Happy 142nd Birthday Syracuse University (and a bit about its women’s fraternity system)

The picture on the  top left is one of Gamma Phi Beta’s homes. It is the only women’s  house on the postcard. The two homes on the bottom row are still standing. The Delta Kappa Epsilon (Deke) house is now the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center. It has served in that capacity since the late 1970s. The Pi Chapter of Psi Upsilon still resides in the house pictured on the bottom right. Most of the block on which that home is located was once almost fully occupied by  chapter houses. Today only a few are left; the land has been acquired and used by the University.

Happy 142nd Birthday to my undergraduate alma mater!

Syracuse University’s roots can be traced back to Genesee College, a Methodist institution founded in 1849. It was located in Lima, New York. Genesee College moved to Syracuse in 1870 and became Syracuse University. March 24, 1870 is celebrated as the University’s founding date.

The National Panhellenic Conference [NPC] was formed in 1902 by representatives of seven national women’s fraternities – Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma, Alpha Phi, Gamma Phi Beta, and Delta Delta Delta. The seven groups “felt a need for sharing and working together on common concerns.”[1] Presently there are 26 member groups in NPC.

The local Panhellenic Council at Syracuse University was also founded in 1902. During its early history the group met once a year to fix the date of pledge day, the day when new members were given a bid to join one of the chapters. In 1917, the Council met five times.[2]  Other early rules included: no woman could be asked to join a group before registration, no pledging of freshmen during summer vacation, pledging would occur in December, invitations were to be uniform, and no member would communicate with any student to whom a bid had been offered until after a reply to that bid was received.[3] The rules were relaxed somewhat in 1906 when the rule prohibiting the entertaining of six unaffiliated women in a week was suspended for two weeks. Prospective members were entertained at “Hash Parties,” the precursor of today’s formal recruitment.

Syracuse University has the distinction of being home of the Syracuse Triad. Three NPC organizations – Alpha Phi, Gamma Phi Beta and Alpha Gamma Delta –  were founded at Syracuse University. The first women’s fraternity at Syracuse was Alpha Phi. It was founded in September, 1872, by Martha Foote, Clara Sittser and Kate Hogoboom. One of them said to the others “Girls, why can’t we have a society as well as the men?” [4] Three days later, all the college women were invited to discuss this possibility. On September 18, 1872, ten women, including the original three, met and pledged allegiance to the sisterhood. Minutes from this first chapter meeting noted that Rena Michaels was chosen president, plans were made for weekly meetings at which literary exercise would form part of the program, and a tax of 25¢ was levied for the purchase of a secretary’s book. The first debate was “Resolved – that women have their rights.”[5]

The November, 1872, issue of the University Herald took note of Alpha Phi’s founding: “Alpha Phi – The ladies of the lower classes have formed a secret society with the above name. The pin worn is a skeleton monogram, the Phi placed horizontally and at right angles to the Alpha. A setting of pearls also adorns the ring of the Phi on some badges.”[6]

Alpha Phi held chapter meetings in rooms or homes of members as well as the office of a member’s father. The society rented rooms and later rented a house. On June 22, 1886, the members of Alpha Phi laid the cornerstone on a home at 17 University Place. Financed by the members, it became the first women’s fraternity house in the country.[7]

In 1874, two years after the founding of Alpha Phi, of the 227 students attending Syracuse, 54 were women. Not all of them wanted to be Alpha Phis. Four women, Frances Haven (daughter of Syracuse’s Chancellor Dr. Erastus Otis Haven), Helen Mary Dodge, Mary Alice Bingham and Eunice Adeline Curtis, founded the Alpha Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta. Gamma Phi’s first official meeting took place on November 11, 1874.[8]

The term “sorority” was coined in 1882 by a Latin professor, Frank Smalley, after he heard about Gamma Phi Beta’s second chapter at Northwestern University.[9] By 1895, Gamma Phi Beta had a chapter house on Irving Avenue. [10]

Kappa Kappa Gamma, founded in 1870 at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, was the third women’s fraternity at Syracuse. The charter members of the Beta Tau Chapter were initiated on October 19, 1883. According to Burton-Roth & Whiting-Westermann, “a small group of ‘young ladies’ under the leadership of Ellen S. Blakeslee, already united in a congenial friendship, determined to become a definite organization . . . consulted with Dr. L. M. Underwood, Professor of Biology, who, by reason of his sojourn in several universities, was personally acquainted with fraternities for women. . . . He strongly urged application to Kappa Kappa Gamma, and further assisted the young ladies by writing a letter of hearty recommendation to an influential Kappa.”[11]

