The Susan B. Anthony papers: suffrage, abolition, organizing

New digital collection available!

The Slavery question is the All-absorbing one of the day…

— Susan B. Anthony to Bestey Voorhees, June 28, 1854 [1]

Susan B. Anthony, n.d. Bain News Service, publisher. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Vassar’s Susan B. Anthony digital collection, containing 100 items (and more than 300 pages) of writings to and from the famous suffragist and abolitionist, is now available online.  While Anthony is perhaps best known for her work in obtaining voting rights for women, she was also heavily involved in anti-slavery efforts, and Vassar’s collection provides insights into Anthony’s work in the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement.  It also shows Anthony’s incredible talents for organizing political movements and bringing their causes to the forefront of local, state, and national conversations.  Materials include letters to and from noted abolitionists Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who, similar to Anthony, worked for abolitionist and suffrage causes).

Those interested in political organization, grassroots movements, funding, and networking will be particularly interested in Anthony’s writings.  For example, her March 8, 1859 letter to William Lloyd Garrison describes her goal to organize and inspire abolitionists in New York through better connection to voters and legislators.  As she writes from Albany, N.Y.:

“I have written Greely [Horace Greeley, the editor of the New-York Tribune] & asked him if he would not publish the petition & tell the readers of the Tribune of the fact that their noises should be heard at the Capitol … We must have some working centre here in New York – Gerit Smith [Gerritt Smith, see 3] says he has been giving time & money, in a quiet way – & so have others, but the trouble is it is so very quiet, nobody knows or feels it – We have the Material to be worked up into genuine anti Slavery – We lack only the faithful, earnest home workers -” [2].

Closeup of page 1, Anthony, Susan B. -- to William Lloyd Garrison, [Mar 8, 1859]

Closeup of page 1, Anthony, Susan B. — to William Lloyd Garrison, [Mar 8, 1859]

Anthony’s early letters are filled with similar references to organization, “working centers,” and creating networks and media outlets to make others aware of abolitionist movements in New York.  Her later letters shift focus to suffrage, but continue to show her incredible political organizing skills.  For example, she delivers persuasive speeches about suffrage and continues to publish as widely as possible about votes for all, but also writes to congressman Thomas C. Powell on Oct. 22, 1876:

Closeup of page 2, Anthony, Susan B. -- to Thomas C. Powell, Oct 22, 1876

Closeup of page 2, Anthony, Susan B. — to Thomas C. Powell, Oct 22, 1876

“Because of my United States citizenship I am entitled to a voice in the government of the nation, the state, the county, the town & the city in which I chance to reside… and I hope you will see this point & thus urge it in your debates- – and when you shall see a form of petition to Congress for a 16th Amendment I hope you will circulate it and collect a great many names.”[4, emphasis added]

She later writes to “Dear Sir” (by context, most likely another congressman) in January 1884 in a similar vein, asking politely but pointedly about preparing for a national vote on women’s suffrage:

Anthony, Susan B. -- to "Dear Sir," Jan 18, 1884

Anthony, Susan B. — to “Dear Sir,” Jan 18, 1884

“Will you kindly tell me if you would have voted for the resolution for a Select Committee on Woman Suffrage, had you been in the House when the vote was taken Dec. 20? Or rather- would you vote for a Committee if another motion were brought before the House? By answering the above questions you will greatly oblige.” [5]

The collection contains materials from 1854-1905.  Most letters are handwritten and have an accompanying transcript, while others are typewritten. All are full-text searchable and available at  Vassar’s digital collection provides access to a very large set of Anthony letters.  Other notable collections include the selected documents available through the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project at Rutgers University, the Library of Congress, and of course the extraordinary collection of women’s suffrage materials available at the Schlesinger Library through the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.  See an excellent writeup about the Schlesinger’s online Susan B. Anthony materials, and read more of Susan B. Anthony’s documents through their site.





[3] Gerrit Smith was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s cousin, “a founding member of the New York Anti-Slavery Society and a station master on the Underground Railroad.”  National Park Service, “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Underground Railroad”



Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein!

Albert Einstein and Otto Nathan walking in garden (n.d.)

Albert Einstein and Otto Nathan walking in garden (n.d.)

