Alpha Xi Delta was founded at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois on April 17, 1893. Its founders are Cora Bollinger Block, Alice Bartlett Bruner, Bertha Cook Evans, Harriett Luella McCollum, Lucy W. Gilmer, Lewie Strong Taylor, Almira Lowry Cheney, Frances Elisabeth Cheney, Eliza Drake Curtis Everton, and Julia Maude Foster.
On the other side of the Mississippi River, about 80 miles west of the Lombard College campus, the original chapter of P.E.O. at Iowa Wesleyan College, was in a quandary. P.E.O. had begun as a collegiate organization and made its debut on the campus in January 1869, about a month after the organization of the Iowa Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi. For many years, the two were intense competitors on the campus. P.E.O. ultimately became a community organization and left the college field. In 1902, Iowa Wesleyan College’s Chapter S of the P.E.O. Sisterhood became the Beta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. This move certified that Alpha Xi Delta was now a national organization, rather than just a local on the Lombard campus, and the P.E.O. Sisterhood became an organization of community adult women.*
Alpha Xi Delta’s third convention took place on June 21-23, 1905 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The nine collegiate and two alumnae chapters were represented. The first day was social, with a reception and musical program.
On June 22, two business sessions were held. From 7:30-9 p.m., a reception took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. F. P. Van Cise. When it was over, the group traveled to Luberger’s café for dinner. The dinner menu consisted of: Frozen Fruit Sherbert; Fried Chicken Creamed Gravy; French Breaded Potato Balls; Sweet Pickles; Fruit Jelly; Cucumber Sandwiches; Brown Bread Nut Cheese Sandwiches; Cherry Ice; Sweet Bread Salad; Almond Rolls; Olives; Souffle de Russe; Macaroons; Cream Mushrooms in Thimble Shells; Potato Chips; Rose Ice Cream; Marshmallow Parfait; Assorted Cake; Cafe Noir; and Cheese Sandwiches.
As was the custom, there were toasts. Former Grand Secretary Axie E. Lute lead the toasts and introduced the speakers “in a most pleasing manner.” An orchestra from the State hospital played throughout the evening and provided accompaniment for some of the sorority’s songs.
On the Thursday evening, Beta chapter’s patronesses, including Alice Bird Babb, a P.E.O. founder, hosted a reception at the home of Mrs. W. B. Seeley. The program consisted of “vocal and instrumental music and elocutionary selections was rendered, followed by an hour of informal sociability. This was one of the most pleasant of the social events and it was a genuine pleasure to all the visitors to meet these charming women who have been of so much assistance and lasting benefit to Beta. They are all members of the P. E. O. society between which organization and the local chapter of Alpha Xi Delta there exists a strong friendship.”
After the business sessions ended at 2 p.m. on Friday, about 20 members went for “for drives in various conveyances. The scenery about Mt. Pleasant is very picturesque, while the town itself is quaint and interesting, and the guests enjoyed this feature very much.” Later that evening a Pan-Hellenic reception took place. Representatives from Pi Beta Phi, Phi Delta Theta, and Beta Theta Pi attended along with Iowa Wesleyan University faculty and other guests. The chapters sang songs and did “the rendition of the ‘yell’ of the nine colleges represented.”
And as with fraternity and sorority conventions from the first to the most recent, “a feeling of sadness was noticeable as a strong friendship had sprung up between Alphas from East and West; yet each took leave of the others with a new understanding of the true meaning of fraternity and a stronger hope of realizing the aims of Alpha Xi Delta.”
*To read more about the connection between Alpha Xi Delta and P.E.O., see http://wp.me/p20I1i-9L To read more about Ella Boston Leib, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-Gz. For the connection between the Alpha Xi founders and Carl Sandburg, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-L7
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