A Vassar Thanksgiving, 1909

Please be aware: It has come to our attention that this historical diary contains references to potentially offensive material.  Had we been fully aware of the content, we would have reconsidered the decision to share this passage in this context.  We regret the oversight, and also recognize that historical documents serve as important tools for examining both the past and the present.

Discovered in our extensive collection of digitized Vassar Diaries, the following is a freshman’s description of her 1909 Thanksgiving spent at Vassar. Of particular interest are the menu and the post-dining activities recounted by Ms. Katherine Gretta Ordway.

Nov. 25.

Rising bell rang at 7.30. Breakfast at 8. I went to service in Assembly Hall at 9 A.M. Prexy led a hymn, responsive reading of psalm, lovely prayer by Prexy, “America” and closed with benediction. Waited in Grace Patton’s room until Express office was open. Maud and she each have a box. Then went to 403R and straightened my room. Went to Helen Adler’s and after arduous effort we managed to make a pair of umbrella drawers for our dear little dolls. I staid to lunch at Davison. Helen & I worked on the drawers after lunch. Then Helen, Maud, Isabel Beaver and our monitor in chapel and I walked to Young’s and the violet farm. Our feet were dry but oh: our legs. My stockings were soaking wet from my ankles to my knees. I hustled home and shed my wet garments. Rubbed my legs energetically with a Turkish towel. Then bathed them in hot water & rubbed again and put on some dry footgear. Found a box from the Flag shop awaiting me. Opened it and found a beautiful bouquet of violets (from the Violet Farm). This card was in the box. Thanksgiving greetings to Gretta from Florence. Miss Florence Louise Hopper. I hustled into my Sicilian dress. Miss Blount helped me & I helped her. She also lent me a long violet pin. We went over to Main together. I left my things in Grace Patton’s room. Hustled up to 445 Main & found my name wasn’t posted for any table. So I eagerly asked somebody about it and she had me wait until the end of the line. I finally was seated at a table with Dorothy Faber, Laura Lewis, Virginia Butler, Clara Hill, Miss Clemens and some other girls. Had a very nice time. Our place cards were paper turkeys. Our dinner began at 5 P.M. and consisted of 1. soup and little rolls. 2. fish & sauce. 3. turkey (cold) (breast meat) mashed potatoes, creamed onions, little green peas, celery, olives; (almonds between courses) 4. nut salad, wafers, and cheese straws, 5. small piece each of pumpkin and mince pie 6. vanilla ice cream, with melted chocolate poured over it. 9. mixed nuts and raisins 8. fruit; bananas, apples, oranges and Malaga grapes. Coffee. During dinner the different tables sang. The faculty sat at a round table by the door and went out at close of dinner but returned after we clapped hard. Prexy spoke and so did Mrs. K. Oh I forgot to mention that I wore my violets. They are the first flowers I have ever received. It was so sweet and dear of Florence to send them. I wore them at my belt and their fragrance & beauty continually reminded me of her. After the speeches we withdrew to the parlors. Our dishes were the blue ones used only on state occasions. We had rose pink carnations at our table and 4 pretty candlesticks, two at each end. I sat on the floor in North Parlor. The stunts were very cute indeed. Among them McGinty dance, story of the Tar Baby, a most comical orchestra of combs accompanying a painted horror. The lack of harmony between the fair maiden’s voice and the orchestra was most amusing. Prexy beamed upon his girlish family in fatherly amusement. After the stunts the girls danced. Maud said, “Don’t you dance, Gretta?” I said “No,” “O Gretta” was the indefinite answer. I watched them for awhile. Then came home. Clara Hill, Charlotte Clemens & I walked around by the chapel and Main and back home after 9P.M. The moonlight on the snow was so attractive. Wrote a letter Home between 10 and 11 P.M. Got to bed about 11.45. This is the way I rest. I have had a very pleasant day.

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To read more of Gretta Ordway’s diary, visit our digital library.



3 thoughts on “A Vassar Thanksgiving, 1909

    • Kathryn, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We apologize for the oversight. We need to consider the situation carefully before taking action. But you’ll hear from us soon!

  1. As wonderful to read as Jean Webster’s Vassar Christmas write up in “Vassar Notes” from the Poughkeepsie Sunday Courier. (Circa 1898)

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