For Phi Sigma Sigma, Kappa Alpha Society, and Sigma Alpha Mu a Double Celebration

Today, Thanksgiving 2015, is a double celebration for members of three Greek-Letter Organizations – Phi Sigma Sigma, Kappa Alpha Society (not to be confused with Kappa Alpha Order) and Sigma Alpha Mu.

Phi Sigma Sigma was founded at New York’s Hunter College on November 26, 1913. Its founders are Lillian Gordon Alpern, Josephine Ellison Breakstone, Fay Chertkoff, Estelle Melnick Cole, Jeanette Lipka Furst, Ethel Gordon Kraus, Shirley Cohen Laufer, Claire Wunder McArdle, Rose Sher Seidman and Gwen Zaliels Snyder.

Phi Sigma Sigma founders

Phi Sigma Sigma founders

The organization’s original name was Phi Sigma Omega, but it was discovered that the name was already in use. In 1918, its second chapter was founded when a friend of one of the founders, a student at Tufts University, expressed an interest in the organization. A third chapter was chartered at New York University. When Phi Sigma Sigma celebrated its tenth anniversary, two chapters had just joined the ranks – Eta at the University of Michigan and Theta at the University of Illinois.

The social service done by those eight chapters during the 1922-23, is commendable given that two of the chapters were newly chartered. An article in a 1923 Sphinx gave this account:

The personal service work throughout the country was slightly lessened this year due to external circumstances, but Alpha continued its visits to the Hospital for Joint Diseases until the demolition of the hospital forced them to discontinue their work for the time being; Delta gave personal service to the Jewish Fresh Air Camp; Gamma gave aid to a needy family and served in settlements and hospitals; and the New York Alumnae gave freely of their time to the Big Sisters and the Council of Jewish Women.

All of our Chapters contributed generously to the leading drives of the year and to worthy organizations. Alpha contributed $25 to the Jewish War Relief and an equal sum to the fund for rebuilding the Louvain Library, in addition to its usual contributions to the Lenox Hill Settlement connected with Hunter College. The proceeds of a card party and dance given by Gamma Chapter were donated to the Foster Mothers of America, while Delta contributed the proceeds of a card party to buy cots for the Jewish Fresh Air Camp. The members of Epsilon devoted the major part of their efforts toward securing funds for their Alma Mater in the Adelphi drive.

The chief activity of the year just coming to a close was a unified effort to make one monumental contribution to aid our fellowmen and to express thereby our appreciation for what the fraternity has meant to us. With such an end in view, we decided that nothing could be more appropriate than endowing a bed in a worthy hospital. Accordingly quotas were assigned to each Chapter based on the number of its members, and a contest began to see who should first raise the required sum. We are glad to announce that ready co-operation and untiring efforts have made possible the endowment in perpetuity of a bed in the female ward of the Beth David Hospital at 1824 Lexington Avenue, New York City. Here, on Sunday, November 25th, Ethel Gordon Kraus, the founder of Phi Sigma Sigma, fittingly presented our bed to the directors of the hospital. We trust that this venture will bring happiness and needed service to those whom chance will direct to our bed. (Beth David Hospital was located at Lexington Avenue and 113th Street. It moved in the late 1950s and closed about a decade later).


Kappa Alpha Society is the oldest of the Union Triad, the three fraternities founded at Union College in Schenectady, NY.  It was established in 1825 by nine men, John Hart Hunter, Thomas Hun, Isaac W. Jackson, John McGeoch, Orlando Meads, James Proudfit, Joseph Anthony Constant, Arthur Burtis, Jr., and Joseph Law. Its second chapter was founded at Williams College in 1833. A total of 13 chapters have been chartered; nine of those chapters are currently operating. Four of those nine chapters are in Canada. Two are the dormant chapters are also located in Canada. My rudimentary math skills detect what is likely the largest percentage of Canadian chapters among men’s fraternities.


Sigma Alpha Mu was founded on  November 26, 1909 at the City College of New York. Its eight founders first met at a meeting of the sophomore class. Its founders are Lester Cohen, Hyman Jacobson, Adolph I. Fabis, Samuel Ginsburg, Abram N. Kerner, Jacob Kaplan, Ira N. Lind, David D. Levinson. 

