrating the excellent article about the Polly Hill Arboretum are helpfully captioned...perhaps by the author? I have not read the articles (except for Polly Hill), but it looks as if there is a lot more to read than Class Notes!

Sally Robinson Burt ’54
Dedham, Massachusetts

Consensus on Captions

As an editor myself, I hate to be critical of other editors' editorial decisions. However, while your new format, especially as it pertains to photos, may be "zingy", I find it very disconcerting to see so many captionless photos in the Quarterly. For instance, in the Fall 2002 issue, why are the old photos on pages 4 (or for that matter, the new one on p. 5) and 30 not identified by year? A further photo quibble: in the "Reunion 2002" spread (pp. 22-23), why are members of some classes ('32, '37, '42, '47, '52, then a gap to '77, and another gap to '92 and '97) identified and others not? And how come there is not one close-up photo of anyone in the Class of '57? The only slight indication that we were there at our 45th is the bunch of green balloons, barely visible, in the tiny "12 p.m. Celebration of Volunteers" photo on p. 22!

Judith Ashe Handelman '57
Scarsdale, New York

"Great Job"

I enjoy reading the magazine and usually read the entire issue as soon as it comes out. My memories of the college are generally positive (but not as fond as others), but I must say that the publication makes me feel really proud of the school, students, and leadership. You do a great job of covering the diversity and activism of the place.

Ann Carper ’76
Washington, DC