Sorority Women in STEM Careers Before STEM was a Term

If you’ve seen the film Hidden Figures, you’ll be interested to know that Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, and Mary Winston Jackson were initiates of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

Here are links to previous posts about sorority women who were members of GLOs before STEM was a term. They were pioneers in their fields and there are scores and scores of others who stories have not been widely told.

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, Kappa Kappa Gamma,

Elsie Katherine Bergegrun, M.D., Alpha Sigma Tau,

Emily Helen Butterfield, Alpha Gamma Delta,

Edith Schwartz Clements, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Edith Clement book

Anna Botsford Comstock, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Anna Botsford (Comstock), 1874

Myrtle Fahsbender, Kappa Delta,

Myrtle Fahsbender, 1930s (courtesy of Kappa Delta)

Elizebeth Smith Friedman, Pi Beta Phi,

Mary E. Gladwin, R.N., Delta Gamma,

Dr. May Agness Hopkins, Zeta Tau Alpha,

Dr. May Agness Hopkins in uniform

Carlotta Joaquina Maury, Ph.D., Delta Gamma,

Julia Morgan, Kappa Alpha Theta,

Julia Morgan, Kappa Alpha Theta

Louise Pellens, Pi Beta Phi,

Florence Lucas Sanville, Alpha Omicron Pi,

Mary Thompson Stevens, M.D., Delta Gamma,

Annie Marie Tremaine, M.D., Alpha Phi,



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On MLK Day, Monday News and Notes

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of his non-violent campaign against racism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

It is also the day upon which Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was founded at Howard University. This weekend, this plaque was dedicated at Howard University in celebration of the 110th anniversary of the founding.


Forty years ago today, on January 15, 1978, two Chi Omegas were murdered in the chapter house at Florida State University. Serial killer Ted Bundy killed Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, and nearly killed two others who were left with serious injuries. Chapter member Diane McCain played a role in Bundy’s conviction. When I wrote about this back in April, a reader of this blog, who is also a Chi Omega, emailed me to tell me that she was Bundy’s law school study partner at the University of Utah in 1974-75. Years later, she met true-crime author Ann Rule, and she realized that in addition to both having known Bundy, they were Chi Omega sisters.  Rule wrote The Stranger Beside Me about Bundy. Those events four decades ago touched the lives of all of the women of that chapter as well as their families and friends. May time ease their wounds.


In case  you missed it……..

Kudos to these Temple Sorority women for confronting the meanness. The comments sound ridiculous when read aloud. Yet, many people take those anonymous comments seriously.


Stacy Tasman Stahl, the woman who started the campaign feature on The Ellen Show is a Pi Beta Phi alumna from the University of Florida chapter.


The Longhairs who pitched their company on Shark Tank last night are Sigma Nu alumni. Their new business partner Mark Cuban is a Pi Lambda Phi.

The Longhairs to Appear on Shark Tank


Condolences to the family and friends of sportscaster extraordinaire Keith Jackson, a 1952 initiate of Alpha Tau Omega Washington State University chapter. He died at the age of 89 on January 12, 2018.

Condolences, too, to Alpha Kappa Alpha upon the loss of Bernice I. Sumlin.



And if you made it this far, I want to recommend a documentary available on Netflix and likely other places as well. It’s the Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened by Lonny Price. It tells the story of Beta Theta Pi Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. In 1981, the play closed after 52 previews and 16 performances. Price was one of the stars of the production. The cast album was recorded the day after the play closed.Among the songs which were written for the score but have been recorded by many other artists are Not a Day Goes By, Good Thing Going, Old Friends, and Our Time.

There is a scene where some of the cast members visit the theater where the play was performed. It reminds me of the way alums look when going back to a chapter house after decades away.

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Be a Builder

The founders of Greek-letter organizations are revered. Every organization has its founders. They get the glory. Members know their names. 

Every organization also has builders, those who do the heavy lifting, who make difficult decisions, who work hard to advance the organization. The builders do not usually bask in the glory given the founders.

A good many of the builders had a role in the early years of an organization, or in times of great tumult. Those organizations founded before the Civil War had builders who took a role after that war and the World Wars that followed it. The campus turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s provided opportunities for builders to emerge. 

This thought has been swirling about in my head because I am writing about the P.E.O.s who came after the seven founders. P.E.O. started as a collegiate society at Iowa Wesleyan University; it likely would not exist today had it not been for the builders, those women whose names 95% of the membership would not recognize. In 1902, Alpha Xi Delta, a local organization at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois, made the decision to become a national organization and P.E.O. became a community organization. Anna Gillis-Kimble helped the Iowa Wesleyan P.E.O.s become the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta.

