When My Worlds Collide

When I learned that my friend Daphney, the driver of Pi Phi’s Ring Ching Roadshow car would be in Iowa at the same time I would be there, too, I asked if we could quickly meet and have a photo op in front of the P.E.O. Executive Office. After all, Pi Phi and P.E.O. beginnings are intertwined.

Daphney and Libbie had started the trip to Iowa by way of Monmouth, Illinois. In Monmouth, she met with the Illinois Alpha chapter, Pi Phi’s founding chapter. When Pi Phi was founded in April 1867, no one knew it as Pi Beta Phi. Those Greek letters were the organization’s secret motto; the name at that time was I.C. Sorosis.

About a year and a half before I.C.’s founding, in  December 1865, the Alpha Alpha chapter of Beta Theta Pi was chartered on the campus of Monmouth College. On June 8, 1868, the Epsilon Epsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi  was founded at Iowa Wesleyan University. It was the first national fraternity on the Iowa Wesleyan campus.

From the beginning, the I.C.s were intent on expanding to other institutions. And so it was that thought which compelled Libbie Brook, one of the I.C. Sorosis founders, to leave Monmouth College for the 1868-69 school year. Perhaps encouraged by the Beta Theta Pi men she knew at Monmouth, she enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan University. There on December 21, 1868, at a party given by the Beta Theta Pi men of IWU, the second chapter of I.C. Sorosis made its debut.

Some of the Mount Pleasant women, slightly annoyed at the upstart from across the river who came to IWU and gathered a number of women to form an I.C. chapter, decided to form a society of their own. Franc Roads Elliott, in recollecting the founding of P.E.O., was often less than cordial in her description of Libbie Brook’s action, but I usually read those accounts and chuckle a bit. For in that disdain of what happened that fall of 1868, seven young women founded a sisterhood that has helped women reach for the stars for nearly 150 years. P.E.O. was founded exactly a month after the I.C. chapter at Iowa Wesleyan. The P.E.O. Sisterhood will turn 150 on January 21, 1869. Some women, me included, are a part of both Pi Beta Phi and P.E.O. And for that, I feel very lucky and blessed.

I also discovered a fun fact about Franc Roads Elliott’s daughter Stella that, in a small way, connected her to Monmouth College. The October 1889 Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma told of the marriage of Stella Elliott to “James Canfield, of Columbus, Ohio. The wedding took place in the east where Stella has been with her mother spending the summer, and was a very quiet affair. ” Stella was a member the University of Nebraska chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Coincidentally, James Albert Canfield’s sister Dorothy was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Ohio State University. Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s war work was the subject of an earlier March 2017 post on this blog. Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded in 1870 at Monmouth College.

Stella Elliott and James A. Canfield are buried in the same cemetary as Dorothy Canfield Fisher and her husband John. The cemetary is in Arlington, Vermont.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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

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R. Louise Fitch, Delta Delta Delta, #amazingfraternitywomen, #WHM2017

Many thanks to Beth Applebaum, Tri Delta’s Fraternity Archives Manager, for graciously allowing me to post her Trident article about R. Louise Fitch. I have been a long-time admirer of “Our Louise,” as she was called by the Tri Deltas of her time.

R. Louise Fitch once described herself as being “above medium height, so thin that she had to stand twice in any one spot to cast a show.” But she failed to mention her warm, magnetic brown eyes, her remarkable memory of names and faces, her insight into chapter problems and her ability to help chapter members few those problems objectively. Her contributions Tri Delta’s growth and development were legion, but perhaps less well known are her many contributions outside Tri Delta, including her remarkable war service during World War I.

She was born Rachel Louise Fitch, only daughter of Elmer Eli and Rachel Helgesen Fitch on September 27, 1878 in Galva, Illinois. Her father was superintendent of the Galva schools for eight years before resigning to serve as editor of the Galva News, which he purchased in 1883. Her mother was a teacher and advocate for education improvements. R. Louise graduated from Galva High School and went on to attend Knox College where she was initiated into Tri Delta’s Epsilon chapter in 1899.