Sigma Alpha Mu founders

Two years later, a second chapter was established at Cornell University, quickly followed by chapters at Long Island University and Columbia University. The SAM chapter at Syracuse University was founded in 1913. It was SAM’s seventh chapter.

Syracuse football great, Ernie Davis, was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter at Syracuse. In addition to being the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, and the first African-American to be picked first overall in the NFL draft, he was the first African-American to become a member of Sigma Alpha Mu. Sadly, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia in 1962 and died in May 1963 at the age of 23. He never played in a professional football game. 

The Ernie Davis statue at Syracuse University.

The Ernie Davis statue at Syracuse University.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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On Thanksgiving Eve Tri Delta Celebrates

If I had a top ten list of the fraternity greats, living or dead, with whom I could have dinner, Sarah Ida Shaw Martin would be on that list. Tri Deltas know her as Sarah Ida Shaw; the rest of the fraternity world knows her as Ida Shaw Martin. 

In addition to being a founder of Delta Delta Delta, Sarah Ida Shaw was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She taught high school classical languages and German classes until her marriage in 1896. After her marriage, she began using Ida Shaw Martin, (Mrs. Wm. Holmes Martin) as her name. She holds a unique place in the women’s fraternity world. Not only was she a founder of Delta Delta Delta, but she was also an influential voice in the history of several other sororities, most notably the early years of Alpha Sigma Alpha. She helped found the Association of Pedagogical Sororities which soon afterwards became the Association of Education Sororities. She was a consultant to these groups through her Sorority Service Bureau.  She helped Alpha Epsilon Phi develop its first formal Constitution and guided the organization in formulating its Ritual. She served as Tri Delta’s Grand President from 1889-93.

Her Sorority Handbook  was the reference guide to sororities in a time before one had information available at the speed of light, when reference books truly mattered. I suspect it was a  resource she started compiling many years before when she was doing her own research prior to founding Delta Delta Delta.

sorority handbook flyer page 2 cropped

For much of her life she lived at 5 Cobden Street in Roxbury, Masachusetts. This is from the Tri Delta website:

On the corner of Cobden and Cardington Streets in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury there sits a yellow wooden home, ivy growing up the side, a turret on one side with three delta-shaped windows at the top. For 30 years, Tri Deltas all over the country received letters and correspondence from 5 Cobden Street, the home of Sarah Ida Shaw. It was here where she married William Holmes Martin in 1896. It is here where she gave her radio address to the 50th Anniversary Convention attendees who gathered at the Hotel Vendome in 1938, and it was here were she passed away on May 11, 1940.  

However, if you drive up to the house today, the turret’s windows are boarded up, and the top, near the deltas, is very badly burned. The house sits empty and abandoned. If you speak to a neighbor, he will tell that the house caught fire and burned. And he will tell you when it happened: Thanksgiving 2012.

Note the two little “kitten ears” on the turret at the left of the house. There is an additional one on the back side of the house (better visible in the second picture). They are not kitten ears; they are triangles/deltas. And there are three of them. Sadly, there was a fire at the house after these photos were taken. I am not sure if the home is still standing.

Screenshot (3)

Screenshot (1)


A little history

Delta Delta Delta was founded at Boston University on November 27, 1888, which fell on the day before Thanksgiving that year. Founders’ Day is celebrated on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Its founders are Sarah Ida Shaw [Martin], Eleanor Dorcas Pond [Mann, M.D.], Florence Stewart and Isabel Breed.

In the fall of 1888, the four women seniors who had not joined any of the women’s fraternities then at Boston University (Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi, and Gamma Phi Beta) discussed their situation. Pond talked to Shaw and they decided to start a society of their own. Pond suggested that they use a triple Greek letter and Shaw chose the Greek letter Delta. Shaw and Pond threw themselves into the details associated with the founding. All was finished by Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, 1888, but the two met again on Wednesday afternoon, before leaving for the holiday. They met in the Philological Library at the top of the college building. Shaw and Pond embraced and said “Tri Delta is founded.”

Shaw and Pond were intent and ultimately successful in  getting the other two unaffiliated seniors, Florence Stewart and Isabel Breed, to join their organization. All four are considered founders.

