The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) celebrates May 24, 1902 as its first meeting date.* However, there was a meeting which took place in Boston more than a decade earlier than the 1902 meeting. The first meeting was called to order 123 years ago today.
During the summer of 1890, Kappa Kappa Gamma held its tenth Biennial Convention in Bloomington, Illinois. A resolution was adopted authorizing the extension of an invitation to several women’s fraternities for a meeting in Boston. The resolution read “That Kappa Kappa Gamma extend an invitation to the different women’s fraternities of the United States to hold a Panhellenic Convention in Boston the coming winter, Phi Chapter (at Boston University) offering to take all responsibility and to entertain such a convention.”
The committee report that was adopted at Kappa’s convention included a proposed program for the conference. Among the items presented by the committee was a tentative schedule of events for a Wednesday through Friday conference to be held in April of 1891. The sessions were to include an informal reception to be held on Wednesday, the day the delegates arrived. Business sessions and committee meetings were to take place on Thursday, which was to be capped by a formal reception. Business sessions were to follow again on Friday along with an evening Panhellenic banquet. Three official representatives, preferably officers from each of the fraternities, were to be invited to attend. Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Phi Chapter would entertain all official delegates. The Chairman of the Central Committee was Mary M. Kingsbury [Simkhovitch], who later would became Director of the Greenwich House Settlement and a noted social economist.
The invitations to this meeting in Boston were issued by the Kappa Kappa Gamma Grand Secretary Emily H. Bright. The invitation read in part:
The proposed work will be that of recommendation only, the reports to be adopted or rejected by the several governing bodies of the fraternities.
a. Uniformity of interfraternity courtesy.
b. Cooperation in purchasing fraternity jewelry, stationary [sic], etc., for purpose of increased security and cheapness.
c. A practical Pan-Hellenic plan for World’s Fair.
d. Greek journalism.
Uniformity in date of publications
Methods of exchange throughout chapters.
Distribution of interfraternity news.
e. Inter-chapter cooperation and etiquette.
An editorial in an 1890 issue of Pi Beta Phi’s fraternity magazine noted that the convention “promises to be the precursor of much united and progressive effort among women’s fraternities.”
Emma Harper Turner of Pi Beta Phi attended the Boston meeting. On Wednesday, April 15, the Kappa Kappa Gamma members at Boston University hosted an informal tea. According to Turner, “The spirit of the occasion was contagious. The interest aroused by the arrival of delegates, the desire to inspect strange badges, and the pleasure afforded by the opportunity of meeting fraternity women known long by name through the various magazines having created an enthusiasm that would be neither suppressed nor controlled.”
The first Pan-Hellenic Convention of Women’s Fraternities convened at 10 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, April 16, 1891, at the New England Women’s Club, 5 Park Street, in Boston. It was called by Kingsbury, Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Chairman of the Executive Committee on Convention. Bertha Mansfield Freeman of Alpha Phi offered a prayer.
Alpha Phi, Gamma Phi Beta, Delta Delta Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta each had three delegates in attendance; Delta Gamma and Pi Beta Phi both sent two delegates. Lucy E. Wright, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was elected president of the organization, Margaret Smith was elected vice-president, and Turner was elected secretary. Five committees were formed; inter-fraternity courtesy, fraternity jewelry and stationery, World’s Fair, Greek journalism and inter-chapter courtesy.
A luncheon for approximately 60 people, hosted by Gamma Phi Beta, was held at the Parker House after the morning’s sessions were adjourned. The time after lunch was spent in committee work. A formal reception was held at the Parker House on Thursday evening. Julia Ward Howe, an 1884 honorary member of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Boston University chapter, received guests, and was assisted by Kingsbury.
The convention was reconvened on Friday morning. Helen Hope Wadsworth, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was appointed Assistant Secretary. Committees made reports. The inter-fraternity courtesy committee report was presented by Lillye Lewis of Alpha Phi. Among the committee’s recommendations were: the annual publication of an inter-fraternity directory listing the governing boards of each group; that chapters make a formal expression of opposition to lifting (“the extending of overtures by one fraternity to a member in full connection with another”) of members; formal expression of opposition to those having membership in two groups without relinquishing membership in one of them; and the abolition of pledging and initiating prepatory students.