She attended the fifth national convention in Boston in 1902, where she urged the adoption of a visiting delegate program in which a chapter officer would make the rounds visiting each chapter. This program later evolved into what is currently the Chapter Development Consultant (CDC) Program. As visiting delegate, she was the first fraternity officer to make a complete round of chapter visits. Many chapters were at first intimidated by her arrival, often spending the preceding weeks in a flurry of cleaning and organizing in anticipation of her visit. After she arrived, her shrewd eyes saw far more than the chapter realized and she developed a warm relationship with each one she visited, even those she had to discipline. She left the chapters showered with hugs and kisses, and along with her notes, a magazine of two and a box of chocolates under her arm, gifts to “Our Louise.”

It was during her first visit to the Boston chapter, she met Founder Ida Shaw Martin and together with Amy Olgen Parmalee, Northwestern and Bessie Leach Priddy, Adrian, caught the vision Ida Shaw Martin had for Tri Delta’s future. Together this “Great Triumvirate” worked for many years to make that dream a reality. Martin also entrusted Louise with her original handwritten copies of the rituals, constitution and designs for the different insignia.

R. Louise had spent eighteen months as editor and business manager of her father’s paper, the Galva News. This experience came in handy when she became editor of the Trident in 1910. She spent five more years as editor, focusing on greater chapter communications. She also acted as co-editor of our first history, A Detailed Record of Delta Delta Delta, 1888-1907 with Bessie Leach Priddy, and was responsible for many of the photos.

Louise was elected national president in 1915. But with the World War I looming, she felt the need to make a significant contribution to the war effort. As a result, she was accepted to work with the YWCA and was sent to France. She conducted an in-depth study of that part that French women played in the war effort. Her work took her all over France, interviewing women in factories and farms all across the country. While there she wrote her book, Madame France, which was published and distributed by the YMCA. The book tells of the remarkable women she met in her travels across France and their significant efforts to support their country.

R. Louise Fitch

It was during this period that she also wrote a series of letters in diary form which were duplicated and mailed out to all initiated Tri Delta members. She used this to raise money for several projects benefitting education of women in France after the war.

Louise continued her philanthropic efforts throughout the rest of her life and was particularly known for her interest in women’s education. She served as temporary house director of the Theta Delta chapter at Oregon. She was appointed Dean of Women at Whitman College, and later served as Dean of Women at Cornell. While at Cornell, she became involved with the planning, building and furnishing of the quadrangle dormitories. Her home was often the gathering place for freshman girls that R. Louise came to know personally.

During her time at Oregon, she became acquainted with Lila Belle Acheson, Oregon and DeWitt Wallace, who later became editors of Reader’s Digest. After her retirement from Cornell, she traveled under their sponsorship, studying facilities for recreation and counseling of the elderly. She became quite involved in the issues of elder care and gave presentation across the country on the subject. For her many achievements, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater, Knox College.

She spent the last years of her life in Tacoma, Washington, where she continued to be active in many local clubs and organizations. In 1952, R. Louise Fitch and Amy Parmelee attended the Tri Delta Convention at Sun Valley as special guests, since the event marked the fiftieth anniversary since they had attended their first convention together in 1902.

Over the next few years, R. Louise’s health began to deteriorate. She moved to a Tacoma nursing home where she died on March 12, 1958. She was buried in her hometown of Galva, Illinois with mourners present from Tri Delta and from Knox College.

R. Louise Fitch remains an inspiration to many Tri Deltas dedicated to service to our Fraternity, but her passion for education, women’s history and the elderly should not be forgotten.

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Happy 100th Sigma Delta Tau!

Happy 100th Sigma Delta Tau. One hundred years ago, on March 25, 1917, seven female Cornell University students founded Sigma Delta Tau. Their organization was originally called Sigma Delta Phi, but when they discovered the name belonged to another Greek-letter organization they changed the “Phi” to “Tau.”

Sigma Delta Tau’s founders are Dora Bloom (Turteltaub), Inez Dane Ross, Amy Apfel (Tishman), Regene Freund (Cohane), Marian Gerber (Greenberg), Lenore Blanche Rubinow, and Grace Srenco (Grossman).

There was also a male involved in the beginnings of Sigma Delta Tau. Bloom asked Nathan Caleb House  to write the ritual. “Brother Nat”  is the only man to honored with the organization’s gold membership pin. As the story is told on the Sigma Delta Tau web-site, “After leaving Cornell University, Brother Nat was ‘lost.’ In a chance look through the New York City phone book, Nat was ‘found’ and brought as a surprise to the 1958 National Convention. From that time until his death, Brother Nat attended almost every Biennial Convention and maintained correspondence and visits with many alumnae and collegiate chapters.”