The second chapter of Delta Delta Delta came about through the efforts of Etta May Budd, the daughter of an Iowa State College professor, who was in Boston studying art. She boarded at the Young Women’s Christian Association and there met Josephine Centre, an early initiate of the Alpha Chapter. Budd, who then became a member of the Alpha Chapter, belonged to two local organizations, one at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and another at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The organization Budd belonged to at Simpson College was called L. F. V. It stood for “Lovers of Fun And Victory,” but the men on campus called the group the “Light Footed Virgins.” L. F. V. was founded in 1871 and by 1889, it had 95 members. On April 25, 1889, nine L. F. V. members signed pledges to become members of Delta Delta Delta. A charter was secured and L. F. V. became the Delta Deuteron Chapter of Delta Delta Delta. An initiation followed on May 10, 1889. In 1897, it became known as the Delta chapter when the first national convention changed the system of naming chapters.

As she had done with the local organization to which she had belonged at Simpson College, Budd attempted to bring the local organization she had founded at Iowa State University, U. D. T. into the Delta Delta Delta fold. In May 1889, she returned to Iowa State with a charter for the local organization. There was much anti-fraternity sentiment on campus and U. D. T. had been forced to disband. Budd organized another group to have the Delta Delta Delta charter and was successful in 1890. However due to the continuing anti-fraternity sentiment, that charter was surrendered two years later. Fourteen members were initiated and two pledged before the charter was returned. Ultimately, the chapter was reestablished on September 21, 1912.

In 1889, the Epsilon chapter of Delta Delta Delta became the second women’s fraternity at Knox College. Kappa Beta Theta was a local organization founded in 1888 by sisters Patsie and Ola Ingersoll and it was formed with the intention of securing a charter from a national women’s fraternity.  Beta Theta Pi had a chapter at Knox College and a Knox Beta told his brother, who was a member of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Boston University. The Boston University Beta gave the information to his friend, Delta Delta Delta founder Sarah Ida Shaw.  Shaw began correspondence with the Knox College women.  A Tri Delta charter was granted on July 9, 1889.  A member of the Simpson College chapter, Hattie Berry, initiated the chapter in August 1889, at the home of one of the charter members, Alta March.  A reception was held at the Phi Gamma Delta Hall at Knox College Shaw later noted that the “Galesburg girls refused to have Gamma (as a chapter name) because they considered the letter hideous in form and sound, so it was given to the second in the province, Adrian (College), which came in only six months later.”

The Tri Delta chapter also produced a National President, R. Louise Fitch. She served from 1915-19. Prior to taking office, she was the second editor of the Trident, serving from 1905-15. It is interesting to note that after graduating from Knox in 1902, she served as Editor of the Galva Weekly News in Galva, Illinois.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Psi Upsilon, Sorrow at Washington State, and a Message from Cal

Today marks the 182nd anniversary of Psi Upsilon’s founding at Union College in Schenectady, New York. On November 24, 1833, Robert Barnard, Samuel Goodale, Sterling G. Hadley, George Washington Tuttle, Edward Martindale, Merwin Henry Stewart, and Charles Washington Harvey founded the fraternity.  

A second chapter was established at New York University, followed quickly by chapters at Yale University, Brown University, and Amherst College. I am most familiar with the chapter at Syracuse University, my Alma Mater.

Psi Upsilons Pi chapter house, 101 College Place, Syracuse, NY, circa 1900.

Psi Upsilon, 101 College Place, Syracuse, NY, circa 1900.

Psi U’s Pi chapter was founded at Syracuse in 1875. It is the oldest continually operating fraternity on a campus which has seen many fraternities come and go and come back again. The wood chapter house high on a hill on a corner lot at 101 College Place was built in 1898. It is believed that it was the first building constructed as a fraternity house. It was designed by Wellington Taber, a member of the chapter who was studying architecture.

