On February 28, 1861 Matthew Vassar met with a group of twenty-eight
trustees for the creation of "Vassar Female College." After four years
of extensive bickering between trustees, founding family and presidents
Milo Jewett and Dr. John Raymond, the college finally opened its doors
to 353 young women in the fall of 1865. Despite Matthew Vassar's death a
mere three years later, his belief in the importance of "a sound mind
in a sound body," or balancing physical education with academics has
extended throughout the college's existence.
The first sport implemented at Vassar was "light gymnastics" that
taught movement and posture as well as endurance, speed, agility and
strength. The location of the current Center for Drama and Film made its
mark as the house of the country's first gymnasium at a women's
college, the Calisthenium.
In accordance with Matthew Vassar's emphasis on "a sound mind in a
sound body," students were required to participate in some form of
physical activity for an hour each day, preferably outdoors. This
"physical activity" could be fulfilled from walks through the fields
surrounding Vassar or more conventionally, through sports. In the late
1800's, Vassar women engaged in student-organized: croquet, archery,
skating and tobogganing in the Athletic Circle (now Noyes Circle). For
eleven years between 1866 and 1877 baseball also flourished on the
campus with as many as seven teams participating. Unfortunately it was
discontinued from public censure deeming the sport "plebian."