Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Friends #amazingsororitywomen

I have several dear friends who are proud Hillsdale College and Pi Beta Phi alumnae. They are over the moon about one of their own, Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who has recently been the subject of several books and magazine articles. One book makes no mention of her Pi Phi affiliation. The other one does. Her archives at the Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia, contain photos including this one of a visit three of her Pi Phi sisters made to Riverbank, the estate of Col. Fabyan, where Friedman was working.

This page is from the 1922-23 yearbook of the Washington, D.C. Alumnae Club of Pi Beta Phi. On it are several outstanding women. Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, the wife of the then Vice-President, was a charter member of the chapter at the University of Vermont. Mrs. Eli A. Helmick, Elizabeth Clarke Helmick, another Hillsdale College Pi Phi, played an instrumental role in the early stages of the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School. She was an Army wife and she travelled around the world with her husband.

Anna Hazelton, a charter member of the DC Alpha Chapter at George Washington University, wrote Pi Phi’s Ritual. The Gaddis name excited me, but she doesn’t appear to be a direct descendant of the founder, Libbie Brook Gaddis. My guess she is related somehow. 


In the yearbook, Friedman is a co-hostess of the first program of the year. Helmick was the hostess. The speaker was Helmick’s husband, the career Army man. He retired as a Major General and he was in command of Brest at the close of the War. When her husband was stationed in Springfield, Massachusetts, earlier in their marriage, Elizabeth Helmick was a member of the Springfield Alumnae Club. The club was started by Grace Goodhue Coolidge, so the meeting up in Washington years later must have been a fun reunion.

Mrs. Harvey W. Wiley was Anna Kelton Wiley, a suffragist who spent five days in jail for picketing the White House in 1917. She was Chairman of the National Woman’s Party (1930-1932, 1940-1942). From 1940-45,  she served as editor of Equal Rights, NWP’s publication. Her husband Harvey, a chemist, was known as the “Father of the Pure Food Act” for his leadership in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. 


The Helmicks retired to Hawaii.  The Helmicks and the Friedmans are buried in Arlington Cemetery. 

9048 - Hawaii

helmick grave22528138_10107836450866490_7260308624703156459_n

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Have the Boy Scouts Jumped the Shark?

Lord Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement, is too busy spinning in his grave to comment on my assertion that the Boys Scouts of America have just jumped the shark with their recent announcement that the Boys Scouts of America will soon be offering entry-level scouting programs for girls. Some of BSA’s upper level programs – Explorer and Venture Scouts – have had young women in them for years.

Robert Baden-Powell, 1896

On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., into law.  Contrary to the sea change in the recent past, Title IX was not written to address sexual harassment and violence. When it was enacted its primary purpose was as a comprehensive federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. (The growth of women’s secondary and collegiate sports opportunities came about because of Title IX.)

Several entities were expressly exempt from Title IX, as long they did not receive any Federal financial assistance. These entities included Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls as well as social fraternities and sororities. 

Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, Girl Scouts of the United States of America national president sent the letter to Randall Stephenson, the Boy Scouts of America’s national president, and the entire BSA board. She wrote, in part, We are confused as to why, rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs, you would choose to target girls.” My thoughts exactly.


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October 15 – Alpha to Zeta and More

Alpha Chi Omega and Zeta Tau Alpha celebrate Founders’ Day on October 15. How amazing is it that the first organization and the last organization on the alphabetical listing of National Panhellenic Conference members share the same Founders’ Day?

On Thursday, October 15 1885, Alpha Chi Omega was founded at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Thirteen years later, on Saturday, October 15, 1898, Zeta Tau Alpha was founded at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia.

Alpha Chi Omega’s seven founders are Anna Allen, Olive Burnett, Bertha Deniston, Amy DuBois, Nellie Gamble, Bessie Grooms and Estelle Leonard. They were students in the DePauw School of Music. With the guidance and support of James Hamilton Howe, Dean of the School of Music, they created an organization that at its beginning insisted its members possess some musical culture. A member of Beta Theta Pi, James Campbell, offered advice in the creation of a constitution and by-laws.