A recent Syracuse University Magazine had an article about the renovation of the chapter house. To see pictures of the house from different eras and the restoration process, see

The renovated Psi Upsilon chapter house (Photo courtesy of Syracuse University magazine)

The renovated Psi Upsilon chapter house (Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Magazine)


Heartfelt condolences are sent to the women of Washington State University’s Panhellenic Council as well as the friends and family of Christine Hunter and Morgan Cope. Prayers are sent for the speedy recovery of Sidney Ritter. Two automobile accidents, days apart, resulted in the deaths of a Tri Delta and a Pi Beta Phi. Christine Hunter, a freshman on academic scholarship student who was studying biochemistry with the hope of becoming a brain surgeon, was a member of Tri Delta. She was killed in the accident which seriously injured her friend, Chi Omega Sidney Ritter. Pi Beta Phi Morgan Cope was killed when a truck veered into her lane and struck her car. Both accidents took place while the students were going home for Thanksgiving.

From the twitterverse, from one Washington State sorority to another.

From the twitterverse, from one Washington State sorority to another.


Thanksgiving time is a good time to spotlight this quote by my favorite First Lady’s husband, a member of Phi Gamma Delta. Thank you for reading this blog and letting others know about cool

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Memories, Melodies, and Mom Mindy!

The trip to Iowa was fun. To walk in the footsteps of the founders of both Pi Beta Phi and P.E.O. was thrilling. In the late 1860s, Mount Pleasant was called the Athens of Iowa. It was a bustling place and Iowa Wesleyan University had a role in that. The Union Building, where Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to name just two, spoke, is still there. The building had fallen into disrepair, but it was saved by a group of dedicated citizens and now serves as offices and an event venue.

Iowa Wesleyan University, where Pi Beta Phi founder Libbie Brook enrolled in the fall of 1868, has a few more buildings today, but standing in front of Old Main, with Pioneer Hall to the left of it, one can get a sense of what it was like to be a student in back then. P.E.O. was founded about a month after the second chapter of Pi Beta Phi (then known as I.C. Sorosis, Pi Beta Phi had been the organization’s Greek motto) made its debut.  The location of the home in which Libbie boarded  has been lost to history, but several of the homes of the P.E.O. founders are still standing. The Mount Pleasant Female Seminary, where another Pi Phi founder, Nancy Black, formed its third chapter and where P.E.O.’s second chapter was founded is no longer standing, but I was shown where the seminary was located.

The P.E.O. Memorial Library, built in 1927 as a memorial to the organization’s founders, now houses an art gallery and administrative offices. Until the 1960s, the P.E.O. central office and supply department was located in the library building. The P.E.O. headquarters is now located in Des Moines, Iowa.

A visit to Mount Pleasant would not have been complete without the opportunity to share a little time with a double sister, Elizabeth Davenport Garrels; she is both a Pi Phi and P.E.O. She served Pi Phi as its Foundation President and she served P.E.O. as International President. She is also a font of knowledge about P.E.O.’s history, as well as the history of her chapter, Iowa Alpha of Pi Beta Phi. She shared her knowledge as she played tour guide.

Driving home from Mount Pleasant, I became lost in an audio book and had no idea where I was other than I was following directions put forth by “the lady” who navigates for us. I was suddenly startled by a sign telling me that the tidying of this stretch of the four lane highway was done by Alpha Tau Omega. Where was I and what college could that chapter call home? I figured out the answer about 10 seconds before I saw the sign for Culver-Stockton College. And in the way my mind works, I remembered that Culver-Stockton played a role in how my sons ended up at Knox College via a football coach, a Culver-Stockton alumnus whose wife was a Chi Omega sister of a friend of mine.

And then I thought of the link my Chi Omega friend, Lyn Harris, sent me and how I needed to get it into a blog post. Lyn is Chi Omega’s Archivist and is always finding nifty things. It’s a 1940 radio recording of Benny Goodman (was he an honorary member of Tau Epsilon Phi?) playing sorority songs. After I posted this on my facebook page, a friend said it was a bit weird hearing men sing the Tri Delta Emblem Song.

This morning my facebook page had a picture of my friend, Mindy Jones. She was just named House Director of the Year at the University of Oklahoma. Congratulations,  Mindy!

Mindy Jones, House Director at the University of Oklahoma Pi Phi chapter. It is her chapter of initiation.