Happy birthday, Albert Einstein!  Born March 14, 1879, this world-renowned physicist is known for his extraordinary scientific contributions, but perhaps lesser known is his dedication to social and political actions to promote world peace.  Vassar is one of a few institutions of higher learning that have papers from Einstein, and our collection documents this social and political work in the United States and abroad, with special attention to Jewish affairs.  Recently, in collaboration with Caltech, Princeton University Press, and Hebrew University, and made possible by a generous grant from alumna Dr. Georgette Bennett in honor of Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE, our collection was fully digitized, transcribed, and translated — and is available at

Features of the Vassar collection

As an undergraduate institution, we knew that we wanted both new and seasoned Einstein researchers to be able to use our collection, which focuses mainly on the post-World War II years of Einstein’s life and contains letters from Albert Einstein, his wife Elsa Einstein, and Vassar professor (and executor of Einstein’s estate) Otto Nathan.  One of the best ways to meet this need was to translate our collection from German to English. We reached out to the editors of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein at Caltech to provide an official transcript and translation of each letter.  We also worked to create a new viewer for our digital library collections to provide a side-by-side view of the English and German texts, and made the writings fully searchable.  Here is one example:


This item allows us – English and German speakers alike – to read Einstein’s powerful writings about the role of physicists in creating world peace:


Die Physiker benehmen sich gut, indem sie alle gegen die Geheim-Rüsterei sind und für Verhütung der Kriege auf internationaler Basis sind; sie scheuen sich aber, die letzten Konsequenzen zu ziehen—Weltregierung die allein über Militär-Macht verfügt.


Physicists are conducting themselves well in that they are all against secret armament and in favor of the prevention of war on an international basis; they shy away, however, from acknowledging the ultimate conclusion—world government that alone is equipped with military power.

Many more letters about Einstein and his views on world peace are available, such as Einstein’s manuscript discussing war, politics, and world cooperation (c. 1948).

The Einstein-Vassar connection

A selection fo Einstein materials

A selection of Einstein materials available at

After his emigration from Germany in 1933, Albert Einstein began his work at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. One of the people he got to know at Princeton was Otto Nathan. Nathan was an economist who had served as an adviser to the German government from 1920 to 1933. In 1927 he was a German delegate to the World Economic Conference, held in Geneva. Like so many others, Nathan left Germany after Hitler’s rise to power. He came to the United States and taught at several institutions of higher learning, including Princeton (1933-35), New York University (1935-42), Vassar (1942-44), and Howard University (1946-52). Nathan also published a number of articles and books on economic subjects, such as Nazi War Finance and Banking and The Nazi Economic System: Germany’s Mobilization for War.

Einstein and Nathan had similar backgrounds and common interests, and a friendship quickly developed between them. They began to correspond regularly, discussing a variety of issues and topics. After Nathan left Princeton in 1935, they maintained close personal ties; for instance, Nathan played an important role by taking care of many of Einstein’s legal, financial, and real estate matters. The two professors also collaborated on several social and political issues of the day. The great trust and confidence that Einstein felt for Nathan was expressed most clearly in his will of 1950. In this document Einstein named Nathan the sole executor of his estate, and further designated him a joint trustee, along with Helen Dukas, the scientist’s longtime secretary.

Einstein died in April 1955. In the months and years following, Nathan devoted himself to the work of serving as Einstein’s executor. Eventually, a series of correspondence and other materials made their way to Vassar College.

To read more about this connection, visit

The Albert Einstein Digital Collection at Vassar College Libraries was made possible by a generous grant from alumna Dr. Georgette Bennett in honor of Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE.

Play Ball!

Field Day Baseball, circa 1913

Field Day Baseball, circa 1913

Despite our current frigid temperatures, snow-covered lawns, and icicles hanging from every roof, spring is around the corner. For baseball fans, the opening of Major League Baseball’s spring training provides hope that summer is coming soon. Baseball has a long history at Vassar College, and our Digital Library contains some tantalizing details about how the sport was played here.

The first mention of a baseball game at Vassar comes through a letter that Annie Glidden (VC 1869) wrote to her brother, John, in April 1866:

They are getting up various clubs now for out-of-door exercise. They have a floral society, boat clubs, and base-ball clubs. I belong to one of the latter, and enjoy it, hugely, I can assure you. Our ground was measured off this morning. We think, after we have practiced a little, we will let the Atlantic Club play a match with us. Or, it may be, we will consent to play a match with the students from College Hill: but we have not decided yet. [1]

As historian Debra Shattuck chronicles, Glidden was a member of the Laurel and Abenakis Base Ball Clubs, and she and the other twenty-two classmates who participated “…were among the first