Sigma Delta Tau Founders and Ritualist, Regene Freund is on the bottom row, second from left.

Regene Freund, a founder, was the organization’s first National President. Her term began in 1918. Two years later, she graduated and moved to Detroit. As a female lawyer, she had a difficult time landing a job because of her gender. She served as National President until 1922. She then spent the next 35 years as the sorority’s National Counselor.

In 1924, she married another lawyer, Louis Starfield Cohane and they practiced formed their own law firm. In 1924, in the first year of their marriage, the Cohanes were the first married couple to try a case before the United States Supreme Court.

Regene was active in Detroit’s Jewish community and served as President of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1933. She was named  one of Detroit’s “Women of Achievement.” In 1991, Sigma Delta Tau honored her with the establishment of the Regene Freund Cohane Outstanding President Award. She died in 1992 at the age of 92.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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.

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Alexine and Marion Mitchell, Kappa Kappa Gamma, #amazingsororitywomen, #WHM2017

 “Alexine Mitchell has returned from a trip abroad,” reported a 1911 Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Alexine and her sister Marion Otis Mitchell were both initiates of the Kappa chapter at Stanford University although Alexine later affiliated with the chapter at Berkeley.

They were the daughters of Captain Josiah A. Mitchell. He survived the burning of the chipper ship Hornet by making it 43 days in an open longboat. Captain Mitchell’s story was immortalized in Samuel Clement/Mark Twain’s account of the ordeal which appeared in the newspapers and magazines of the day. The sisters, too, were world travelers and both would go on to be of service during World War I.

“Alexine Mitchell is nursing in a hospital in France, through the grounds of which were the third line trenches of the July offensive,” their alumnae chapter reported in a 1918 Key. Marion, it was noted, was “still in motor service at Toule and Nancy and writes of being under direct bombardment of German guns while rescuing two old French women from their remote mountain hut.” 

(courtesy of MitchellSisters.com)

The War Work done by the sisters explained in more detail in The Key. On December 31, 1916, Alexine left Alameda, California to travel to France. She was with the “American Fund for French Wounded.” She had spent 30 weeks preparation and study at the State Normal School in Santa Barbara, which was followed by a first aid course at the Presidion and another at the Lane Hospital. Her work in France was detailed below. (Do the math on the mileage. It works out to about 10 miles an hour!)

For a year and a half she drove a car in France delivering hospital supplies to hundreds of outlying hospitals, taking care of the car. The trips often required driving late at night, summer and winter. On one occasion when it was necessary to carry supplies from Paris to Nancy in haste (218) miles she drove for twenty hours without stopping, arriving at 2 a. m.

Nancy has often been subjected to severe bombardments. She visited the American Headquarters at the Front, where no women had driven a car. Also visited the famous citadel of Verdun. Was in the French second-line trenches, where no woman except Sara Bernhardt had been since August, 1914. Even going beyond until she stood less than half a mile from the German line, a shell exploding near reminded them of their dangerous position.

In June, 1918, Alexine entered hospital work as a nurse at Essey-le-Nancy just back of the Front, where she is at present; that hospital has been bombed by the Germans repeatedly. -General Nollet, head of the hospital, upon leaving to follow their advancing armies, called the doctors and head nurses together and said: ‘We drink to the health of our two American nurses, who, like ALL Americans, have made good.’

While on her first vacation she fell ill with influenza, but recovered and reached Paris during ‘Peace Week’ in time to witness the joyful celebrations.

Alexine is on the left in this picture which appeared in The Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Marion Otis Mitchell (courtesy of MitchellSisters.com)

Marion Otis Mitchell left Alameda on May 7, 1917, also working for the  “American Fund for French Wounded.” Her preparation included taking a first aid course and another in automobile repair. In addition:

She handled hospital supplies for some time in Paris, and was engaged in canteen work in Bar-le-duc for a short time; then went to Toul and drove a dispensary car for Dr. Brown, an American woman physician, for four months, their work being among civilians immediately back of the Front including Pont-a-Mousson. She acted as interpreter for the doctor, and also assisted her in her work when necessary.