Mary Lamphrey, Gamma Phi Beta, chairman of the fraternity stationery and jewelry committee, presented the committee’s report. The report was adopted after it had been amended. The issues discussed were: the obtaining of badges from only seven authorized jewelers, located in Boston, New York, Chicago, Ithaca, Syracuse, Columbus and San Francisco; that seals be adopted by each of the groups and the seals be necessary for the purchasing of badges; and that a committee be appointed to chose jewelers in each of the selected seven cities. The committee also recommended that there be three stationers chosen who would print steel-plate stationery only. These were to be located in New York, Boston and Chicago.
Carrie Jones of Alpha Phi gave the World’s Fair committee report. The report that was adopted included provisions for the charging of a standing committee composed of the fraternities represented at Northwestern University, together with a committee from Pi Beta Phi and Delta Delta Delta to have charge of Pan-Hellenism at the 1893 Worlds’ Fair in Chicago. It was also noted: that a fraternity excursion be planned if feasible; that a call to convention, banquet and/or reception be planned; and that a place be sought for the registration of fraternity women. The women’s building was mentioned as a possible location for the guest register.
The morning meeting was closed and the group adjourned to the Hotel Bellevue for a luncheon hosted by Delta Delta Delta. When the group met again in the afternoon the committee on Greek journalism reported. Pi Beta Phi Minnie Howe Newby outlined the group’s initiatives. It was recommended that: the fraternities exchange copies of their magazines with each other; that the magazines be published on the same schedule of October, January, April and July; and that at the next Pan-Hellenic meeting each fraternity would send one delegate from its magazine staff. The reasons given for the exchange of magazines was to remedy the “apparent ignorance of individual chapters concerning the strength and work of the various fraternities” that was a matter of “regret, and nothing short of an exchange system under control of the highest authority in the fraternity organizations promised a desired relief.” The expense involved in this exchange was deemed to be little in comparison to the benefits to be gained by the exchange of information.
The chairman of the committee on inter-chapter courtesy committee, Blanche Seaver of Delta Delta Delta, recommended that: chapters rush with fairness and cautioned against using underhanded or questionable methods; that the fraternities in each college appoint a committee to regulate pledging; that college politics be considered important by the fraternity groups; that all chapters in a college be notified of the election of each chapter’s corresponding secretary; and that all chapters on a campus be notified when a member was dismissed or expelled from the fraternity. At the close of the meeting another committee, comprised of one member from each fraternity was charged with the business of keeping the other groups notified of the ratification or rejection of these proposals among each of the individual groups.
The committee elected Turner as chairman and Lucy Evelyn Wright as secretary and closed the convention. Alpha Phi hosted Friday afternoon’s entertainment in the Hotel Huntington. “Here, as before, the entertainment was delightful, the cordiality sincere, and beauty was everywhere,” stated Turner in a report of the meeting. A Friday night banquet at the Brunswick ended the festivities. Ida Davis was toastmistress; there were a series of toasts covering such topics as “twenty-one years of fraternity,” “east and west,” “Greek journalism,” “a flower garden,” “Greek and American,” “war and peace,” and “auf wiedersehen.” The banquet closed “With college yells, and yells suitable to the occasion only, and with an impromptu entertainment.”
Those delegates still in Boston on Saturday morning were shown about Harvard University by the members of Kappa Kappa Gamma and were guests at a reception given by Alice Freeman-Palmer, the former President of Wellesley College, “an honor highly appreciated by the young women who have revered her name so long.” Alpha Phi founder Martha Foote Crow had been an Assistant to Freeman-Palmer when Freeman-Palmer was the President of Wellesley College.
Although much was discussed in 1891, little was ultimately accomplished. This was due in part to the delegates having to bring the work of the convention back to their individual groups for ratification. According to this account from the History of Kappa Kappa Gamma: “Kappa Alpha Theta accepted all the recommendations except those regarding jewelers and stationers; Gamma Phi Beta refused ratification of any of the report and ‘withdrew entirely from all Panhellenic cooperation;’ to date Alpha Phi reported only on magazine exchanges, which ‘it left to the discretion of the editorial board;’ Kappa Kappa Gamma too reported only on matter of exchanges, refusing to make such ‘on the ground of expense;’ Delta Gamma and Delta Delta Delta approved exchanges and failed to report on other matters; Pi Beta Phi ratified the entire report.”
*See http://wp.me/p20I1i-d7 for more information about the 1902 meeting.
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