College physician Helen Webster

College physician Helen Webster

women baseball players in the United States” [2]. The popularity of the sport was striking: prior to attending Vassar, students had often learned that physical activity would jeopardize their studies, health, and reputations in polite society. (We don’t know his reaction, but it’s possible that Glidden’s brother was aghast at her interest in baseball!) To counter this belief, College administrators created model physical training programs to improve the health and well being of their students. [3] Our Student Diaries and Student Letters collections are filled with stories of hiking at Lake Mohonk, club sports, and the benefits of exercise in general. As Nettie DeWitt (VC Ex-1896) wrote to her brother in October 1892, “You ought to come and visit me in the winter. Right across the road from the college grounds is a nice pond. In winter they skate there a great deal. Won’t it be fine? And they coast here too, and have lots of sport. I will get in more exercise than I do at home almost” [4]. College physician Helen Northing Webster encouraged students’ physical activity, even calling on athletes to play through their injuries [5].

The Resolutes, 1876

The Resolutes, June 1876

Baseball’s popularity at Vassar waxed and waned through 1875, when The Vassar Miscellany asked, “Could base ball clubs be called improvements [on campus life] or the reverse?” [6] A June 1876 picture of Vassar’s team, The Resolutes, serves as a reminder that the club members were still interested in playing, though the sport’s popularity suffered an overall decline. Until 1909, there seems to be no evidence that students organized teams, though there was the somewhat popular “baseball throw” at Field Day competitions starting in 1895. [7] But the 20-year hiatus provided the opportunity for faculty and students to join forces in their love for baseball. In 1917, the Faculty-Student Founder’s Day baseball game began. By June 1920, Misc editors noted that the “excited audience” had lots of fun at “…the Faculty-Student baseball games for which Founder’s Day is famous” [8].

The Founder’s Day game was played through the 1960s, but by 1976, baseball seemed to be waning again on campus. A January 1976 Misc article noted that only three students were interested in creating a team to play at Prentiss Field, and it is unclear if any emerging baseball teams were going to be all male, all female, or coed. [9] Though baseball’s popularity declined, other sports surged: once Vassar became coeducational in 1969, the number of teams fielded and variety of sports increased, and a formal relationship with the NCAA was established. [10] Additionally, there were coed softball teams on and off again from the 1970 until at least 1995, and the Archives and Special Collections Library’s subject files have references to these teams. But baseball itself never did go away: the College joined the NCAA’s Division III for baseball in the 1980-1981 season, and though there is no record  — at least digitally — of any female club teams, there have been more than 30 years of men’s baseball teams. Interestingly, there was one point when the team was coed: outfielder Lilly Jacobson (VC 2010) was the only female player on Vassar’s baseball team from 2008-2010. [11]

While it’s still too chilly perhaps to play baseball ourselves, it’s the perfect temperature to read more about baseball at Vassar, whether online, at the Archives & Special Collections Library, or in the stacks. Shattuck’s excellent article on baseball and higher education in particular provides a wonderful narrative on the social history behind the teams. And while our digital collections provide insight into past and present baseball trends at Vassar, much more is waiting to be discovered — perhaps by a current or future scholar that is, of course, a baseball fan.

Image gallery


[1] Annie Glidden Houts to John Glidden, April 20, 1866.

[2] Shattuck, Debra A. “Bats, balls, and books: Baseball and higher education for women at three Eastern women’s colleges, 1866-1891.” Journal of Sports History, 19 (2), Summer 1992, p. 91-109. See also Shattuck’s 2017 book entitled Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers.

[3] Shattuck (1992), p. 91; p. 95-97.

[4] Nettie DeWitt to brother, Oct. 6, 1892.

[5] Shattuck (1992), p. 99.

[6] The Vassar Miscellany, Volume V, Number 1, 1 October 1875.——-en-20–1–txt-IN——-

[7] Shattuck (1992), p. 103.

[8] “Faculty and students clash on diamond.” The Vassar Miscellany News, Volume IV, Number 57, 17 June 1920, p. 3.–1872—1920–en-20–21–txt-IN-baseball——

[9] Macleod, Tory. “Use of Diamond Depends on Interest.” Miscellany News, Volume LXIII, Number 2, 30 January 1976, p. 11.——197-en-20-miscellany-1–txt-IN-baseball+AND+women——#

[10] Marmer, Andy. “Vassar athletics always on the cutting edge.” Miscellany News, Volume CXLIV, Number 12, 18 January 2011, p. 14.——201-en-20-miscellany-1–txt-IN-baseball+AND+women+AND+club——

[11] O’Connor, Acacia. “Female baseball player feels at home with the boys.” Miscellany News, Volume LXXXIII, Number 22, 1 May 2008.——-en-20-miscellany-1–txt-IN-lilly+jacobson——