From Toul Marion was sent to Nancy where she continued her work for a year past, driving a car with hospital supplies to the ambulances back of the Front. She has been present in Nancy and Toul many times when they were bombed, also in Paris when fired upon by ‘big Bertha.’

Being sent to the top of Mount Mousson to evacuate an old woman of ninety-three years and her “ancient daughter,”she came within range and sight of the Germans who fired six shells at her car. The second shot brought down a tall tree less than thirty feet from her.

After an attack of the Spanish influenza Marion was fortunate in arriving in Paris in time to witness the wonderful peace celebration.

Marion Otis Mitchell (Courtesy of The Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma)

Alexine married Walter Lubowski, and in the 1940s, the family name was changed to Gregory. Alexine’s granddaughter and her cousin have put together a wonderful website about the Mitchell sisters. For more information on the war service of the Mitchell sisters, visit www.mitchellsisters.com.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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.

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A Poignant Chi Omega Story and a Talk With Charlotte Rae, AEPhi, “Mrs. G.”

It’s Women History Month and I have been trying to profile sorority women who served in World War I. It’s not as easy as it looks and frankly and I not sure if anyone is interested. That’s never stopped me before, but there are a few things I’d like to share with my subscribers.

The first is an Oprah magazine article I read about members of the Chi Omega chapter at the University of Mississippi. Be forewarned, it is beautifully written and I was in tears by the end of the article. 



Kevin Hunsperger is a friend who Southern Illinoisans know as the morning anchor at WSIL-TV. He is a charter member of the Sigma Nu chapter at Southeast Missouri State University. He and his friend Tom Harness interviewed Charlotte Rae Lubotsky, better known as Charlotte Rae. To a generation of television viewers, she is known as Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life. She became a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi at Northwestern University.

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Blanche Grand-Maitre, Alpha Xi Delta, #amazingsororitywomen, #WHM2017

“Blanche B. Grand-Maitre has sailed for France with the third unit of the French-American toll service,” read an entry in the May 6, 1918 Minnesota Alumni Weekly.

Grand-Maitre was a 1911 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she was a member of the Mu Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. She hailed from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, from a French Canadian family. She spoke fluent French. While a collegiate member of the chapter, she wrote a musical comedy which was performed and the proceeds went to the House Fund. Its title was Cupid, Ph.D. and the plot revolved around the love affairs of Peter and Mary Featherbrain. One of the songs she wrote, When Ladies Go to War, was sung by the chorus. It title was very prescient.

She was working as a teacher in Minneapolis when she answered a call for who could speak French and were willing to learn to operate a telephone switchboard.  Her chapter’s report in the March 1919 The Alpha Xi Delta (before it was called The Quill) noted, “Blanche Grand-Maitre who is with the Signal Corps is stationed at Bordeaux, France. She has been wearing a service stripe for over two months. Her main desires at present are to be in the United States, have some really ‘classy’ clothes, and no longer be a soldier, but a ‘regular’ girl.”

Blanche Grand-Maitre, Alpha Xi Delta

She was chosen as one of the 223 women the Signal Corps sent to France during World War I to serve as telephone operators. She served in General Pershing’s headquarters. The women were known as “Hello Girls.” Although they were treated like soldiers, the Hello Girls did not receive veteran’s status until 1979, when 205 of them had died. 

She had a love who was also in Europe, fighting in the war. His name was Everett Hale, and he, too, had attended the University of Minnesota. Some say they were engaged to be married. When war was declared he was working in real estate in their home town of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He promptly enlisted and, after training, was sent to the Argonne Forest. He died on October 14, 1918. His family was told he was “missing in action” and it was not until July 1919 that his family was notified of his death.

After the war was declared over, she made a trip to the Argonne Forest to find the grave of her love. With the help of soldiers who had detailed maps, she located his shallow grave. His body was then moved to the cemetary at Romange-Meuse. In 1921, his body was sent back to Chippewa Falls, as requested by his parents.

When she returned to Minnesota in Septenber of 1919, she visited with her chapter, and attended Alpha Xi Delta events. As an senior she had written an article for The Alpha Xi Delta on the importance of alumnae support, so it’s no surprise that she made that effort. She also attended the first national convention of the American Legion, which took place in November 1919 in Minneapolis. She represented the St. Paul Legion Post.  She also served Alpha Xi as the Entertainment Committee Chairman at its 1920 convention.