Mindy Jones, House Director at the University of Oklahoma Pi Phi chapter, with a Pi Phi. The chapter, Oklahoma Alpha, is her chapter of initiation.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Morning in Mount Pleasant Following in the Footsteps of the P.E.O. Founders

On Friday, I drove to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. On the way, I made a quick stop at Holt House, the home where Pi Beta Phi was founded in 1867. When it was founded it was called I.C. Sorosis. Its motto was Pi Beta Phi, the Greek letters most chapters began using years before the name change was made official at the 1888 convention. One of the founders, Libbie Brook, convinced her parents to let her attend another college. That college was Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, about 55 miles from Monmouth, across the Mississippi River. She likely arrived in Mount Pleasant by train.

There in December of 1868, Libbie Brook established the second chapter of her beloved fraternity. She invited a few of the women whom she thought might be congenial to the ideals of her organization. As happened many times in the history of women’s fraternities/sororities, she invited one or two of a group of friends to  join her. Instead of joining with Libbie, those friends gathered their friends and started a society of their own. On January 21, 1869, P.E.O. was born on the Iowa Wesleyan campus.

Sunrise in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, from the comfort of the Comfort Inn.

Sunrise in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, from the comfort of the Comfort Inn.

As I toured the town the next morning, I wished I had a time machine, where I could travel back to the tail end of 1868 and the spring of 1869.


The P.E.O. Memorial Library. Today, it houses an art gallery and Iowa Wesleyan University offices.

The P.E.O. Memorial Library. Today, it houses an art gallery and Iowa Wesleyan University offices.

Several of the P.E.O. founders are buried in Mount Pleasant.  The yellow stars make the graves easy to locate.

Alice Bird Babb, the only P.E.O. Founder to have been continually involved in P.E.O. She wrote the original 35 word oath.

Alice Bird Babb, the only P.E.O. Founder to have been continually involved in P.E.O. She wrote the original 35 word oath.


Although Franc Rhoads Elliots reamins were scattered, the P.E.O.s place a marker in the cemetery near that of her college freinds.

Although Franc Roads Elliot’s remains were scattered, the P.E.O.s placed a marker in the cemetery.

Mary Allen Stafford

Mary Allen Stafford’s grave marker

Pi Beta Phi founder Nancy Black installed a chapter at the Mount Pleasant Female Seminary, also known as Belden’s Female Seminary. A P.E.O. chapter was also established there. Legend has it that when the rivalry between the two groups became too intense, Mr, Belden confiscated the stars of P.E.O. and the I.C. arrows and locked them away until the two groups promised to get along.


This obelisk for the Belden family was near the graves of some of the P.E.O. founders.

It was indeed a thrill to see the place where P.E.O. came to life on that January day in 1869. While the lives of the founders differed greatly from the lives of women today, the sisterhood they shared and passed along through the nearly 15 decades is as relevant today as it was when P.E.O. began.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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Alpha Sigma Alpha Turns 114!

Happy Founders’ Day, Alpha Sigma Alpha! Thank you for giving us NPC’s International Badge Day which, since 1997, has taken place on the first Monday in March.

In the spring of 1996, after she wore her Alpha Sigma Alpha pin to work one day, Nora M. Ten Broeck wrote an article about her experience. It appeared her sorority’s magazine, The Phoenix, and was titled “A Simple Solution – Wear Your Membership Badge Today.”  


Alpha Sigma Alpha was founded on November 15, 1901 at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia. Its founders had been asked to join some of the other sororities on campus, but they wanted to stay together. The five, Virginia Lee Boyd (Noell), Juliette Jefferson Hundley (Gilliam), Calva Hamlet Watson (Wootton), Louise Burks Cox (Carper) and Mary Williamson Hundley, started their own sorority; they called it Alpha Sigma Alpha.

(Sarah) Ida Shaw Martin, who as a collegian at Boston University was a founder of Delta Delta Delta, played an integral role in Alpha Sigma Alpha’s early history. Martin had written the Sorority Handbook, first published in 1907. She was an expert on women’s fraternities/sororities.

Ida Shaw Martin

Alpha Sigma Alpha sought Martin’s help in 1913. While 13 chapters had been installed, only the Alpha chapter was viable. Martin encouraged the organization to consider extension to the Pi Alpha Tau organization at Miami University. In May 1913, the Pi Alpha Taus became an Alpha Sigma Alpha chapter. Alpha Sigma Alpha realized Martin’s knowledge and assistance could help the group grow. She was elected its National President. Although  she never presided at a convention, she was guiding the proceedings from behind the scene. Martin led Alpha Sigma Alpha until 1930, when Wilma Wilson Sharp was elected National President.