Alpha Chi Omega’s first appearance was in Meharry Hall of East College. The seven women wore scarlet and olive ribbon streamers attached to their dresses to display the organization’s colors.

Zeta Tau Alpha‘s founders are Alice Maud Jones Horner, Frances Yancey Smith, Alice Bland Coleman, Ethel Coleman Van Name, Ruby Bland Leigh Orgain, Mary Campbell Jones Batte, Helen May Crafford, Della Lewis Hundley, and Alice Grey Welsh. For a short time, the group was known on the Farmville campus as ???.  An invitation sent to the two groups then on the campus read “The ??? will be delighted to receive the Kappa Delta and Sigma Sigma Sigma fraternities in the end room in Nursey Hall at 8:30 P.M.”

Other historic events which occurred on October 15 include:

1789 – George Washington made his first presidental tour of New England.

1866 – A fire in Quebec destroys 2,500 homes.

1924 – President Calvin Coolidge, Phi Gamma Delta, used his authority under the Antiquities Act to name Fort Wood, the site of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, as a national monument. Four additional sites were designated the same day.

1951 – I Love Lucy debuted. Through the foresight of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars and producers of the show, who filmed the show on tape, the episodes have been viewed by millions. Madelyn Pugh Davis, Kappa Kappa Gamma, was a writer for the show.

1979 – The New York Knicks retired #10, Walt Frazier’s number. Frazier played basketball at SIU and led the Salukis to the 1967 NIT championship. He was the first Saluki to have his jersey retired, #52. He was in Carbondale this past weekend as Grand Marshall for the Homecoming parade. Frazier is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.

Walt Frazier at Homecoming Hoops, an event prior to the football game, featuring the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Salukis. (photo by William Becque)


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Kappa Kappa Gamma + Peggy Kirk Bell

I have been to Monmouth, Illinois, many times and on each trip, I try to envision Monmouth College as it might have been in 1870. I walk past the spot where it is said two women talked about forming an organization of their own. If it is quiet and I stand very still might I hear those whispers from nearly 150 years ago?

On October 13, 1870, six women – Mary Moore “Minnie” Stewart, Hannah Jeannette Boyd, Mary Louise Bennett, Anna Elizabeth Willits, Martha Louisa Stevenson, and Susan Burley Walker – walked into chapel exercises wearing small golden keys in their hair.

The six were the founders of Kappa Kappa Gamma  The Alpha chapter was disbanded by the mid 1870s when Monmouth College ordered the fraternities to leave campus, although there is evidence the some of the organizations maintained sub rosa chapters for several years. It is a testament to the strength of the organization that it, along with its Monmouth Duo partner, Pi Beta Phi, continued to grow and succeed despite the demise of the Alpha chapter a few years after the founding.

Thanks to a Kappa friend for a picture of her ornaments.

The first badges were made by the Bennett’s family jeweler who was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In order to have the badges made, 12 had to be ordered at a price of $5 each. Since the 1876 Convention, October 13 has been celebrated as Founders’ Day.

A cake made by the Country Club of Birmingham, Alabama, for the Birmingham Alumnae Association Founders’ Day celebration.

Almost a year ago, one of the readers of this blog, a Kappa Alpha Theta, sent me info about Margaret “Peggy” Kirk Bell, an initiate of the Rollins College chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, who had died in November 2016 at the age of 95. She and Bell shared a hometown of Findlay, Ohio. I promised the reader I would write about Bell. And I have been meaning to do it since that time; today seems like a perfect day to follow through on the promise.  

Bell was born on October 28, 1921, in Findlay, Ohio. Although she was a gifted athlete, opportunities for women in sports were very limited when she was a young woman. She took up golf at the age of 17 and apparently learned it quickly and adeptly, with a lot of practice. She planned to teach physical education. In the years before the establishment of the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, she was one of the top amateurs, but again, her opportunities were limited. 

