Virginia C. Gildersleeve Timeline

Outline Biography of Virginia C. Gildersleeve

1877 October 3 Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve born in NYC; third child and only daughter of Henry and Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve; both families traced their American beginnings to the mid- 17th century; Henry a state judge active in veterans affairs; had attended Columbia Law School; family financially secure. VCG: “We weren’t ‘in society’ exactly; we were professional people.” Democrats in politics; Episcopalians in religion. Family listed in 1901 New York Social Register. Resided in a 4-story brownstone on West 48th Street, just off 5th Avenue, across the street from Andrew Carnegie’s future wife.
1891   VCG’s brother Harry dies of typhoid fever after completing Columbia Law School
1891   14-year-old VCG enrolls in The Brearley School; NYC’s most academically demanding school for girls from the City’s leading families considering going on to college.
1895   VCG graduates from Brearley ; although earlier wishing to go to Bryn Mawr, but her mother insists she enroll at Barnard College (“a perfectly good college here in New York City”), then located three blocks from home on Madison Avenue between 44th and 45th Sts. 21 students in her entering class. VCG, as with all her schoolmates, commuted.
1896   VCG becomes a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, then Barnard’s only fraternity. Membership likely limited to Christians and students of means.
1897   Barnard moves to Morningside and its linked buildings, Milbank and Brinckerhoff Halls; Fiske opened a year later.
1897   KKG declined to admit Stella Stern, presumably because she was Jewish; prompts Stern and friends to create a second fraternity, Alpha Omnicron Pi, which did not proscribe Jewish members.
1899   VCG graduates with top academic honors for thr 21-member graduating class of 1899; close friends included the older and more wordly Alice Duer (Miller) [“my first romance”], later poet and screenwriter, and   Marjorie Jacobi (McAnemy), daughter of the Doctors Jacobi and future Barnard trustee. Of her classmates: “All were more or less on the same social level.”
1899-1900   VCG uses Fiske Graduate Fellowship for a year’s study at Columbia; earns an MA in medieval history under the guidance of James Harvey Robinson
1900   Accepts an assistantship at Barnard, while continuing graduate studies in English
1903   Promoted to instructor teaching section of Sophomore English at Barnard
1905 Spring VCG asked to be responsible for all Sophomore English, which meant stopping her graduate studies. Resigns her instructorship.
1905 Fall Secures a fellowship from Columbia for PhD studies in English literature.
1907 Spring Dean Laura Gill terminates VCG’s   teaching contract at Barnard; offered an associate professorship at the University of Wisconsin by her departing PhD director but “I could not leave New York.”
1907-08   Not teaching; completes PhD in spring 1908 with publication of Government Regulation of the Elizabethan Theatre
1908 Fall Barnard Acting Dean William T. Brewster [Gill had resigned mid-1907] appoints VCG to a lectureship at Barnard;   teaching Shakespeare at Barnard as part of BC-CU faculty exchange
1908-10   Member of the Columbia English Department; teaching both at Barnard and in the Columbia graduate program
1910 July Appointed Assistant Professor in the Columbia English Department
  December 10 VCG offered deanship of Barnard by President Nicholas Murray Butler as way of ending standoff between him and the Barnard board over the position vacnt since 1907.
1911 February The 35-year-old VCG installed as Barnard’s 3rd dean and 4th administrative head
1914   VCG secured access to Columbia Journalism School for Barnard graduates on her recommendation
1914   VCG chairs faculty/student/trustee committee that recommends end to fraternities at Barnard; had been discriminatory and socially exclusive; VCG’s view somewhat more favorably disposed toward them.
1917 Spring Although VCG less an interventionist in World War One than NMButler and less insistent upon support for the war once US entered into it, war marked her first engagement in international affairs .
1917   VCG secures admission of the first Barnard graduate to Columbia’s medical school
1917   NY State grants women the vote. VCG a supporter of women’s suffrage but not one of the state’s – or Barnard’s – most outspoken advocates
1918   The 43-year-ol VCG meets the 49-year-old English scholar and academic (Bedford College, University of London) Caroline Spurgeon and commences an intimate relationship that continues until CS’s death in 1942. They spent summers together in England and several falls in NYC where CS sometimes taught at Barnard . Together they founded the International Federation of University Women
1920s   Gildersleeve became involved with several American Protestant educational efforts in the Middle East; in the process she became an anti-Zionist; some Barnard observers also   believed she was anti-Semitic in personal belief and administrative practice.
    VCG secured limited access to the Columbia Law school for women; first Barnard graduate admitted in 192x
1923   Death of her parents; ends xx years of living at home.
    VCG prime mover in organizing Seven Sisters Conference, linking Barnard to the older and wealthier Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Radcliffe, Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke for purposes of promoting women’s colleges.
1925   VCG does not object to trustee Annie Nathan Meyer providing financial support for Zora Neale Hurston as the first black woman to attend Barnard; but neither does she actively support the recruitment of African Americans. Suspected of limiting their enrollment at Barnard to a maximum of two in any class.
1927   VCG moves into Deanery in the newly opened Hewitt Hall.
1927   VCG secures admission of Barnard women to the Columbia law school upon the dean’s recommendation
1928   Campaigned for NY Governor Al Smith during the 1928 election campaign.
1930s   Politically active in NY as a Democrat and supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
1940   Unlike her position on WWI, VCG actively supported US intervention into WW II following the German aerial assault on Britain.
1941   CG approaching 65, considers retirement but plans blocked by NMB insisting she remain dean through the war (and his presidency).
1942   Helped organize the formation of the WAVES [Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services]
1943   VCG helps secure access to Columbia engineering school for women; first Barnard student accepted in 1944.
1945 February VCG appointed by President Roosevelt to help draft the Charter for the United Nations.
  December VCG attends and speaks at the San Francisco Conference that brought into being the United Nations
1946   VCG opposed US recognition of Israel during the national debate.
1946   VCG retires as dean after 36 years; moves to Bedford, NY, with summers on Cape Cod, with Elizabeth Reynard, earlier a member of the Barnard English Department and WW II officer in the WAVES. VCG had tried to secure the deanship for Reynard.
1954   VCG published her autobiography, Many a Good Crusade
1962   Upon Reynard’s death at age 64, the 85-year-old VCG moved into a retirement home on Cape Cod.
1962   VCG published a collection of articles, A Hoard for Winter
1965 July 7 VCG died, age 89, in Centerville, Mass.

Last updated: January 24, 2015
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