Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois is another of the campuses where the seven founding NPC members had established chapters prior 1902.
Northwestern University was established under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal church. It was chartered by the state of Illinois on January 28, 1851, and opened on November 5, 1855.*
Women were not admitted to Northwestern University when it opened in 1855 and it was not until 1869 that the trustees voted to admit women on the same terms as the men (Williamson & Wild, 1976).
In 1855, a separate institution, the Northwestern Female College and Preparatory Department, was founded by brothers William P. and J. Wesley Jones. Land at the corner of Greenwood and Chicago Avenues was acquired from Philo Judson, the Northwestern University business manager. A building was erected and classes were offered in the fall of 1855. Although the Northwestern Female College and Northwestern University shared a word among them in their names, that was the only connection between the schools. Jones retired in 1869 and another institution was soon on the scene to take the place of the Northwestern Female College.
The Evanston College for Ladies, offering a curriculum fuller than that of the Northwestern Female College, was founded by the Ladies’ Educational Association, a group of Evanston women. The village of Evanston was persuaded to set aside a block of land between Orrington and Sherman Avenues for the institution. An Illinois state charter for the Evanston College for Ladies was acquired in March 1869.
At the same time as the preparations for the Evanston College for Ladies were underway, the Northwestern University Board of Trustees voted to admit women. The June 23, 1869, meeting at which the vote was taken was the same one that elected Erastus Haven as president. According to Stratton (1883) these actions may have been connected, “Haven had been a champion of coeducation at a time when others considered the very idea ‘wild and insane’ and had been instrumental in bringing women to that institution” (pp. 109-10).
In June of 1870, President Haven reported that a union had been forged between Northwestern University and the Evanston College for Ladies. The merger took place before the Evanston College for Ladies opened its doors. However, as a condition of the merger, the Board of Trustees made the Evanston Ladies College secure a building to house its students. The trustees also proposed to help obtain at least $50,000 for the building fund. Frances Willard, a graduate of the Northwestern Female College, was appointed president of Evanston Ladies College in February 1871. Shortly after her appointment as president, arrangements were made to rent the building Northwestern Female College had used. At the same time Willard was raising money for the construction planned for the lot the village of Evanston had donated to the Evanston Ladies College. Nationwide fundraising was begun and a Fourth of July picnic featured, as a highlight, the laying of the cornerstone of the new building. The picnic resulted in the pledging of $30,000 from community members.
That fall, students at the Evanston Ladies College were able to enroll in Northwestern University courses. Of the 236 women enrolled that fall, 38 were enrolled at Northwestern University, 62 were enrolled in the Northwestern University Prepatory School and the remainder were studying at the Evanston Ladies College (Williamson & Wild, 1976).
The Chicago Fire of 1871 had a disastrous effect on the Evanston College for Ladies. The outstanding pledges dried up, work on the new building was halted and the college had a difficult time paying the rent on the old Northwestern Female College building. Haven left Northwestern University and was replaced by Charles Fowler.
While Evanston Ladies College became part of Northwestern University on June 24, 1873, Willard lasted only a year working with President Fowler, with whom she disagreed about the amount of freedom given to the female students. Fowler wanted the women to be governed directly by him with absolute equality. Both Willard and the trustees objected to women being given free reign (Ward, 1924).
In the early 1880s, seven young female freshmen formed a small club. The club’s motto, “Toujours Fidele,” was inscribed on rings that they wore. Upon their return to campus in the fall, they consulted their Dean, Jean Bancroft [Robinson], a Syracuse University Alpha Phi alumna. Also in Evanston was Willard, an honorary initiate of Alpha Phi. Bancroft had a hand in seeing that the women became members of the second chapter of Alpha Phi on June 6, 1881 (McElroy, 1913). Rena Michaels [Atchinson], an Alpha Phi founder, followed Bancroft as Northwestern University’s Dean of Women.
With the first women’s fraternity successfully installed on the Northwestern campus, it did not take long for another group to arrive in Evanston. A Northwestern University female student had a chance conversation with a male friend who was a member of the Chi Psi chapter at the University of Wisconsin. He spoke highly of the Delta Gamma chapter at Madison. The Northwestern student gathered a few close friends, told them of her plan, and went with one of them to Madison to meet the Delta Gammas. In March 1882, the two were initiated by the Delta Gamma at Madison and returned to install the Northwestern University chapter (Stevenson, Carvill & Shepard, 1973). Burton-Roth and Whiting-Westermann (1932) asserted that the group had originally sought out a charter from Kappa Kappa Gamma but were turned down.
A month later, on April 18, 1882, the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter was installed. The chapter at Butler University had a hand in the formation of the Northwestern University chapter. A Northwestern University female student had a brother who was a Butler University alumnus as well as a good friend of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Grand President, Tade Hartsuff. It was through this connection that the chapter at Northwestern University was formed (Burton-Roth & Whiting-Westermann, 1932).
The Kappa Alpha Theta chapter at Northwestern University was formed with the assistance of a member of the DePauw University chapter who had a friend attending Northwestern University. The DePauw student and another Greencastle friend traveled to Evanston to install the chapter on September 29, 1887 (Wilson, 1956).
A year later, Gamma Phi Beta installed its chapter. In 1894, five students applied for a Pi Beta Phi charter; the chapter was installed on May 26, 1894.
Delta Delta Delta received an application from a group of Northwestern University women and was hesitant, as a fraternity formed at Boston University, to take on a chapter “so far west” (Priddy, 1907, p. 154). Nonetheless, the chapter was installed on June 1, 1895.
According to Pridmore (2000) in 1896, Gamma Phi Beta was the largest women’s fraternity at Northwestern University and was known for its literary accomplishments and scholarship, “Most likely because of its stature, members were permitted to move to rented quarters in a duplex at 1918 Sheridan Road, the other half of which was the residence of President Rogers” (p. 81).
The building of the chapter housing will be the subject of a future post.
 It is interesting to note that Haven came to Northwestern University from the University of Michigan. Michigan was not coeducational until Haven left the institution. Sagendorph (1948) cited Haven’s presence at Michigan as a hindrance to coeducation. According to Wilde (1905) coeducation was reported to have been one of the conditions given by Haven before he took on Northwestern presidency. It should also be noted that Haven was later president of Syracuse University where his daughter Frances was a founder of Gamma Phi Beta.
 Williamson and Wild (1976) as well as Ward (1924) stated that Willard and Fowler were engaged to be married in the 1860s and that their inability to work together had its roots in their prior relationship. After Willard left the Evanston College for Ladies she became a leading figure in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the suffragist movement.
 Rena Michaels Atchinson, who earned Syracuse University’s first Ph.D. awarded to a woman, was a French literature scholar and specialized in the works of Victor Hugo. She edited a text of Hugo’s work that was primarily for college women (Jones, 1992).
*From – Coeducation and the History of Women’s Fraternities 1867-1902, by Frances DeSimone Becque, Dissertation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 2002, pp. 104-08. All rights reserved
Citations are from the dissertation’s bibliography. It will be on-line soon.
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