In 1953, she married her high school sweetheart Warren Bell. She and her husband purchased the Pine Needles resort in North Carolina. The course has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open three times. She created “Golfaris,” a golf instruction method for women taught by women. She has been honored extensively. She was the first woman to join the PGA Golf Instructors Hall of Fame. She was awarded the Bob Jones Award from the United States Golf Association. The largest golf circuit for young women is named in her honor.

In 1977, the women’s golf team at Rollins College, her alma mater, instituted the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitation. It is played in the early spring and “stands as a lasting tribute to Bell’s influence on the present and future of women’s golf,” according to the Rollins College website. What an #amazingsororitywomen she was!

From the Spring 2003 Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma

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Day of the Girl / Circle of Sisterhood / Cottey College

I had no intention of writing a post today. However, I knew this morning, while sipping coffee and skimming social media, that I needed to write a post. After walking the dogs and having thoughts spin around in my head, I am writing this. Is is not as polished as I would like it to be, but I hope you will give me some charity and disregard the rough edges. 

Today is the International Day of the Girl according to the tweet by the Circle of Sisterhood. In November 2009, Ginny Carroll, an Alpha Xi Delta* who has worked with Greek-letter organizations since her stint fresh out of college as a Alpha Xi Leadership Consultant, was watching an Oprah Winfrey interview. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of the book Half the Sky, were discussing their visits to poor countries around the world. They told of how women were victims of oppression and violence simply because they were women. Carroll felt compelled to do something. She discussed it with some of her friends who were sorority women. Within five months, the Circle of Sisterhood became reality and five months after that, the IRS granted it 501(c)3 status.

The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation’s mission is to “to uplift girls and women from poverty and oppression through education.” The Circle of Sisterhood has granted more than $845,000 to organizations in 22 countries. Fifteen schools have been built in Malawi, Senegal, Haiti, Nepal, and Nicaragua. By coming together and linking arms, sorority women (and fraternity men, too!) have the opportunity to change the world. 

Ginny Carroll speaking to the SIUC Panhellenic Council in September, 2017.

The SIUC Panhellenic did a fundraiser for the Circle of Sisterhood and this is a reveal of the total.

On an unofficial Facebook page there was heated discussion about Cottey College, the P.E.O. Sisterhood’s college in Nevada, Missouri.  Of course I had to add some background to the discussion. Here is what I wrote:

This is not a new discussion. Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard gave the college to P.E.O. in 1927. A recommendation to sever P.E.O.’s connection with Cottey College was slated to be presented before the 1933 convention of Supreme Chapter. held in Kansas City, Missouri. All 882 delegates, officers and visitors went to Nevada, Missouri, by special train to tour the college. Later, when the recommendation to discontinue support of Cottey College was called for a vote, it was soundly defeated. Cottey has a unique spot in higher education. Being an all-women’s college is a tough sell for many young women, but when a match is made and the right woman finds Cottey, magic happens and a life is changed. Frankly, there is little to be derived from the sale of the buildings. Finding a buyer would be very difficult. I suspect if it ever were to come to pass, the selling price would be pennies on the dollar. The fact that we can change lives at Cottey College is a story that we do not tell with vigor.

Cottey College is a very special place. As I walked the dogs around the neighborhood, I though about the Day of the Girl and how great it would be to have some of the young female students who have been touched by the generosity of sorority women through the Circle of Sisterhood also experience the magic that is Cottey College. Could we help them enroll in the college halfway around the world and envelop them in the love of P.E.O. sisterhood? P.E.O. supports an international project, International Peace Scholars, a project which came about after World War II. International students attending Cottey College are eligible to apply for an IPS scholarship; they are the only undergraduates eligible for the IPS awards.

If nothing else, I hope this post makes you aware of these two special things – the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation and Cottey College. I support both organizations and I hope some of you do, too.

*The founding chapter of P.E.O. at Iowa Wesleyan University became the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta in 1902 when P.E.O. left the collegiate ranks and became a community organization.

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October 10, Happy Founders’ Day x 4

October 10, 1872 – Alpha Phi, founded at Syracuse University. It is the oldest of the Syracuse triad of NPC organizations founded at Syracuse. 

