March 15 is the day on which both Delta Gamma and Phi Delta Theta celebrate Founders’ Day.
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.
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, is told in another post at http://wp.me/p20I1i-AS.
© Fran Becque www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.