George Banta, a Phi Delta Theta, as a Franklin College student, became an initiated member of Delta Gamma and helped that women’s fraternity, founded in Oxford, Mississippi, to grow in the northern states. Without his efforts, that might not have happened.

Theta Chi was founded in 1856. Its second chapter was not installed December 1902. This came about because a member, Park Valentine Perkins, transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to share his Theta Chi bond with some of the students there. He and a group of men petitioned the Alpha chapter three times before a charter was reluctantly granted. Had Perkins not been so persistent perhaps Theta Chi would not be here today.  

In 1876, Alpha Tau Omega Joseph R. Anderson received a letter telling him he had been appointed as Senior Grand Chief (National President) of the fraternity. Had he chosen to ignore the letter, perhaps ATO would not exist. Colonel William E. Berry, a winner of the Thomas Arkle Clark Award during his senior year at Ole Miss, gave up his dream job to serve ATO at a critical juncture in 1975.

Being a chapter officer is hard work and sometimes despite the best intentions and plans it doesn’t go very well. But when it does work, through vision, effort, persistence, teamwork and that feeling that there is something greater than what is in front of us, it is glorious. No chapter is perfect. And it is not perfection that is telling. It is in the working through of less than perfect situations that one learns to adapt, one learns resiliency, and one learns that doing the right thing at the right time is better than appearing perfect. Learning can take place at any point from falling slightly short of the mark to experiencing abject failure. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if one learns valuable lessons from it.

Theodor Seuss Geisel , a Sigma Phi Epsilon, wrote And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. He submitted it to 27 publishers none of whom were willing to take a chance on him. Had Geisel given up after the fifth or sixth rejection, the world would not know Dr Seuss. 

I implore the collegiate members of GLOs to be builders, to do that hard work of making a chapter better than you found it. The Founders deserve and those builders who came before you deserve it, too. Honor them by your actions.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1925, while a student at Dartmouth (courtesy of the Dartmouth College Library)

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Minnie Freeman and the “Schoolhouse Blizzard” on January 12, 1888

Can anyone in America today imagine not knowing that a big snowstorm was heading his/her way? This morning in southern Illinois there is ice everywhere. Yesterday on my afternoon walk with the dogs, I was warm just wearing a sweatshirt. It was in the high 50s but by evening it was in the 20s. However, I knew what was coming today and most schools cancelled classes last night.

Minnie Freeman (Penney) was an 1885 initiate of the Pi Beta Phi chapter at Methodist Episcopal College of York, Nebraska. On January 12, 1888, 130 years ago today, she was a 19 year-old teaching in a sod schoolhouse about six miles south of Ord, Nebraska, in an area known as Mira Valley. During a sudden, fierce Nebraska blizzard, she saved the lives of 13 of her students by leading them from her schoolhouse to the nearest farm, a mile away. The temperatures, which had been  unseasonable warm when the students walked to school, had dropped substantially, the wind was ranging, and the snow was blinding.

More than 200 people on the Great Plains were killed by that storm called the “Schoolhouse Blizzard,” most of them children who couldn’t get home from school. In 1888, the Song of the Great Blizzard: Thirteen Were Saved or Nebraska’s Fearless Maid, was written in her honor by William Vincent.

Freeman was given a gold medal by the State Education Board, a wax bust of her was exhibited across the country, and she received more than 80 marriage proposals.

The account as it appears in the March 1888 Arrow:


The Omaha Herald calls for a medal of honor from the state of Nebraska for Minnie Freeman and THE ARROW seconds the motion. She teaches a school in the vicinity of Ord. When big blizzard of Friday last came along, it blew the door of the school-house off its hinges, and then lifted the roof from the walls. The brave school mistress tied her thirteen young charges together, took the smallest in her arms,

They were blinded and buffeted by the merciless north wind; they were tripped up by the drifts and blown down between times; but they struggled along together, and finally reached a sheltering roof, where the nearest patron of the school lived, to be welcomed from the very jaws of death. It was the pluck and level head of Minnie Freeman that saved those thirteen lives.