In September of 1872, Martha Foote (Crowe), Clara Sittser (Williams), and Kate Hogoboom (Gilbert) pondered the thought of women having fraternal organizations comparable to those of the men.  They invited all the college women to discuss the possibility. Ten women – the original three plus Jane Higham, Clara Bradley (Burdette), Louise Shepherd (Hancock), Florence Chidester (Lukens), Ida Gilbert (Houghton), Elizabeth Grace (Hubbell), and Rena  Michaels (Atchinson) met and pledged allegiance to the sisterhood. Minutes from the first meeting noted that Michaels was chosen president, plans were made for weekly meetings at which literary exercises would be part of the  program, and a 25¢ tax was levied for the purchase of a secretary’s book.  The first debate was “Resolved – that women have their rights.”

At first, the chapter met in the homes of chapter members. Dr. Chidester, Florence’s father, allowed the use of his Irving Avenue home office on Monday evenings. The first chapter room was on Salina Street, over Sager and Grave’s carpet store. The chapter room remained there for six years until it was moved to a suite of rooms on the fourth floor of the Onondaga County Savings Bank Building.

In 1884, the Alpha Phi chapter gave up the meeting rooms it rented in the bank.  Plans were made to rent a house “where the out-of-town girls could live and where one room could be used for a chapter hall.  The experiment proved a success, and at the end of a year it was suggested that the girls build and own a chapter house.”

In May of 1886, a 56’ x 178’ lot at 17 University Place was purchased by the members of Alpha Phi for $1,400, or $25 a front foot. A few Alpha Phi fathers acted as a Board of Trustees. A $2,500 bank mortgage was arranged and another Alpha Phi dad loaned the chapter $2,700.  On June 22, 1886, the laying of the corner stone of the first chapter house owned by a women’s fraternity took place.  

The Alpha Phi chapter house on University Avenue in Syracuse. It was the first house built and owned by a women's fraternity. The house was sold in 1902 and the chapter moved to its current home on Walnut Place.

The Alpha Phi chapter house on University Avenue in Syracuse. It was the first house built and owned by a women’s fraternity. The house was sold in 1902 and the chapter moved to its current home on Walnut Place.

The chapter moved into its new home in November.  The chapter hall was dedicated in January, 1887, and on Washington’s birthday, the chapter opened the house to 300 invited guests. In 1902, the chapter moved to the Bacon residence on Walnut Park. That home on Walnut Place is the home in which Alpha Phi still resides.

October 10, 1904 – Alpha Gamma Rho, founded at Ohio State University. It remained a local organization until April 4, 1908, when it joined with another local, Delta Rho Sigma, founded at the University of Illinois in 1906. The two groups me at an International Livestock Competition in Chicago. Sixteen men signed the fraternity’s charter. Until 1958, chapters were located solely at land-grant institutions. One of its most famous members is Orville Redenbacher, an initiate of the Purdue University chapter. 

October 10, 1910 – Tau Epsilon Phi, founded at Columbia University. The men who founded the organization gathered in Central Park and discussed the idea. The first formal meeting took place in the library of the Columbia University’s Department of Pharmacy, on Friday afternoon, October 19, 1910. The founders of Tau Epsilon Phi are Robert L. Blume, Julius M. Breitenbach, Charles M. Driesen, Ephraim Freedman, Leo H. Fried, Harold Goldsmith, Samuel Greenbaum, Julius Klauber, Israel Schwartz, and Julius J. Slofkin.

October 10, 1924 – Alpha Delta Gamma, founded at Loyola University, Chicago. Its founders are Francis Patrick Canary, John Joseph Dwyer, William S. Hallisey and James Collins O’Brien, Jr. It is likely the only fraternity concieved while its members were riding the “L”, the elevated train in Chicago.

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Credit or Discredit – What’ll It Be?

Being a member of a Greek-Letter Organization entails certain responsibilities. A member is expected to take part in the activities of the organization, serving in the day-to-day life of the chapter. A member is expected to be responsible for him/herself, turning in paperwork, paying bills on time, attending chapter meetings, etc. A member is expected to uphold the values of the organization.

