“The origins of Rally Day can be traced to a series of annual celebrations for George Washington’s birthday, the first of which was held at Smith College in February 1876. Over time, these celebrations evolved from essentially social dinners or receptions into daylong college events. The addition of a ‘rally’ to the day in 1894 was eventually reflected in the name Rally Day, first used in 1906. The celebration is now held annually on the third Wednesday in February.
Through the years, students have sponsored and participated in a range of activities: rallies, debates, basketball rivalries, dramatic presentations, singing and dancing. The current tradition of sponsoring an event to benefit a charity began in 1918 when the Rally Day Show was held to raise funds for the Smith College Relief Unit serving in World War I France.
The Smith College Medal has been awarded to outstanding alumnae at Rally Day since 1973. The medalists have become an important part of the program, speaking prior to convocation in classes and afterward in conversations with students. Dress at Rally Day has evolved as well. In 1944, the senior class began wearing its graduation caps and gowns to the convocation. The day still marks the first time the seniors publicly wear their gowns. In recent years, however, the caps have been replaced by inventive hats of the students’ choosing (and sometimes of their own making), in keeping with the ‘rallying’ and spirited nature of the day.” (From the Rally Day Convocation Program February 23, 2000)
For further information please see: http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/smitharchives/manosca30.html