Minnie Freeman, Pi Beta Phi

Minnie Freeman, Pi Beta Phi

A poem about Minnie Freeman was written by Flora Lamson, an 1884 initiate of the same chapter. It also appeared it the March 1888 Arrow:


“When e’er a noble deed is wrought,
When e’er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts in glad surprise
To higher levels rise.” Longfellow
‘the night and the storm fell together,
On prairie and woodland and lea;
And trembling, the mighty snow-tempest
Held out its cold hand toward the sea.
Like the quick, sharp flash of the lightning
The wind swept the streets and the shore;
It wrenched off the roofs and the chimneys;
It burst ‘gainst windows and doors.
Like a savage excited and frenzied,
It surged up the prairies and down;
It screamed the harsh cry of “Destruction!”
O’er cottage and hilltop and town. ‘
‘Twas a night when we all love our shelter
And dare not to venture abroad;
When the rider clings close to his charger.
And trusts in the mercy of God.
Oh, cruel and merciless blizzard!
We sons of the pioneer know,
Whenever unfriended we meet you,
That you are our bitterest foe!
You snatch off the forms of our darlings;
You bury them under the snow;
And only the days of the future
Your cruelty ever shall know.
But see! Far off in the whirlwind,
A school-house without roof we behold,
The children crouched closely together,
Mute with terror and anguish and cold,
While the fair, girlish form of the teacher
Looks out on the snow-clouds around her
And glances with fear at her fold.
Her sweet face with courage is lighted;
And, taking a wee child in her arms,
A chain of humanity is fastened.
And hastens to brave the alarms.
But look! look! the procession is stumbling.
While trembles the brave, fragile girl;
They struggle ‘mid snow fierce and blinding,
While the merciless winds rise and whirl.
On, on through the storm the chain plunges.
With strength unaccustomed and might.
Till bright through the gloom and fierce storm-clouds
Gleams the home or the children at night.
Thank God that whatever the sadness
That seems to cover this world’s feeble sight.
He always provides a deliverer, and
sends us a sweet ray of light.
Let us praise His omnipotent mercy,
Coming down with the clouds from above,
And rescued our Minnie from ruin,
And made her an angel of love.
To Minnie. brave sister Minnie,
Our message of love we unfold;
And our hearts with gladness are throbbing,
As we point to the arrow of gold.

Blanche M. Burns, (English), another chapter sister of Minnie Freeman’s, wrote this letter to the Arrow:

We would be glad to add some tribute to the flood of praise that comes from all to our now distinguished sister, Minnie Freeman. Truly, the “tiny cord” has been transform’ed, and is drawing to her and firmly binding many friends. We are proud to claim her as ‘Our Minnie,’ and wish for her that these ties may be strong enough to hold through all the” storms of life” she has to face.

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Congrats, Condolences, and Cautious Optimism


Pi Kappa Phi’s Miami University chapter was recently in the news for the way it spends its Fridays.

These women of Kappa Delta at Wright State University each earned 4.0 honors.






Condolences to Sigma Chi and Omega Psi Phi on the deaths of Astronaut John Young and Nashville, Tennessee Police Officer Joseph Gilmore, respectively.



Cautious Optimism…

I am hopeful that the men and women who attended the GLO leadership events of the past week and those who are headed to upcoming events will leave energized and armed with the skills and resources to lead our organizations into the future.


P.S. I can’t pass up the fact that today is the date upon which Dr. Charles Richardson, “Sis Doc,” Kappa Sigma and Chi Omega was born.

Dr. Charles Richardson, Kappa Sigma, and a founder of Chi Omega

He, Honorary Tau Kappa Epsilon Elvis Presley, and I share a birthday.

Rick Husky pins a TKE pin on his newest fraternity brother Elvis Presley. (Photo courtesy of Elvis Presley Enterprises)


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Is Fraternity Life Doomed?

Will fraternity life be around in 20 years? I don’t know, but I do know that every time I see another headline about the state of fraternity life in 2018, it breaks my heart. For every incident and death, whether due to hazing, alcohol, drugs or just plain carelessness and uncaring behavior, the lives of those left behind are shattered. The what-ifs, shouldas and couldas become a broken record in the thoughts of the survivors.

This weekend and the ones following it are rife with GLO sponsored leadership academies, workshops and opportunities for new officers to improve their skills. No matter what the name, the goals are basically the same – to better the fraternity and sorority experience. A handful of chapter members attend, or maybe it’s only the president. They get fired up and empowered and then they head home. Are those skills and that energy enough to lead  100 or 200 other members whose goals might not be similarly aligned?

As one who studies the history of our organizations, it’s not the first time the organizations have come under assault. From the very beginning, GLOs have been up against anti-fraternity sentiment. It’s been a constant since the beginning. Today, the noise is louder, more high pitched, and omnipresent.

The model of membership in most of our organizations involves bringing in new members each year. The image and future of the GLO is vested in the very youngest members, those who have hardly a clue about the goals, values and history of the organization. Perhaps they’ve heard some stories from older alums or maybe they can quote from heart movies and shows about fraternity life. Maybe they live for the moment and care nary a whit about the lofty purposes of the organization they joined without thinking much about it.