While I know only one ritual, I do know that hazing has no part in any of the rituals of our organizations. I cringe whenever I read “hazing ritual” in an article because hazing is not a part of our rituals and has no place in any GLO.

Hazing has never made an individual a better person and it has never made an organization a better organization. It hasn’t. Yet, year after year, GLOs take center stage in the press for hazing violations. Hank Nuwer, an expert on hazing, keeps track of these things on his website. I follow his twitter account.

It breaks my heart to read some of the items he links to in his twitter posts. It’s hard to be a proponent for GLOs when reading about the actions of a small segment of our organizations. We are all discredited by the actions of a few.

I am reminded of a letter I read when writing the history of a fraternity chapter. The writer had achieved great prominence in his field. Yes, he noted, he was an initiate of the chapter but he wanted nothing to do with it. Why? When he was recruited, he was told there was zero-tolerance for hazing in the chapter. That turned out to be a half-truth, he said, and while he remained in the chapter because his close friends were there, he wanted nothing to do with the men who hazed him. The chapter lost someone who could have been a very loyal alumnus, but because of the actions of a few, he felt no loyalty to the organization. Moreover, the decades hadn’t softened his disdain. In replying to the invitation to speak to the chapter, he unleashed a torrent of anger about his experiences to young men who weren’t born when the hazing happened.

Every member reflects credit or discredit upon the organization to which they belong. Have our organizations become too big and/or successful for their own good? When we pitch membership to potential members do we stress the wrong things? Do we say “You will need to live by higher standards? You will need to do the right thing even though it may not be the easy or popular thing?” Or do we sell the fun aspects, without touching upon those things that are a bit harder to sell?

I am not coming up with any answers to these questions today. It’s food for thought.

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When Words Fail Me – 10/3/2017



I recommend viewing Returning the Favor. It helps restore one’s faith in humanity.


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Lost in a Roundabout Somewhere in Indiana

On Monday, I headed east to Indiana to do some research in Carmel and get closer to completing a project. My dissertation, Coeducation and the History of Women’s Fraternities 1867-1902, covered the seven founding National Panhellenic Conference organizations, the campuses where these groups established chapters and why there was a need for an umbrella organization. I am fluent in the language of women’s fraternities/sororities. Years ago, when I was asked to write a history of a men’s fraternity at the University of Illinois I was apprehensive. Could I speak the language of men’s fraternities?

It turned out to be a fascinating experience and I’ve written several more fraternity histories for the Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing since then, all of them chapters at the University of Illinois. I now have a very good feel for what was going on with the Illinois fraternity and sorority system during any particular decade. The history I am writing currently is for a men’s fraternity chapter on another campus near Boston, 1,200 miles away. As always, it has been an interesting exploration, one which I will write about when I get my head above water. However, the amount of roundabouts (or rotaries as I am more apt to call them) in Carmel made me feel like I was indeed in Massachusetts. They are a real challenge when navigating new terrain, but I did make it out of there alive. 

I was limited by time because I needed to head to Bloomington where I had a date with some Pi Phis. Some were old friends and some I had never met. I spoke to the chapter about their chapter’s long and rich history. 

The Bloomington Alumnae Club was having its first meeting of the year and it was fun to just be there. Afterwards, I spent some precious time catching up with my assigned roommate from the 1987 Pi Phi convention, in whose guest room I was freeloading. She is a legacy and she has been cleaning out her mother’s home. She gave me several of her mom’s Pi Phi items for the archives.

I was somewhat bummed because I couldn’t stay another day in Bloomington. There were at least two other things I wanted to do. The Indiana University Archives recently received a wonderful collection of century-old letters and ephemera. The items belonged to Helen Dale Hopkins (Wampler), who was a member of the Pi Beta Phi chapter. The collection is digitized (see Pi Phi Letters), but I wanted to see the collection up close and personal. I will have to save that for another visit.

