Posts tagged vassar
Posts tagged vassar
Holy shit I’m so old.
I hope you all love it as much as I did!
Astronomer Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818 — June 28, 1889) was born the third in a Quaker family of ten children, in an age when parents still considered the physical sciences better-suited for girls than boys. Her formative years, however, coincided with the unfortunate reversal of gender norms that made women in science not only a rarity, but also a discouraged deviation from social standards. She would eventually lament in an 1881 report, “At what time did scientific associations close to women?” Even so, Mitchell went on to become the first recognized female astronomer in America and contributed significantly to the evolution of both astronomy and women’s science education.
In a testament to the fact that equality isn’t merely a “women’s problem” but requires equal investment from all, Mitchell owed her early scientific education to her father’s consistent encouragement and his refusal to treat his daughters as inferior to his sons. William Mitchell was an astronomer himself and a teacher at a small school, which Maria attended as a young girl — the birthplace of her fascination with nature and science. At seventeen, she founded her own school dedicated to teaching girls the essential skills of science and mathematics.
In 1836, Mitchell became a librarian at the Atheneum in her hometown of Nantucket, where she, like Ray Bradbury, would educate herself by reading through the library’s collection every day. Meanwhile, she continued to observe the night sky with her father.
On October 1, 1947, shortly after her 29th birthday, Mitchell discovered the first comet in American science, which went on to be named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” Even more extraordinary than her gender in the historical context of the discovery was that she achieved it with a modest telescope only two inches long, further evidencing her exceptional mastery of astronomy. Mitchell was awarded a prestigious international medal for the discovery and, at only thirty, became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. No other woman would be afforded this invitation for the remainder of Mitchell’s lifetime.
At a time when women were employed by the government primarily as seamstresses, cooks, and other domestic-arts occupations, Mitchell is believed to be the first American woman employed for a non-domestic specialized skill by the federal government. Working for the United States Nautical Almanac as one of only eleven astronomers and mathematicians in that role, she was paid $300 a year for her job as a “computer of Venus” — a mathematically heavy endeavor requiring she synthesize complex calculations into charts that predicted Venus’s position in the sky for years ahead, which sailors all over the world would use for critical celestial navigation.
Mitchell’s reputation soon spilled into the ranks of other influential women and they eventually pooled together, led by legendary publisher Elizabeth Peabody, to help Mitchell use tools on par with her extraordinary scientific drive. Emerson’s United States Magazine ran an editorial urging school girls and women to donate however much they could afford to help buy the beloved astronomer a telescope worthy of her mind. And they did, to a poetic effect — Mitchell was soon the owner of one of the most sophisticated telescopes in the country, a gift from “the women of America.”
An embodiment of the tragically and consistently overlooked fact that science and the humanities need each other, Mitchell was also keenly interested in the social sciences and became the vice president of the American Social Science Association. But her great love remained the cosmos, which she saw not only as scientifically fascinating but also as the height of aesthetic beauty. In a diary entry from February 12, 1855, she marveled:I swept around for comets about an hour, and then I amused myself with noticing the varieties of color. I wonder that I have so long been insensible to this charm in the skies, the tints of the different stars are so delicate in their variety…. What a pity that some of our manufacturers shouldn’t be able to steal the secret of dyestuffs from the stars, and astonish the feminine taste by new brilliancy in fashion.
Bespeaking the idea that equality begets equality, Mitchell carried forward her father’s respect for equal dignity in her own convictions, not only in actively championing women’s empowerment and education, but also by becoming deeply invested in the anti-slavery plight and the quest for freedom for all. She even famously refused to wear garments made of cotton grown by Southern slaves, one of the earliest recorded acts of wearable political convictions.
After the Civil War swung open the doors to women’s education, Mitchell was invited to teach astronomy at Vassar, one of the most prestigious newly established colleges helming the higher education revolution, where she’d have an alluring twelve-inch telescope at her disposal. She was the only woman on the faculty. But despite the college’s progressive-by-the-era’s-standards decision to hire Mitchell, she still faced — and tirelessly opposed — the antiquated and often contradictory gender norms of the time: For instance, she taught astronomy to young women, and yet the original college handbook of rules stated that it was forbidden for female students to go outside after dark.
By 1861, Mitchell had reached celebrity status and was one of the most famous women in the world — so much so, Renee Bergland tells us in the altogether excellent Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer Among the American Romantics, that “people who sat next to her at a meal or glimpsed her across a train platform often wrote to their hometown newspapers to report the sightings.”
But the greatest complement to her scientific brilliance was her enormous kindness and her unrelenting humility. Like fellow reconstructionist Marie Curie, she was unmoved by accolades and preferred, instead, to help cultivate the talents of other budding female scientists — even if it meant overcoming her excruciating shyness in order to teach and serve as a role model. In fact, in what Bergland calls “the scholarly dignity of the quiet Quaker woman in the simple black dress,” Mitchell’s parallels Curie’s famous pragmatic humility. And yet, as Bergland poignantly puts it, “Maria Mitchell crackled and sparkled somehow, even when the rest of [Nantucket] was torpid and sleepy in the sunshine.” One woman, who in her childhood had befriended Mitchell in her librarian capacity, recalled the “warmth and depth of Maria Mitchell’s affectionate nature” and extolled her “whole-souled generosity.”