And while most of the incidents involve men, be forewarned that if the men’s GLO groups are forced to leave a campus, the women’s groups will be a casualty, too. The women need to hold the men’s groups accountable for their existence weighs in the balance.

If we as GLO members say we stand for higher aims and live our values then our actions should reflect that. Those who fail to live up to these ideals need to resign or be dismissed. The futures of all GLOs are in the balance.

An early 1900s fraternity hat band ad (Photo courtesy of the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois.)




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Celebrating the Good Work of GLO Members!

Happy 2018! My resolution is to keep telling the stories of GLO members. Today’s post highlights some of the social media posts of the last week.

Condolences to the family of Zackari Parrish, the Douglas County, Colorado, deputy who was killed on a New Year’s Eve day in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Among the officers wounded was a Pi Beta Phi member, Taylor Davis. May she and the others injured in the shooting recover quickly.


Congratulations to Hota Kotb, Delta Delta Delta on her new gig on TODAY!  She and co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, Pi Beta Phi, are an impressive NPC Duo! Guthrie was also a P.E.O. Scholar Award recipient.


Congratulations, too, to Dana Gresham, Alpha Phi Alpha, who was appointed the Chief of Staff to Doug Jones, Beta Theta Pi and Alabama’s new Senator.


Congratulations to the University of Central Florida football team for their win in the Peach Bowl. Here’s a post from Phi Delta Theta. I suspect there may be other fraternity men on the team.


How wonderful that these three fraternity men share an Alma Mater and a great love for their own fraternities, members of the Miami Triad, the three fraternities founded at Miami University!


Here’s a smattering of the posts celebrating good deeds done by GLO members.


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On NYD, GLOs Founded in January

Happy New Year!  I thank you for reading this blog. And thanks to all of you who share these posts and tell others about this crazy woman who writes about fraternity and sorority history. I think it is imperative that members know about their organization (I do not, however, believe learning about this history should be used as a way to haze members.)

The most uplifting post I’ve read this morning is from a Southern Illinois Pi Phi who attends a southern university. She is currently crossing some items off of her bucket list (New Year’s Eve in Times Square for one) before heading back to school. She said:

Walking to and from Times Square, we wished every security guard, police officer, military personnel, etc. that was working the event a “Happy New Year”. I was shocked when the reactions we received were “Oh wow, Happy New Year to you too. Now enjoy your night/ get home safe.” Like they were thrown off that we even acknowledged them, but then proceeded to smile and wish us the same. We don’t give these men and women the gratitude they deserve. Think about this as we start 2018.💙

My time will be scarce this month, and I know I will not be able to do new posts for the organizations that celebrate Founders’ Day in January. Here are links to previous, but nonetheless interesting, posts.

1858, actual date unknown, Delta Tau Delta, Bethany College – A Delta Tau Delta on Anti-Fraternity Sentiment in Wisconsin, With a Century’s Perspective

January 1, 1869, Sigma Nu, Virginia Military Academy (Institute) – Sigma Nu, First Founders’ Day of 2017, and “Chic” Sale

January 2, 1897, Alpha Omicron Pi, Barnard College – Jessie Wallace Hughan, Pacifist, Social Activist, and Alpha Omicron Pi FounderMadeleine Z. Doty, Prison Reformer and Alpha Omicron PiFlorence Lucas Sanville to Celebrate Alpha Omicron Pi #AmazingSororityWomenGertrude Falkenhagen (Bonde), Alpha Omicron Pi

January 4, 1852. Phi Mu, Wesleyan College (The founding was publicly announced on March 4, 1852, the day that is celebrated as Founders’ Day.) – Grace Lumpkin, Phi Mu, on Founders’ Day, #amazingsororitywomen #WHM2017#WHM – Phi Mu’s Jerrie Mock, Aviator ExtraordinaireHappy Founders’ Day, Phi Mu and a Snippet About the Phi Mu Healthmobile

January 5, 1911, Kappa Alpha Psi, Indiana University – Calvin Coolidge and Kappa Alpha Psi Share January 5th

January 9, 1914, Phi Beta Sigma, Howard University – Phi Beta Sigma, Lou Brock, Richard Nixon, and Carrie Chapman Catt

January 10, 1899, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Illinois Wesleyan College – Tau Kappa Epsilon and Ronald ReaganTau Kappa Epsilon’s 116th Birthday and a Walgreens Connection

January 13, 1913, Delta Sigma Theta, Howard University – Happy 104th, Delta Sigma Theta!Delta Sigma Theta and Mary McLeod Bethune