After the war, likely broken-hearted, she returned to teaching. She never married. The 1940 census has her living in California. She died in 1970 before she and her 222 compatriots received veteran’s status.

My thanks to Jan Hutchins, Alpha Xi Delta, for her lead on Grand-Maitre. Those interested in Hello Girls might enjoy a book which will soon be available, The Hello Girls, by Elizabeth Cobbs, see http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674971479. The photo of Grande-Maitre’s identity papers is courtesy of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.

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Grace Banker (Paddock), Gamma Phi Beta, #amazingsororitywomen, #WHM2017

Gamma Phi Beta Grace Banker joined Gamma Phi Beta at Barnard Colllege. Due to anti-fraternity sentiment, the chapter was short-lived. Banker was one of the women who served her country in World War I. Her service was in a unique capacity, which was high tech at the time, but it seems so quaint to us now.

A call went out for experienced switchboard operators who could speak both French and English. More than 7,000 women applied; 450 were chosen to be “Hello Girls” as they were informally known. Banker was the Chief Operator of the of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit.

The women completed Signal Corps training at Fort Franklin in Maryland. In March 1918, she and 32 other women, the first group of operators, headed to Europe. They began operating phones in France and Britain.

Grace Banker, Gamma Phi Beta, is on the left in the front row.

Banker and five others were dispatched to the First American Army Headquarters. They were part of the September 1918 Battle of St. Mihiel. Together they worked night and day for eight days. At the end of the month, their new assignment took them to the front lines, northwest of Verdun. From that post, they were subjected to the same threats as the infantry, aerial bombardment from German planes. Their barracks were leaky and cold and in October it burned after being hit by the Germans. Once they were also threatened with court-martial if they did not leave their posts immediately. They left, but returned an hour later to make use of the few telephone lines that survived the bombardment.

Banker continued to work after the armistice was signed. She went to Paris and was dispatched to President Woodrow Wilson’s temporary residence. When an opportunity to be assigned to the Army of Occupation at Coblenz, Germany, was offered, she quickly accepted it. Lieutenant-General Hunter Liggett presented her with the Distinguished Service Medal for her work during the St. Mihiel drive. She left Europe in September 1919 after more than a year and a half of service.

Banker and her colleagues wore U.S. Army uniforms and were subjected to all Army regulations. However, they did not receive honorable discharges; Army regulations specified male gender, therefore the women were considered civilians. In 1978, on the 60th anniversary of World War I’s end, Congress gave the living “Hello Girls” veteran status via honorable discharges. Sadly, Grace Banker Paddock died in 1960 and could not revel in this honor.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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.

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Dr. May Agness Hopkins, Zeta Tau Alpha, #amazingsororitywomen, #WHM2017

May Agness Hopkins was born in Austin, Texas on August 18, 1883. She graduated from the University of Texas in 1906, the same year the Kappa Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha was founded. May Bolinger (Orgain) was a member of ZTA’s Epsilon Chapter at the University of Arkansas. There were four other NPC groups at the University of Texas, but Bolinger wanted a ZTA chapter in Austin. A friend told her that if she could get May Hopkins to help, her efforts would be successful.  A lunch was arranged and by the end of lunch Hopkins had agreed to help organize a Zeta chapter, even though she was a senior. The installation of the chapter took place in Hopkins’ home. A month after graduation, Hopkins attended ZTA’s 1906 Knoxville convention. She left convention as Grand Secretary. In 1908, while attending medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, she was elected Grand President. She served in that position until 1920.

In 1911, Hopkins received her medical degree; she was the lone woman in her graduating class. She completed an internship at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children and a residency at Pennsylvania State Hospital. In 1912, she opened a pediatrics practice in Dallas.

Dr. May Agness Hopkins

During World War I, she offered her services and “her call came shortly before the 1918 Grand Chapter meeting and prevented her attendance there, but she sent her suggestions and recommendations, and while the meeting was in progress she was busily engaged in closing her office and making all preparations for going into – she knew not what,” according to the The History of Zeta Tau Alpha 1898-1928.