Here is an excerpt from one of her letters:

We decided to wait two weeks for our play, and so I don’t know what we’ll have Monday night – a good time anyway. Leah Stock, our province president, is coming Tuesday night. We’re going to move all the best furniture in our room. We’re going to have a dinner Tuesday night, a reception Wednesday afternoon, and a cooky-shine Wednesday night.

The name of Leah Stock was very familiar to me. A graduate of Hillsdale College, she taught at the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. She went on to marry a son of Elizabeth Clarke Helmick, who was one of the most potent forces behind the early success of the Settlement School. The reference to the cookie-shine (although in these years it was spelled cooky-shine) shows that this tradition has been a long one, originating at the University of Kansas in 1873.

Helen Dale Hopkins is in the bottom row on the left side.

I also want to use the Carroll L. Lurding Library of College Fraternity and Sorority Materials which is available through the Indiana University’s Lilly Library. Spanning the years 1840-2014, the collection consists of “books, pamphlets, histories, yearbooks, and other bound volumes detailing the history of fraternities, sororities, colleges, and universities from all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the United States as well as some colleges in Canada.” The items were donated by Carrol Lurding, a Delta Upsilon who loves researching the history of college fraternal organizations. He is still at it and last I heard, he was researching the local organizations at the SUNY institutions.

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P.E.O. International Presidents AND Sorority Women

A very special initiation happened this summer at the Pi Beta Phi convention. On June 25, 2017, Susan Reese Sellers, a past International President of P.E.O. (2011-13), was one of a group of honorary alumnae initiates of Pi Beta Phi.

The early years of Pi Beta Phi and P.E.O. are intertwined. Pi Beta Phi’s second chapter was established at Iowa Wesleyan University on December 21, 1868. A month later, January 21, 1869, P.E.O. was founded at IWU by seven young women. Early Iowa Wesleyan women wore the arrow or the star, but never both.

Elizabeth Davenport Garrels, who served as P.E.O.’s International President from 2009-11, is a graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University and was initiated as a member of the Pi Beta Phi chapter there. She owns an arrow and a star. Two additional P.E.O. International Presidents have been members of both P.E.O. and Pi Beta Phi. They are Laura Storms Knapp (1949-51), a member of the Iowa State University chapter, and Jane Burtis Smith (1999-2001), a member of the University of Oklahoma chapter.

Susan Sellers and Elizabeth Garrels, both Iowa Alphas (IWU) and past International Presidents of P.E.O., Fran Becque, and Sue Robinson, past Pi Beta Phi Grand Council member and a member of P.E.O.

I discovered that there are several other P.E.O. International Presidents who have been members of National Panhellenic Conference organizations, too. If my detective skills are rusty and I’ve forgotten anyone, please let me know.

Laura Storms Knapp, 1949-51, Pi Beta Phi

Nell Farrell Stevenson, 1955-57, Kappa Delta

Margaret Emily Stoner, 1959-61, Kappa Alpha Theta

Irene S. Van Brunt, 1963-65, Kappa Kappa Gamma

Amy Olmstead Welch, 1965-67, Alpha Gamma Delta

Florence Tomlinson Meyers Wallace, 1973-75, Kappa Kappa Gamma (She served as Kappa’s Grand President in 1930, too!)

Lucille H. Smith, 1983-85, Alpha Gamma Delta

Mary Louise Remy, 1989-91, Gamma Phi Beta

Nancy Ryan Jerdee, 1991-93, Gamma Phi Beta

Jean C. Boswell, 1993-95, Chi Omega

Jane Burtis Smith, 1999-2001, Pi Beta Phi

Elizabeth Davenport Garrels, 2009-11, Pi Beta Phi

Susan Reese Sellers, 2011-13, Pi Beta Phi

Maria Baseggio, 2013-15, Sigma Sigma Sigma

Sue Baker, 2015-17, Kappa Kappa Gamma

Florence Tomlinson Meyers (Wallace), in 1930, when she was Grand President of Kappa Kappa Gamma. (Photo courtesy of Kappapedia.)

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