Delta Zeta and Alpha Epsilon Phi, Founders’ Day Twins

October 24 is a founding date which is shared by two National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations, Delta Zeta and Alpha Epsilon Phi. In 1902, Delta Zeta was founded at Miami University in Ohio; Alpha Epsilon Phi began in 1909 at Barnard College in New York City.

Delta Zeta’s founders are Alfa Lloyd, Mary Collins, Anna Keen, Julia Bishop,* Mabelle Minton, and Ann Simmons. Delta Zeta’s history includes the heritage of several other NPC organizations. Between 1941 and 1962, the members of four other NPC groups became members of Delta Zeta. Delta Zeta absorbed or merged with Beta Phi Alpha, Theta Upsilon, Phi Omega Pi, and Delta Sigma Epsilon. Prior to these groups becoming a part of Delta Zeta, some had themselves merged with other groups.

The likely most royal of Delta Zeta’s members is Crown Princess Martha of Norway. She along with her lady-in-waiting, Countess Ragni Ostgaard, became  members of Delta Zeta after visiting the University of North Dakota. In 1939, the two women were initiated in a ceremony presided over by Myrtle Graeter Malott, National President. Later that year, Bobye Lou Utter and Rena Charnley, members of the Delta Zeta chapter at the University of Pittsburgh, presented corsages to the Crown Princess Martha and the Countess during the royal’s visit to Pittsburgh. In March 1948,a newspaper account noted that the Pittsburgh chapter members were making layettes for Norway, a national Delta Zeta project.

Crown Princess Martha of Norway, Delta Zeta

Crown Princess Martha of Norway, Delta Zeta

Alpha Epsilon Phi was founded in Helen Phillips’ room. She had the inspiration for the group as a way to stay in closer contact with her friends. The other founders are Ida Beck, Rose Gerstein, Augustina “Tina” Hess, Lee Reiss, Stella Strauss and Rose Salmowitz.

The seven shared their Jewish heritage. A second chapter was quickly founded two months later at nearby Hunter College. The founding chapter at Barnard was closed when the college banned Greek-letter organizations in 1913.

Alpha Epsilon Phi is the only NPC group that can claim a United States Supreme Court Justice among its membership.** Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a member of the chapter at Cornell University. Another distinguished alumna is Nancy Goodman Brinker, Founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and a former U.S. ambassador. Brinker was initiated at the University of Illinois.

Ruth Bader Cornell University yearbook)

Ruth Bader as pictured in a Cornell University yearbook


* For a post about Julia Bishop Coleman, Delta Zeta Founder and P.E.O. State President see

** Contrary to many urban rumors, Sandra Day O’Connor is not a member of a National Panhellenic Conference organization.

© Fran Becque,, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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