She tendered her resignation as a Grand Chapter member, but it was not accepted; instead, she was granted a leave of absence. Her response to the leave of absence was printed in the Themis, ZTA’s magazine: 

To my sisters in Zeta Tau Alpha: When I received the resolution of my co-workers of Grand Chapter expressing their appreciation of my work, my heart simply filled to overflowing and I now am unable to find words with which to express my appreciation of your thoughtfulness. But I do wish you to know this: If I have been able to serve my fraternity with the least degree of efficiency; and through it to serve my sisters at large, it has only been through the untiring and loyal support you have given me as my co-officers and co-workers. It is true that our beloved fraternity has grown and through it I have grown – but you have been the power behind the throne. To you I give all the praise, all the honor. For myself, I can only say, ‘May I live to serve you and those I love again.’

In lieu of the identification bracelet worn by all war workers, she wore a gold band bracelet with the Greek letters “ZTA.” It was a gift given to her by Omicron Chapter when it was installed in 1911 at Breanau University in Gainesville, Georgia. Her name was already engraved on the inside and she added her address to it. The bracelet, “was a bit of Zeta Tau Alpha that went with her through all her war-time experiences.”

Dr. May Agness Hopkins in uniform

Once she arrived in France, she was put to work. From July to September 1918, she was assigned to the Smith College unit of the Red Cross stationed at Château Thierry. While there she was given charge of evacuating wounded solders. After she left the front, she was given full jurisdiction of the “Southern Zone,” thirteen departments that bordered the Mediterranean Sea. She was the only woman doctor who served as a chief of a zone. She returned to America in 1919.

In 1920, after serving as Grand President for 12 years, Hopkins felt it necessary to resign the office. She called a Grand Chapter meeting in Dallas. The meeting took place over three days, and “many of the meetings were held in Dr. Hopkins’ car, the members driving with her while she made her calls.”

ZTA joined the National Panhellenic Conference in 1909. “Dr. May,” as her ZTA sisters called her,  was the organization’s first NPC Delegate. She later served as NPC Chairman from 1923-26.

In 1927, she married Howard E. Reitzel. Hopkins remained an active member of  the medical community of Dallas. She practiced medicine until shortly before her death in 1972.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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.

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On Delta Phi Epsilon’s Centennial, Happy 100th!

On March 17, 1917, on hundred years ago today, five coeds at Washington Square College Law, a Division of New York University, founded Delta Phi Epsilon. The DIMES, as they are referred to, are Dorothy Cohen Schwartzman, Ida Bienstock Landau, Minna Goldsmith Mahler, Eva Effron Robin, and Sylvia Steierman Cohn. Delta Phi Epsilon was formally incorporated under New York State law on March 17, 1922.

That these five women were law students back in the day before women could vote in a federal election is impressive. Today, one must have a bachelor’s degree to apply to law school. In 1917, this was not the case. While the American Bar Association was formed in 1878, the first two women to join the organization did so a year after Delta Phi Epsilon was founded. In 1906, the Association of American Law Schools adopted a requirement that law be a three-year course of study.

Delta Phi Epsilon’s founders were between the ages of 17 and 19 when they formed the organization. I suspect they were working on an undergraduate degree in law, rather than what Delta Phi Epsilon members of today aspiring to be lawyers would do, spend additional years of study after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Ida Landau later in life

Ida Landau later in life

In 1920, Ida Bienstock graduated and was admitted to the New York Bar. In 1921, she married an Austrian, Jacob Landau, who, in 1917, founded the Jewish Telegraph Agency in The Hague. Landau lost her citizenship and her right to practice law when she married a foreigner (men who married foreigners at this time did not forfeit American citizenship). This case attracted national attention and it led to the adoption of the Cable Act (or the Married Woman’s Act) on September 22, 1922, allowing women who marry foreigners to keep their United States citizenship.

Ida Bienstock Landau from the Centennial issue of The Triad

Ida Landau served as the assistant general manager of the Agency for many years. From 1942-51, she served as manager of the Overseas News Agency. She also served as a war correspondent. In 1943, she covered the Bermuda Refugee Conference. In 1945, she toured the liberated countries of Europe and reported on the plight of Jewish refugees. In 1950, she organized the Transworld Features Syndicate.

The Landau’s son, Albert Einstein Landau, was born in 1933. He was named for his godfather, the esteemed scientist. 

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. 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.

