Virginia C. Gildersleeve (1877-1965) — A Timeline

Virginia C. Gildersleeve:
A Biographical Timeline (1877-1965)

1877 October 3 – Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve bon; Parents were Henry Alger and Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve. Father a lawyer and politically connected judge (CU Law) Family resided comfortably at 28 W 48th Street, just off 5th Avenue. VCG had two older brothers, Alger (b. 1868) and Harry (b. 1870), both Columbia graduates.
1891 Brother Harry died from typhoid; VCG sent to the Brearley School, founded in 1881 as an academically rigorous girls school by subsequent Barnard trustee, Mrs. Joseph Choate; early feeder to Bryn Mawr
1895 Decides to try for college; she preferred Bryn Mawr but mother directs her to Barnard;
1896 October – Enters Barnard College as one of 21 members of Class of 1899; Barnard then located at 343 Madison Ave. three blocks south of Gildersleeve residence
1897 VCG pledged to Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity, the Barnard chapter founded in 1891. She one of only two in her first-year class to be chosen. Elected vice president of class
1898 Kappa Kappa Gamma declines to admit a Jewish member of Class of 1898, Stella Stern, prompting organization of a second fraternity, Alpha Omnicron Pi. VCG transfer friends Alice Duer (Miller) and Marjorie Jacoby (McAneny) pledge KKG.
1899 VCG graduates at top of her 22-member graduating class; awarded Fiske Graduate Fellowship for graduate study at Columbia
1900 June — VCG receives MA in medieval history
September – Appointed to an assistantship at Barnard
1901-1905 VCG teaching English at Barnard, first as assistant, then instructor.
1905 April – Informed by William Tenney Brewster that she was to have all sections of Sophomore English in fall; resigns and enters Columbia PhD program in English with fellowship support
Summer – Touring Europe with friend Mary Eaton
1906-07 Back teaching at Barnard until Dean Gill terminates her. Gill then resigns in ill health.
1907-08 Fully engaged in writing her thesis, Government Regulation of the Elizabethan Theatre. Declines associate professorship at University of Wisconsin; unwilling to leave NYC.
1908 Fall – VCG returns to teaching at Barnard on Columbia lectureship; completes her dissertation and awarded PhD; William Tenney Brewster acting dean at Barnard.
1908-1910 VCG a member of Columbia English Department; teaching both at Barnard and in CU graduate program.
1910 July – Promoted to assistant professor in CU English Department
1910 December 10 – VCG offered Barnard deanship by President Nicholas Murray Butler, as means of resolving three-year stand-off between Barnard trustees and Columbia as to deanship and role of Columbia-installed Brewster as provost..
1911 February 1 – VCG becomes Barnard’s third dean (at age 34).
1912 VCG and trustees launch Quarter Century Fund Drive; seek to raise $2,000,000 by 1914; total not secured until 1920.
1919 VCG helps organize International Federation of University Women (IFUW) with her friend and subsequent domestic partner, Caroline Spurgeon, a Chaucer and Shakespeare scholar at the University of London
1920s VCG becomes active in American groups supportive of various Arabic causes; opposed to Jewish settlement of Palestine and labelled an ”anti-Zionist”
1925 VCG moves into the “‘Deanery” on north end of newly opened Hewitt Dormitory.
1927 Takes lead in organizing what becomes known as the” Seven Sisters,” a cooperative arrangement among Barnard, Radcliffe, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley and Bryn Mawr to promote the cause of women’s colleges.
1928 November – Campaigns for Democrat and NY Governor Al Smith for the presidency against the Republican nominee, Herbert Hoover.
1931-32 VCG on academic leave: George Mullins acting dean
1932 The first of four successive presidential election campaigns where she supported Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
1933 VCG concerned about College’s ability to survive the Great Depression; enrollments down; dorms under occupied; calls for financial aid surge
1936 Barnard celebrates the 25th anniversary of VCG’s deanship.
1940 VCG a supporter of pro-interventionist groups and opposed isolationists like Senator William Borah.
1941 US entry into WW II; VCG active in the organization of WAVES
1942 VCG’s companion for three decades, Caroline Spurgeon, dies.
1942 VCG at 65 plans to retire but Butler insists she stay through his presidency; trustees had begun discussions with Brearley head, Millicent McIntosh.
1945 February — Appointed by President Roosevelt as the only woman on the seven-member US delegation to the San Francisco Conference to establish the United Nations. Plays prominent role in the Conference later that spring and summer.
1946 Appointed to Commission to look into reforming the educational system of occupied Japan.
1947 Retired as dean; removed to Bedford, NY, where she lived with Elizabeth Reynard , after Reynard retired from the WAVES and resigned from the Barnard faculty. They spent summers on Cape Cod
VCG remained active in opposing creation of the state of Israel in Palestine; angers some of Barnard’s Jewish supporters who favored its creation.
1954 VCG published her autobiography, Many a Good Crusade
1962 VCG’s companion Elizabeth Reynard died. Gildersleeve entered a nursing home on Cape Cod. Published a collection of earlier writings, A Hoard for Winter.
1965 July 7 – VCG died.


Last updated; February 12, 2015
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