Another midwestern group, Kappa Alpha Theta, founded in 1870 at Indiana Asbury College (now DePauw University) in Greencastle, Indiana, was the next group to appear on the Syracuse campus. Kappa Delta Phi, a local group, petitioned and obtained a Kappa Alpha Theta charter. The Chi Chapter at Syracuse was installed by two Cornell University alumnae on October 10, 1889.[12] Rooms were rented for chapter meetings until a house was acquired in the fall of 1894.[13]

A local society, Philokalean, was formed in October, 1895, for the purpose of gaining a charter from Pi Beta Phi. Pi Beta Phi was founded in 1867 as I. C. Sorosis at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois.  The New York Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi was chartered on February 11, 1896.[14] The charter was suspended for a brief time, 1984-1988.[15]

Delta Delta Delta was also founded in 1896. It was formed as a local, Chi Alpha, in 1895, for the express purpose of obtaining a charter from Delta Delta Delta. A charter was granted in September, 1896, and the chapter was formally installed by Delta Delta Delta founder Sarah Ida Shaw on October 30, 1896.[16]

In fall, 1900, another local society Delta Sigma Phi, was founded. A charter from Delta Gamma was granted in the spring of 1901. The Eta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta was formed when a local society petitioned Alpha Xi Delta for a charter. It was granted on May, 16, 1904.[17]

Although there were eight NPC organizations on campus, the women’s fraternity system was still expanding. The youngest of the Syracuse Triad, Alpha Gamma Delta, was founded on May 30, 1904. Eleven women, with the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Wellesley P. Coddington, a professor of philosophy and a Greek scholar, founded the chapter to, “perpetuate among a group of college women a spirit of mutual assistance and understanding; to maintain high standards of scholarship, to develop womanhood and to strive for the attainment of high ideals in college, community and personal life and to train for leadership and a sense of responsibility for the welfare of others.”[18]

On May 20, 1905, the Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Kappa was installed. Sigma Kappa was founded at Colby College in 1874 and the Syracuse chapter was Sigma Kappa’s first try at extension. The chapter closed in 1973 and was rechartered in 1990.[19]

The Lambda Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega was installed on December 18, 1906. [20] According to Anson and Marchesani , “Music was always regarded as the particular muse of members throughout the early years. Until 1915 the Constitution required that a certain percentage of members be studying music in some form.”[21]  The chapter rented a house the following fall and in 1916 purchased a home.

Further expansion of NPC groups did not occur until December 11, 1911 when the Upsilon Alpha Chapter of Chi Omega was founded. The history of the chapter can be traced back to October 1904, “At  that time, students studying art and design were not following the regular academic course and consequently the national fraternities did not take these into membership. And so Rho Beta Upsilon was formed among these students. It was soon incorporated at Albany [NY] and was often petitioned by art societies at other colleges, its standing having been recognized abroad as well as it was on the campus. When in 1909 the women’s fraternities began extending their membership to the students of art and design, the locals among these students began to realize the advantage of affiliating with nationals. Chi Omega being the choice of Rho Beta Upsilon, a petition was quickly dispatched”.[22]

During the years between the installation of Alpha Chi Omega and Chi Omega, a local society, Alathea, was formed. In late 1914, Alathea became the Chi Chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi.[23] The charter was suspended from 1958 until 1985 when the chapter recolonized.[24]

Another five years passed before another NPC group came to campus. The Iota Chapter of Alpha Epsilon Phi, was founded on December 21, 1919. Six months later, another women’s fraternity was added to Syracuse’s Panhellenic roster. The Beta Zeta Chapter of Phi Mu was installed on May 14, 1920; the chapter closed in 1969.[25]  In 1921, Delta Phi Epsilon joined the other groups on campus. However, it closed in 1923 but returned to campus in 1949.[26]

Zeta Tau Alpha’s appearance on campus “was brought about through the ‘broad vision and unselfish spirit of another fraternity woman – Miss Louis Leonard’ (Alpha Gamma Delta’s National President).” [27]  Leonard aided nine women in organizing a local group, Pi Delta Kappa, whose aim it would be to petition a national fraternity for a charter. The first business meeting of Pi Delta Kappa was held in Leonard’s home on March 3, 1921. Pi Delta Kappa became the Alpha Rho Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha on February 3, 1923.[28] The chapter closed in 1976.[29]

Another local, Delta Xi was founded in 1922. It became the Sigma Nu Chapter of Kappa Delta in 1923 and it closed in 1971.[30]

The Lambda Chapter of Theta Phi Alpha, a group for Catholic women, was installed in 1923. During the 1950s and 1960s, Catholic women were being accepted into the other groups and Theta Phi Alpha felt its membership base decline. When the chapter closed in 1968 chapter assets were turned over to the Catholic Newman Center. The Alibrandi Center is located upon the site of the former Theta Phi Alpha house.