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It’s Founders’ Day for Delta Gamma and Phi Delta Theta

March 15 is the day on which both Delta Gamma and Phi Delta Theta celebrate Founders’ Day. The organizations are also connected by the efforts of a Phi Delt who was also an initiated member of Delta Gamma.

It is the birthday of Robert Morrison, one of Phi Delta Theta’s six founders. The organization was founded on December 26, 1848 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Morrison proposed the organization; along with John McMillan Wilson, he chose the name of the fraternity. The other founders are Robert Thompson Drake, John Wolfe Lindley, Ardivan Walker Rodgers, and Andrew Watts Rogers. Miami University was founded by an act of the Ohio general assembly in 1809. Phi Delta Theta’s second chapter was chartered in 1849 at Indiana University.

Delta Gamma was founded at the Oxford Female Institute, also known as the Lewis School, at Oxford, Mississippi. The school was established before the Civil War and eventually was absorbed by the University of Mississippi. Delta Gamma’s three founders, Eva Webb [Dodd], her cousin Anna Boyd [Ellington], and Mary Comfort [Leonard], all from Kosciusko, Mississippi, were weather-bound at the school over the Christmas holidays in December of 1873.

Delta Gamma

Mrs. Hays, the lady principal, hosted the girls for the holidays. She had a son who was a fraternity man at the University of Mississippi. He and the women’s other gentlemen friends may have imbued the girls with the idea to start their own Greek-letter society. Founder Eva Webb Dodd later told this story:

When the idea first came to three homesick girls during the Christmas holidays of 1873 to found fraternity or club as we then called it, little did we realize that we were laying the cornerstone of such a grand fraternity as Delta Gamma. The school we attended at Oxford, Miss., was not much more advanced than a high school of today. During the week we decided on our motto and selected the Greek letters to represent it. We did not know that there were any other fraternities for girls in the United States known by Greek letters when we gave our club its name. We spent the holidays deciding on our pin and initiation and writing our constitution. In January 1874, we had our first initiation. We initiated four girls. The initiation was in one of the rooms of the house where we were boarding. We were careful to select only the girls we thought would be in sympathy with us and make our fraternity worthy of its name.

Delta Gamma’s Founders’ Day is celebrated on March 15 because on that date in 1879, the Eta Chapter at Akron University was founded. Coincidentally, it was a man, Phi Delta Theta George Banta, who took Delta Gamma to the northern states. That story of George Banta, Phi Delta Theta and Delta Gamma.

According to an article published in the Winter 1993 Anchora:

In May 1878, 20-year-old George Banta was on a train returning to Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, from a Phi Delta Theta Convention. He sat with Monroe McClurg and shared with him his concern over the fraternity political situation in Indiana, noting that Indiana needed another female Greek group. Brother McClurg agreed and offered a solution. In Oxford, Mississippi, where he was in school at ‘Ole Miss,’ there prospered a fine ladies’ group with a few other chapters in southern girl’s schools. The group was Delta Gamma, and Monroe McClurg was happy to put Brother Banta in touch with these young women.

George Banta wasted no time in making contact with the Delta Gammas in Oxford, They, too, were eager for new expansion and invested him with the power to form chapters in academically well-recognized northern colleges. George Banta set about achieving their expansion goal, having been told to select the Greek letters of his choice for the new chapters. It was logical that when he organized the first northern chapter at Franklin College the Greek letter should be Phi, in honor of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. No doubt, the first initiate was his fiance, Lillie Vawter.

George Banta later wrote, ‘I think we were also told to adopt our own ritual and bylaws, the latter to serve as well as it might for a constitution. These were used to organize at Hanover, Buchtel (now the University of Akron), and Wisconsin . . . and probably at Northwestern. I cannot recall when no in what order the organization were effected at Hanover and Buchtel (but) in both cases it was through the direct and active effort and cooperation of membership of my fraternity.’

George Banta, Phi Delta Theta and Delta Gamma

Banta spent his life as a strident supporter of the fraternity world. In 1901, he founded  the George Banta Printing Company in Menasha, Wisconsin. In addition to printing the magazines of many fraternities and sororities, he published Banta’s Greek Exchange.

It is also interesting to note that Banta’s sons Mark and George, Jr. became members of Phi Delta Theta. George Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps; he served as president of the Phi Delta Theta Grand Council from 1932-34.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates through the comments section below. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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