Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated, the first Greek-letter organization for African-American women, was founded on January 15, 1908 by nine young female Howard University students. They were led by the vision of Ethel Hedgeman (Lyle); she had spent several months sharing her idea with her friends. During this time, she was dating her future husband, George Lyle, a charter member of the Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. The other eight founders are Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Lavinia Norman, Lucy Slowe and Marie Woolfolk Taylor.
The sorority’s badge is an ivy leaf with a green enamel center bordered by pearls and the Greek letters in gold, one at each point on the leaf. The letters Omega and Psi are superimposed in the center of the badge. The pledge pin is a small ivy leaf of green enamel. The colors are pink and green, and the flower is the tea rose.
In my travels I found this cookbook. It’s called Cooking with the Pink and Green AKA Palate Pleasers. It was published in 2006 and it contains the favorite recipes of members, families and friends of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s Gamma Kappa Omega chapter. It reminded me of a section of my Master’s thesis on the history of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) fraternity system from 1948-1960; the cookbook’s publication honored a charter member of the chapter, a woman who devoted herself to lifelong service to her community and her sorority. She is but one of the countless women who have lived the purposes and ideals of Alpka Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Gamma Kappa Omega was chartered in 1941. The pledge group, the Alkalphas, was organized in 1943. According to the February 9, 1943 Egyptian student newspaper, “four freshmen were chosen as new members of the Al Kappa [sic] group . . . . The initiation of those freshmen into the Alkalpha group of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority took place in the home of Sara Thelma Gibbs.”
In 1952, the Delta Beta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. was chartered at SIUC. The 1953 Obelisk yearbook noted that the name of the pledge group was the Ivy Club. In 1954, the chapter boasted nine actives and 20 pledges.
The 1957 Obelisk reported that the 1956-57 academic year was a busy one for the chapter. The sixth annual Kabbachio dance had a theme of “Return to Paradise.” December’s Bemifui Dance raised money for a needy area family. An annual picnic with Alpha Phi Alpha at Giant City ended the academic year. The following year seemed just as busy. Member Lois Krim was featured in an issue of Ebony magazine. The Ivies entertained the active members at a Christmas tea. Religion, etiquette, dating and courtship were subjects of a series of lectures. Arnetta Wallace, Alpha Kappa Alpha’s National President, was the guest speaker at the Panhellenic Workshop in April, 1958.
The cookbook I found is dedicated to Gamma Kappa Omega Chapter charter member, Thelma Gibbs Walker, the woman in whose home the 1943 initiation took place. The dedication noted that it was “fitting that this cookbook be dedicated to Mrs. Walker on the 65th anniversary of Gamma Kappa Omega, a chapter she helped charter. Her quiet demeanor and frankness, compounded with her strength and dignity, compel those who know her to hold her in high esteem.”
After graduating from Lane College in Tennessee, she began a career as a teacher in Carbondale in 1940, when the schools in Carbondale were segregated. Walker and her husband were married on November 23, 1953. They had no children of their own, but they nurtured and guided many young people along the way. In 1975, after 35 years as a teacher, Walker retired. She was the last surviving Gamma Kappa Omega founder. Walker died in 2006. In 2012, her Sorors dedicated a plaque in her memory at the middle school in Carbondale.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All Rights Reserved.
To read about Eleanor Roosevelt and her affiliation with Alpha Kappa Alpha, please see http://wp.me/p20I1i-A5