I spotted the name Ella B. Leib as I was studying Illinois P.E.O. history in preparation for a session at the Illinois State P.E.O. Convention this summer. Ella Boston Leib played an important role in the early history of Alpha Xi Delta. She was Alpha Xi Delta’s first National Panhellenic Conference delegate, although the organization was known as the Inter-Sorority Conference when she served. Alpha Xi Delta’s current NPC delegate, Jane H. Sutton chairs the conference for this biennium.
The early history of Alpha Xi Delta is intertwined with that of P.E.O., a women’s Philanthropic Education Organization, founded at Iowa Wesleyan College on January 21, 1869. Alpha Xi Delta was founded on April 17, 1893 at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois.
Between 1869 and 1902, the P.E.O. members who had been initiated while enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan College stayed active in the college chapter even though they were no longer enrolled in the college. Many remained in or near Mount Pleasant. Others formed chapters in towns and communities where they moved after graduation. The early P.E.O. chapters that had been formed at nearby schools did not survive and P.E.O.’s growth was in community chapters. The chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College was finding it difficult to operate on a college campus with the rules put forth by the community chapters.
The P.E.O. Chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College had been known as Original Chapter A. It later took on the name A-J to distinguish itself from the Mount Pleasant chapter. It ultimately became known as Chapter S. After the turn of the century, the governing body of P.E.O. made the decision to withdraw the charter of Chapter S. The college co-eds wished to remain a collegiate organization and discussed becoming a chapter of a Greek-letter organization.
The Alpha Xi Delta Chapter at Lombard, having made the decision to become a national organization, and the collegiate members of P.E.O., having decided to become a chapter of a Greek-letter organization, discussed the decisions that needed to be made on both sides if there was to be a resolution to these wishes.
Anna Gillis-Kimble, a member of the Alpha Xi Delta Chapter at Lombard College, was from Mount Pleasant. Her influence helped the Iowa Wesleyan women make the decision to become the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta.
On June 9, 1902, the Alpha Xi Delta members entered the Lombard College Chapel wearing their tri-colored ribbons for the first time. The ribbons heralded the fact that they were now a national organization. After chapel, the installing officers made their way to Mount Pleasant.
The installation of Alpha Xi Delta’s second chapter took place at the home of Ellen Ball. Cora Bollinger-Block presided at the installation. Helping her were Ella Boston (Leib), Alice Barlett-Bruner, Jennie Marriot-Buchanan, Virginia Henney Franklin, Anna Gillis-Kimble, and Edna Epperson-Brinkham.
In 1913, Iowa Wesleyan College authorities allowed the chapter to initiate the P.E.O. alumnae as Alpha Xi Deltas. Afterwards, the Mount Pleasant Alumnae Club of Alpha Xi Delta was formed.
Ella Berry Boston entered Lombard College in September 1893 and joined Alpha Xi Delta in 1894. She married Dr. John Robert Leib on October 29, 1902. That year she served as Alpha Xi Delta’s first Grand Secretary. At the second annual convention in May 1904, she was elected Grand National President.
At the 4th Inter-Sorority Conference (now known as the National Panhellenic Conference) on September 15-16, 1905 at the Victoria Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, Leib served as secretary. She presided at the 1906 meeting. At that meeting a model constitution for College Panhellenics was approved and high school sororities were condemned.
Leib was a charter member of P.E.O. Chapter BF, Springfield, IL. It was organized on January 24, 1920. She went on to serve on the Executive Board of the Illinois State Chapter of P.E.O. Leib organized several P.E.O. chapters in Illinois, including FA (Effingham), FB (Peoria), FC (Wood River), FD (Amboy), FE (Geneva), FF (Urbana), FG (Taylorville), FH (Quincy), and FN (Newton).
She served as Illinois State President from 1940-41 and presided at the 39th annual convention at the Central Christian Church in Jacksonville, Illinois. All but one of the 168 chapters in Illinois were represented. “Illinois’ support of the Educational Loan Fund and of Cottey College makes us all very proud,” is the summation of what transpired at the convention. Leib, a loyal member of Alpha Xi Delta and P.E.O., died on December 22, 1942.
To read more about the history of the Illinois State Chapter of P.E.O. visit the link to the page about it and Lulu Corkhill Williams http://wp.me/P20I1i-Qf .
© Fran Becque www.fraternityhistory.com