January 15, 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Howard University – Hidden Figures on Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders’ DayAlthea Gibson on Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Founding Day,  Alpha Kappa Alpha’s New Dimensions of Service and Eleanor Roosevelt on Founders’ Day, Alpha Kappa Alpha Founders’ Day and a Little About the Gamma Kappa Omega and Beta Delta Chapters

January 16, 1920, Zeta Phi Beta, Howard University – Dr. Deborah Cannon Wolfe on Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Founding Day,  Zora Neale Hurston and Zeta Phi Beta Zeta Phi Beta’s 95th Birthday, Its 1923 Expansion to Texas, and Violette Anderson, Happy 94th Birthday, Zeta Phi Beta and an Honor for Julia Carson, a Loyal Member

January 17, 1847, Delta Psi (St. Anthony Hall), Columbia University – Charles Kuralt and St. Anthony Hall at UNC

January 25, 1993, Gamma Alpha Omega, Arizona State University – After the Snow – John Collum, a Baby, and Gamma Alpha Omega

January 27, 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta, DePauw University – Dr. Placida Gardner Chesley, Kappa Alpha Theta, #amazingsororitywomen, #WHM2017,  A Toast on Kappa Alpha Theta’s 147th!,  Kappa Alpha Theta and the First Phi Beta Kappa Women, The “Mother of Nature Education” on Kappa Alpha Theta’s Founders’ Day, Julia Morgan, Pioneering Architect, Kappa Alpha Theta

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Zeta Beta Tau Honoring Achievement for More Than a Century

Zeta Beta Tau was created on December 29, 1898 when a group of young men attending several New York universities met at the Jewish Theological Seminary and formed an organization called Z.B.T. (yes, with the periods between the letters). The organization was inspired by Richard J. H. Gottheil, a Columbia University professor of languages. For a few years the organization served as an organization for the Jewish students who were excluded from the other Greek-letter organizations in existence on the campuses where they were studying. In 1903, the organization became Zeta Beta Tau. Six years later, there were 14 chapters established, all but one in the Northeast. The first chapter outside the Northeast was at Tulane University. In 1913, the fraternity became international with the establishment of a chapter at McGill University.

While awards and levels of achievement are a way of GLO life today, that wasn’t always the case. I was a bit intrigued when I learned that several of ZBT’s awards have been given for more than 100 years. In 1914, four “far-sighted alumni presented the Fraternity cups which were to be awarded to the chapters excelling in brain and in brawn,” according to the organization’s 25-year history book.

Isidore Sobel, an honorary member of Theta Chapter at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the Sobel Cup. Judge Moses Bijur, an Honorary member of Delta Chapter at Columbia University, gave the Bijur Cup. These honors were awarded to two chapters ranking highest in scholastic average.

Dr. Henry Frauenthal, an Honorary member, gave the Frauenthal Cup, which was to be awarded to the chapter most distinguished in athletics. Upon his graduation, Colman Bonart, Delta Chapter, gave the Bonart Cup to be awarded to the chapter with the best all-around athlete. 

The four cups were given for the first time at the 1915 Convention. In 1916, a Fraternity Cup was added to the award list. Due to World War I, no awards were given for 1917 and 1918.

Today, the Sobel Award recognizes improvement in GPA. The Bijur Award is given to the chapter with an outstanding GPA. Between 1995 and 1998, several Bijur Awards were given each year, however, since 1999, only one chapter has been recognized each year. The Frauenthal Award is now given to a chapter excelling in intramural sports. It appears the Bonart Cup is no longer awarded.

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Random Thoughts on Boxing Day

An Iowa State Kappa Kappa Gamma set off a chain reaction among the sorority women at Iowa State and it served as a reminder why the power of sorority women is so potent

Kevin Hunsperger, a charter member of the Sigma Nu chapter at Southeast Missouri State University, along with pal Tom Harness, has been wearing the same ugly Christmas suit all season. They are raising funds for  Children’s Home and Aide Society located in Herrin, Illinois and serving all of Southern Illinois.

After one of my last posts, a reader alerted me to thefact that Alpha Phi Omega does indeed still hold conventions between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Alpha Phi Omega’s National Convention will take place in Austin, Texas, a year from now, December 27-30, 2018.

Today is the date upon which Phi Delta Theta was founded. I wrote about it two years ago, so if you missed it, here it is. The link also includes information about the only Phi Delt who was also a member of Delta Gamma.

In case you hadn’t heard, there are more than 1,000 posts on this site, about all sorts of GLO history. The search box on the right is terrific at bringing up old posts about any GLO. A helpful reminder is to include the GLO name in quotes to narrow the selection down to the GLO in question.

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