She also played a role in the 1915 formation of the Association of Pedagogical Sororities. Of the Farmville Four, the organizations founded at the State Female Normal School – Zeta Tau Alpha, Kappa Delta, Sigma Sigma Sigma, and Alpha Sigma Alpha – the former two became members of the National Panhellenic Conference and the latter two formed the Association of Pedagogical Sororities (its name was quickly changed to the Association of Education Sororities).

As an Association of Education Sororities member, Alpha Sigma Alpha had to relinquish chapters not located at teacher’s colleges. Its Iota Chapter became the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi on May 10, 1913. The chapters at Brenau and Mt. Union became Delta Delta Delta chapters.

Martin’s dual membership occurred when the Association of Education Sororities (to which ASA belonged) and the National Panhellenic Conference (to which Tri Delta belonged) were separate and distinct organizations. It was not until the late 1940s, when dual membership came to the forefront. When the AES organizations merged into NPC, sorority members claiming dual membership were asked to resign from one of the organizations. Martin died in 1940 and, by then, her dual membership was a moot point.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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Happy 93rd Sigma Gamma Rho!

Today, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. celebrates the 93rd anniversary of its founding. The sorority was founded on November 12, 1922 by seven young women educators in Indianapolis, Indiana. On December 30, 1929, a charter was granted to the Alpha chapter at Butler University making the organization a national college sorority. It is the only one of the National Pan-Hellenic Conference sororities not founded at Howard University, site of the Alpha chapters of  Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta.

Sigma Gamma Rho, Alpha chapter, 1924

Sigma Gamma Rho, Alpha chapter, 1924

Sigma Gamma Rho was founded in a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity at a time when Butler University had quotas on the number of African American students it would admit. Nine African American women educators, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Mary Lou Allison Little, Vivian White Marbury, Bessie M. Downey Martin, Cubena McClure, Hattie Mae Dulin Redford, and Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, gathered together and formed Sigma Gamma Rho. At that time, Butler was located in Irvington and not on its current campus, about 10 miles northwest of the original Butler campus. 

Irvington was the home of David Curtiss Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Branch of the Ku Klux Klan. It must not have been a welcoming environment for the young Sigma Gamma Rho women. In 1925, Stephenson’s henchmen kidnapped a young teacher, Madge Oberholtzer. Stephenson assaulted Oberholtzer and it played a role in her death. After she died, he was convicted of killing her. The trial and the sensation it caused helped reverse the growth and influence of the KKK (see

In July 1939, when the Los Angeles chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho was founded, actress Hattie McDaniel was a charter member. Her role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind earned her the 1940 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She was the first African American woman to win the award.

Hattie McDaniel, February 1940.

Hattie McDaniel with her Oscar, February 1940.

McDaniel was also the first African American woman to sing on American radio. She has been honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her contributions to radio and the other for her contributions to motion pictures. In 2006, she became the first African American Academy Award winner to be honored with a U.S. postage stamp.

Hattie McD

Breast cancer claimed McDaniel’s life in 1952 at the age of 57. Sigma Gamma Rho created the Hattie McDaniel Cancer Awareness and Health Program in her honor and memory. The mission of the program is to provide education and support of early detection of breast, prostate, ovarian, colon and other cancers as well as research for prevention of the cancers.

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11/11 Gamma Phi Beta’s Founding Day and Armistice Day

Frances Haven (Moss) grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Evanston, Illinois, as her father, Dr. Erastus Otis Haven, headed up the University of Michigan and then Northwestern University. When Dr. Haven was elected Chancellor of Syracuse University, Frances moved to Syracuse, too, and enrolled at Syracuse University. The first social event she attended was a church oyster supper. There she met the man who would later become her husband, Charles Melville Moss. She also met two members of Alpha Phi, a women’s fraternity founded at Syracuse in October of 1872. Instead of accepting the invitation to join Alpha Phi which had been offered to her, she joined with three other women – Mary A. Bingham (Willoughby), E. Adeline Curtis, and Helen M. Dodge (Ferguson) –  and they created an organization of their own. The date was November 11, 1874. The organization is Gamma Phi Beta, the first of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations to use the term “sorority;” Syracuse Latin professor Frank Smalley coined the word for the women.*

Shortly after the U.S. entered the World War I, Gamma Phi Beta’s Grand Council adopted a French orphan, Louise Miroux. This is from a 1918 Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta:

[Louise Miroux, who has been adopted by the Council of Gamma PhiBeta, sends the following quaint and delightful letter which we print exactly as it was written.]