Delta Zeta, founded in 1924, had been a local society,  Lambda Delta Sigma founded the previous year. The Alpha Kappa Chapter of Delta Zeta became inactive in 1937. In 1923, a local group, Delta Epsilon Phi was founded. It became a chapter of Beta Phi Alpha in 1925. When Beta Alpha Phi amalgamated with Delta Zeta in 1941, the former became a chapter of Delta Zeta and took the Alpha Kappa Chapter designation. The chapter closed in 1957.[31]

Alpha Delta Pi’s Alpha Tau Chapter was installed in 1924. The charter was suspended from 1935 until 1946. However, 25 years later, the chapter was a casualty of the campus Anti-Greek climate. It closed in 1971.[32]

Phi Sigma Sigma was formed in 1927 from a local three-year-old society, Delta Nu Delta.[33] The Pi Chapter of Phi Sigma Sigma was closed for a time in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Pi Chapter of Iota Alpha Pi, the oldest national fraternity for Jewish women, was formed in 1939. Like Theta Phi Alpha, it became a casualty of the other NPC groups’ emerging non-sectarian stance. When the national organization of Iota Alpha Pi disbanded in 1971, the Pi Chapter ceased to exist.[34]

Sigma Delta Tau came to campus in 1946. The Omega Chapter closed in 1977 and was rechartered in 1984.[35]

Two national organizations started chapters in the 1960s and closed them in the 1970s. Alpha Sigma Tau was chartered in 1960 and closed in 1971. In 1964, the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha was founded. It had a short of life and was closed in 1970.[36]

Of the 26 NPC groups only Sigma Sigma Sigma has not had a chapter at Syracuse University. It is unknown whether Tri Sigma ever attempted to colonize on the Syracuse campus.

Syracuse University holds firm place in the history of the women’s fraternity movement. It is the founding campus of the Syracuse Triad, the place where the word sorority was coined, and all but one of the 26 NPC groups have had chapters on campus.

 

[1] Pi Beta Phi. (1993). Pi Phi Forever. St. Louis, MO: Author, p. 69

[2] Armstrong, F. A. (1917). History of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity (1885-1916). Author.

[3] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[4] Alpha Phi Fraternity. (1931). The history of Alpha Phi International Fraternity (1872-1930). New York: The Century Co., p. 132.

[5] Alpha Phi Fraternity. (1931). The history of Alpha Phi International Fraternity (1872-1930). New York: The Century Co.

[6] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press,  p. 250.

[7] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[8] Simonson, P. M. (1963). The history of Gamma Phi Beta. No location cited: Gamma Phi Beta

[9] Simonson, P. M. (1963). The history of Gamma Phi Beta. No location cited: Gamma Phi Beta.

[10] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[11] Burton-Roth, F., & Whiting-Westermann, M. C. (1932). History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity: 1870-1930. No location cited: Kappa Kappa Gamma, p. 262.

[12] Wilson, C. G. (1956). We who wear kites: The story of Kappa Alpha Theta 1870-1956. Menasha, WI: George Banta Company, Inc.

[13] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[14] Donaldson, J. O. (1968). A century of friendship in Pi Beta Phi 1867-1967. St. Louis, MO: Pi Beta Phi.

[15] Ford, M. S., & Olsen, B. S. (1993). History of Pi Beta Phi: 1967-1993. St. Louis: Pi Beta Phi.

[16] Haller, M. P. (1988). History of Delta Delta Delta: 1888-1988. Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co.

[17] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[18] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation, IV-10.

[19] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[20] Armstrong, F. A. (1917). History of Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity (1885-1916). Author.

[21] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation, p. IV-1.

[22] Chi Omega. (1928). History of Chi Omega: Volume I, historical, informative, statistical. Menesha, WI: Author, p. 144.

[23] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[24] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[25] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[26] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[27] Strout, S. K. (1956). The history of Zeta Tau Alpha: 1898-1948. Evanston, IL: Zeta Tau Alpha, p. 382.

[28] Strout, S. K. (1956). The history of Zeta Tau Alpha: 1898-1948. Evanston, IL: Zeta Tau Alpha.

[29] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[30] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[31] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[32] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[33] Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

[34] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

[35] Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation

[36]  Anson, J. L., & Marchesani, R. F., Jr. (1991). Baird’s manual of American college fraternities. Indianapolis: Baird’s Manual Foundation.

 

This entry was posted in Alpha Phi, Colleges and Universities, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Syracuse University, Women's Fraternities and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.