Sorority recruitment is upon us. On some campuses, it is akin to an Olympic competition. However, prior to the establishment of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) in 1902, recruitment was like the Wild West. There were no across the board rules and regulations and any compact that may have been agreed upon on a particular campus was only as good as the paper it was written on. They didn’t call the process “Rush” for nothing.
A woman who is going through NPC sorority recruitment who has a mother, grandmother, or sister who was initiated into that group is considered a legacy. Some organizations also include other relatives and step-relatives in the definition of legacy. Therefore, it is possible for a woman to be a legacy to several chapters.
Several of the 26 NPC organizations each have a pair of real sisters among their founders. Alpha Gamma Delta has Marguerite and Estelle Shepard. Helene and Adriance Rice founded Alpha Sigma Tau. Frances and Almira Cheney belong to Alpha Xi Delta and Clara and Emma Brownlee founded Pi Beta Phi. Only one organization, Theta Phi Alpha, has two sets of sisters among the founders – May C. Ryan and Camilla Ryan (Sutherland), and Katrina Caughey (Ward) and Dorothy Caughey (Phalan).
Some founders of NPC groups had younger sisters who followed in their footsteps and joined the organization their sister helped create. These sisters were the first legacies to be initiated. It took about 17 years, give or take a little, from the founding of an organization for the first daughter to be initiated into the organization. Having a sister, mom, or grandmother at one’s initiation is a very special occasion.
However, the sad fact is that not everyone’s daughter, granddaughter, or sister is going to end up wearing the pin of their legacy organization(s). There are a whole hosts of reasons why this might happen. Perhaps the number of legacies going through was too large to invite everyone back for more than one day. Perhaps it wasn’t a good match. Perhaps the woman going through recruitment wanted to follow her own heart.
Whatever the reason, dreams sometimes die when a new member opens a bid card and on it is an organization other than the one to which her mother, grandmother, or sister belong. And the dream that dies is usually the one belonging to the relative(s) of the new member.
To the ones who suffer hurt on Bid Day, my advice is to change the dream. The experience your daughter, granddaughter, or sister will have in any of the 26 NPC groups is essentially the same. And chances are very good that if she dedicates herself to the organization, she will leave it with the same feelings and love for her organization that you have for yours. In the end, isn’t that what you want for her?
Enjoy giving her things with her letters or symbols. Send her flowers after initiation. Revel in your time with her and the chapter at Parent’s Weekend, Homecoming, and Mom’s Weekend, or anytime you visit her. If the chapter has a Mom’s Club, get involved.
Yes, feeling sadness when a dream dies is normal. If your legacy was raised with your sorority songs being sung to her when she was a baby, to helping with alumnae club or chapter advising, to touring your organization’s chapter house on campus visits, then the hurt will sting a little more. Don’t let your hurt affect your legacy’s experience. Let her enjoy it just as you enjoyed yours. Genuinely support her. Help her leave her chapter on graduation day feeling the same love for her organization as you do for yours. That is one of the greatest joys you can give her during her time at college.
The graphic that Delta Gamma posted on May 24, the date NPC was founded.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/