17 Novembre, 1917.
My dear benefactress:
How may be able to tell you all my gratitude for your generosity about us. That will do ray mother less poor in this time so hard, she il all the day working in manufactory. I go to the school during this time with my little sister, SIMONE, which is nine years old. We work our best possible at the school where we learn to love our France.
Our Mistress tell us it is a great bonheur for us to have many friends as your “AMERICAN’S” and we must love you like our soldiers.
Dear Miss it is a great pleasure for me to send you my photographie with my sister SIMONE. I have not any other sister, not brother. My little sister would kiss my benefactress and I kiss you also with all my heart. I send also a good kiss to your dear mother. My mother thanks you very much and asks you to accept her best regards.
I must tell you dear miss, I am learn to knit for our soldiers.
Your Little Affectionate
Louise Miroux.

Since this is Veteran’s Day, too, “the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” I would like to honor all those Gamma Phi Betas and others who have served in the armed services. This includes a reader of this blog, Cele Hoffman Eifert, who allowed me to use these photos.

USC AFROTC Drill Team Early 1970s. There are two women in this photo. Cele

The University of Southern California AFROTC Drill Team in the early 1970s. There are two women in the photo. Cele is in the back row, fourth from the left, and her female comrade-in-arms is in front of her.


Cele and Lesa Crow Wagner Juday on the cover of the Crescent. The photo was taken in 1977 when, during training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, they discovered they were Gamma Phi Beta sisters. Cele wrote the article about military sisters for this issue.



Cele in front of a poster of that cover which is displayed in Gamma Phi’s HQ.

* For more on Dr. Frank Smalley and the word “sorority,” see

For more information on Dr. Erastus Haven, the father of Frances, see

For more information about the history of Gamma Phi Beta, This link includes a picture of an early Gamma Phi house on Irving Avenue in Syracuse.



Today is Veterans Day, a day when we give thanks to the brave men and women who make it their business to protect the rest of us. The sacrifices they make are many and I, for one, am truly grateful. 

The haunting poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by John McCrae, M.D., a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army during World War I. He was a Zeta Psi.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

President Woodrow Wilson, a member of Phi Kappa Psi, proclaimed November 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day (the truce took place on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month although the treaty was signed months later). He said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” After World War II, the day took on the name “All Veterans Day” to honor those of other conflicts. Somewhere along the way, the day became known as “Veterans Day.”

For a post about the War Work done by NPC women during World War I, see

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All Rights Reserved.  If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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On Sigma Kappa’s Founders’ Day, the Maine Sea Coast Mission

Sigma Kappa was founded on November 9, 1874, by five young women, the only females enrolled at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. They received a letter from the faculty approving the organization’s petition, which included a constitution and bylaws.

Violets, Sigma Kappa's flower

Violets, Sigma Kappa’s flower

The five founders of Sigma Kappa are Mary Low Carver, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Fuller Pierce, Louise Helen Coburn and Frances Mann Hall. In Sigma Kappa’s first constitution, membership in Sigma Kappa was limited to 25 women. The original chapter is known as the Alpha chapter. After Alpha chapter’s membership reached 25, a Beta chapter was formed. A Gamma chapter soon followed. Although there were some early joint meetings, the members did not think it feasible to continue that way. In 1893, a vote was taken to limit Alpha chapter to 25 members and to allow no more initiations into Beta and Gamma chapters. In due time, Beta and Gamma were no more.

The Delta chapter was installed at Boston University in 1904. In 1905, Sigma Kappa became a member of the National Panhellenic Conference.

At the 1918 convention, the Maine Sea Coast Mission was chosen as Sigma Kappa’s first national philanthropy. The decision honored Sigma Kappa’s founding in Maine as well as the members who volunteered in support of this missionary society. Sigma Kappas still support the Maine Sea Coast Mission. Through the Sigma Kappa Foundation, members support the mission’s Christmas program, emergency relief program and scholarships. 

