Visitors viewing “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” at the IBM Galleries in New York, January 1961. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062310a

Revisiting the Magnificent Enterprise

Continuing our celebration of Women’s History Month, take a minute to revisit “The Magnificent Enterprise” exhibition, sponsored by Vassar College and circulated by Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service in 1961.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to revisit an important and inspiring exhibition circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in 1961. “The Magnificient Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” was a photographic exhibition based on the 100 years of higher education for women. Sponsored by Vassar College in observance of its centennial year, the exhibition toured several venues including New York City, Rochester, and Chicago. Containing over 200 photographs, engravings, lithographs, posters, and drawings primarily from Vassar College collections, “The Magnificient Enterprise” highlighted the many aspects of women’s colleges in relation to important historical events, such as the Civil War, the fight for suffrage, and the struggle for women’s higher education. Over 25 other institutions of higher education were represented in the exhibit, including ElmiraMount Holyoke, and Bryn Mawr.

Vassar College was founded in 1861 by Matthew Vassar under the name Vassar Female College. It was the first degree-granting higher education institution for women in the United States, and it opened its doors to 353 students in its first class. Founded as a liberal arts institution, Vassar focused on a multi-disclplinary approach to education. This approach was shaped by faculty members such as Maria Mitchell, a noted astronomer, Frederick Louis Ritter, one of the first music historians in the U.S., and Lucy Maynard Salmon, a celebrated historian. Additionally, Vassar College is one of the Seven Sisters, the first elite colleges to provide educational opportunities to women equal to those available to men.

Please enjoy some of the highlights from this collection documenting “The Magnificent Enterprise.”“The Magnificient Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” was a photographic exhibition based on the 100 years of higher education for women.

Visitors viewing “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” at the IBM Galleries in New York, January 1961. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062310a.

Exhibit panels from “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” at the IBM Galleries in New York, January 1961. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062311a.

Vassar students in the 1893 production of “Antigone” given in Greek, Image part of “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” exhibition in 1961. Credit: Vassar College Library. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062306a

Stematz Yamakawa, '82, one of the first Japanese students at Vassar, Image part of "The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door" exhibition in 1961. Credit: Vassar College Library. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062313a.

Students in the '80s at Elmira enjoying light refreshments in their room, Image part of "The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door" exhibition in 1961. Credit: Elmira College. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062314a.

Three of the four members of Vassar’s first graduating class, 1867, at 50th Anniversary Celebration in October 1915, Image part of “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” exhibition in 1961. Credit: Vassar College Library. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062315a.

Vassar students’ bridge game, Image part of “The Magnificent Enterprise: Education Opens the Door” exhibition in 1961. Credit: Rollie McKenna/Vassar College Library. Record Unit 290, Smithsonian Institution, Traveling Exhibition Service, Records, 1952-1981. Image No. SIA2018-062305a.

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