Mitchell died in 1889 of brain disease, leaving behind an inextinguishable torch of hope for women in science at a time of oppressive darkness. She was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. The Maria Mitchell Association in Nantucket preserves her legacy and houses the Maria Mitchell Observatory.
To the class of 2017:
August has, for the past 4 years, meant returning. It has meant homecoming. It has meant fresh starts, new pens, and blank pages.
August has come to mean, to me, Vassar. And now, suddenly, it doesn’t.
When I graduated (a whopping 2.5 months ago), it felt right and good and true. I was ready. It wasn’t until August peaked around the corner that I felt like something was missing.
You, luckiest of all the most lucky in my mind, are about to set foot on my favorite place, and I envy you beyond reason.
I challenge you to try more do more be more than you think you can.
Stay up late, talk to those kids down the hall, experience the end of an all nigher from the library, the Rose Parlor, your dorm room. Lie awake on a Saturday night and listen to all the comings and goings of the quad. Kiss a stranger. Kiss your best friend.
Follow the 2 week rule.
Go to the bridge next to the willow on Sunset Lake, lie down, tip your head over the edge, and enjoy.
Spend all day on the quad. Listen to a new favorite song, make a new friend & watch the shadows grow long.
Get a solid crew together for breakfast.
Get a solid crew together for dinner.
be brave. be nervous. be fucking terrified.
Visit people in their rooms, share your clothes, walk to Acrop at 3 in the morning.Take more pictures than you think you need to.
There’s a quiet nook next to the Shakespeare garden…spend an afternoon there alone. Bask in those fleeting moments of privacy.
Say no to things, to people, to projects.
Fight over which one is the best dorm (Davison, obviously).
Watch a lightening storm from the Earth Circle.
Leave messages hidden in books in mailboxes on trees.
Come up with a code.
Relish in the talent of others. Don’t be afraid to take on leadership roles.
love and love and love until you think you can love no more.
surprise yourself by loving again.
Speak up in class. Don’t be afraid to let someone change your mind. Take a pie from the deece and eat it in the orchard. Get lost on the farm. Sleep outside. Watch the stars.
Dance. What you feel, when- and wherever you feel it.
at the mug
in the villard room
for flypeople/hype/on tap/shakers
alone. in a crowded room. in the dark.
Be wild. Be uncertain. Be committed. Be there for others. Be generous, and be so often. But be selfish sometimes. Be good to yourself.
Get off campus.
Recognize that nothing is perfect. Don’t be afraid to point out the corruption, the hypocrisy, the unrealistic idealism. Fight for the changes you believe need to happen to make things better.
Collect something… bottle caps, ticket stubs, dried flowers. Mark the passage of time with something other than deadlines.
Eat good food.
Be comfortable in your body, somehow.
Listen to music when you shower.
Make sure you don’t remember Freshman/Sophomore/Junior/Senior year because so much has happened, not because you drank any single one of them out of your brain.
Spend the next 4 years learning Vassar and build for yourself the most amazing group of friends anyone can ask for. Hold each other up hold each other together. Be sensible and crazy for one another when you need to be. Be vulnerable and let them see you. Truly you. At your best and your worst and anything in between. See them back. Laugh often and loudly.
And then, when you’re not quite ready, just because you can, move in with strangers.
Fall in love with them.
That’s what I did, and it worked out pretty damn well.
Vassar is where I discovered myself, found my soul mates, and learned to chase my dreams. She is responsible for who I am and who I will become.
So take good care of her. And she’ll try her best to take care of you, I promise.
Have a great 4 years you lucky little turds. I’ll see you on the other side.
I’m just going to second everything in this post. It feels so incredibly weird not to be going back to the place that made me the person I am today. I was the happiest I’ve ever been while I was at Vassar and to know that I can’t go back is just…weird. And while I’m looking forward to the new experiences that are coming, I miss the sense of security that comes from going back to Vassar every August and knowing that my friends and my favorite spot in the library and endless a cappella are waiting for me.
If you are the person from Vassar who said hi to me at VidCon, please let me know! I want to find you/check out your tumblr (and YouTube if you have one)! I’m so sorry I don’t remember your name (I’m not so great with them) but meeting you was one of the highlights of my VidCon. If you see this, please send me a message!
Hi! No worries!
I am probably not the best person to answer this question because I only live an hour’s drive from Vassar, so I’ll publish it so that other people in the Vassar tag can answer it.
I think Newburgh is the closest airport, but there aren’t buses or trains that go to it. I think most people take Metro North into the city and then take a bus or train (not sure which—sorry) to JFK (or maybe La Guardia?) I’m sorry! I’ve never had to fly in or out of Vassar so I don’t really know the answer.
Can anyone else help me out?
Welp there’s an assigned reading book for college and someone posted on the Facebook page asking for opinions of it and I gave the first negative opinion and I’m waiting for everybody to start yelling at me. Also, the author is going to be speaking to the class or something in September, so I kinda hope she doesn’t talk to us one by one or anything. Because somehow, “I know it won a Pulitzer, but your book sucks” isn’t really what I want to say to anyone, partially because I know she would just die laughing because, hell, she won a Pulitzer for it after all.
You don’t have to go to the lecture where the author speaks. I didn’t go when I was a freshman. It’s completely optional.
gonna go sleep for 4 hours and then go freeze my toes off while I graduate
Is this real life?