On November 9, 1874, Sigma Kappa was founded by five young women, the only females enrolled at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. They received a letter from the faculty approving the organization’s petition, which included a constitution and bylaws.
The five founders of Sigma Kappa are Mary Low Carver, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Fuller Pierce, Louise Helen Coburn and Frances Mann Hall. In Sigma Kappa’s first constitution, chapter membership was limited to 25 women. The original chapter is known as the Alpha chapter. After Alpha chapter’s membership reached 25, a Beta chapter was formed. A Gamma chapter soon followed. Although there were some early joint meetings, the members did not think it feasible to continue that way. In 1893, a vote was taken to limit Alpha chapter to 25 members and to allow no more initiations into Beta and Gamma chapters. In due time, Beta and Gamma were no more.
The Delta chapter was installed at Boston University in 1904. In 1905, Sigma Kappa became a member of the National Panhellenic Conference. Sigma Kappa’s Alpha chapter closed in 1984 when Colby College banned all fraternities and sororities from campus.
In 1910, Sigma Kappa’s Lambda Chapter was founded clear across the country at the University of California – Berkeley. Anna McCune (Harper) became a member of the chapter. She and her sister Lucy played a lot of tennis growing up in Pacific Grove, California. Harper told an interviewer that she and her sister entered the California State Tennis Championships because “we thought it would be cheaper to see all the matches as participants rather than pay for spectators’ tickets.” They did well in the ladies’ singles competition and won the doubles competition. Tennis took a bigger role in their lives after that.
She graduated in 1924 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Shortly afterwards became Mrs. Lawrence Harper. She also joined the pro tennis circuit. She was in the U.S. top ten players for five consecutive years (1928-32) and she was top ranked in 1930. She won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 1931. Her tennis career was cut short when she returned home due to an illness in the family.
A mother of three, she found time to serve Sigma Kappa as National President from 1939-42. Harper was induced into the California Athletic Hall of Fame. Each year a Scholarship is given in her honor to a UC-Berkeley student who is an outstanding athlete and scholar.
(c) Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.