The February 1927 Arrow of Pi Beta Phi had an article about Sigma Kappa’s Seacoast Work:

Among the big national philanthropic projects being fostered
by Greek letter organizations is that of the Maine Sea Coast
Mission, supported in part by Sigma Kappa.

On August 28, 1926 there was launched the new ‘Sunbeam’
which carries the staff of the Mission to its duties with comfort
and expedition. It serves a parish which extends along more
than three-fifths of the Maine Coast. The Sunbeam is eighty
feet long, sixteen and a half beam and draws six feet. She is
fisherman type, built according to a proved design and equipped with auxiliary sailing for steadying in bad weather. Her power is that of a 120 h.p. crude oil engine and her cruising radius is nearly fifty per cent longer than that of the old Sunbeam. She is equipped with a small hospital and other accessories.

Sophie Parsons Woodman, New York Beta of Pi Beta Phi,
who was staying at her ‘best loved spot’ of South Bristol, Maine
last summer had the pleasure of attending the launching of the
new Sunbeam at Damaris Cotta.

In sending the above photograph and information to the
ARROW Editor she writes: ‘As you know this is the visible means to the splendid work of the Maine Sea Coast Mission, supported in part by Sigma Kappa. My snap isn’t very good as I had to aim into the sun from my vantage point of a keg of salt fish on the fish-house wharf but it at least shows that a Pi Phi was there. On the street afterwards I met a very charming girl, Carolyn Peasley. Maine Alpha of Pi Beta Phi, whose mother is head of the Bible work of the Mission,. and she helps in the summers.’

The Maine Sea Coast Missionary Society is undenominational in religion and concerned only that it is a real need to which it is called to minister. The facilities of the Mission are available for service under all circumstances and in any place within its physical limitations. The Mission co-operates enthusiastically with any agency religious or social which has a contribution to make to the solution of the problems of the coast.


Sigma Kappa’s Alpha chapter closed in 1984 when Colby College banned all fraternities and sororities from campus.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest


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GLO Connections at the Book Sale

My anthropologist friend and I head up the book sale for the Friends of Carbondale Public Library. It is a labor of love. We love books and we love to get them into the hands of people who will love them, too. Although I spent a dozen hours this weekend dealing with the sale and the people who come to the sale, I did manage to find some GLO connections. These are but a small sampling of the GLO connections I found while straightening up the books.

Jim Davis, Garfields "Dad"

Jim Davis, Garfield’s “Dad,” is a Theta Xi.

Carl Bode

Carl Bode, who wrote a definitive biography of H. L. Mencken, was a member of Alpha Tau Omega.

Jane Porter is a Pi Beta Phi.

Jane Porter is a Pi Beta Phi.

Some paintings came our way to sell. This is one of Tennessee Williams.

Some paintings came our way to sell. This is one of Tennessee Williams.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Delta Delta Delta.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a member of Delta Delta Delta.

Art Linkletter was a member of a local organization at San Diego State University.

Art Linkletter was an Alpha Tau Omega. While a student at San Diego State University, he was a member of a local, Tau Delta Chi, which later became the Epsilon Chi chapter of ATO. He was initiated as an alumnus in 1950. He enjoyed meeting ATO brothers across the country and played a large role in the fraternity’s centennial in 1965.

James Thurber as a Phi Kappa Psi.

James Thurber was a Phi Kappa Psi.

This book about astronauts, had these two female astronauts on the same page. One is a sorority woman and the other is not, The sorority woman is Judith Resnick, Alphe Epsilon Phi, and not Sally Ride.

This book about astronauts had these two female astronauts on the same page. One joined a National Panhellenic Conference organization and the other did not, although many people think to the contrary. The sorority woman is Judith Resnick, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and not Sally Ride, who did not belong to any NPC group.

Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee were killed in the Apollo 1 cabin fire. White was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma.

A collection of old magazines was donated. This cover from 1967 shows the Apollo 1 astronauts who were killed in a cabin fire. Pictured are Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. White was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma.


© Fran Becque,, 2015. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest

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