11/11 Gamma Phi Beta’s Founding Day and Armistice Day

Frances Haven (Moss) grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Evanston, Illinois, as her father, Dr. Erastus Otis Haven, headed up the University of Michigan and then Northwestern University. When Dr. Haven was elected Chancellor of Syracuse University, Frances moved to Syracuse, too, and enrolled at Syracuse University. The first social event she attended was a church oyster supper. There she met the man who would later become her husband, Charles Melville Moss. She also met two members of Alpha Phi, a women’s fraternity founded at Syracuse in October of 1872. Instead of accepting the invitation to join Alpha Phi which had been offered to her, she joined with three other women – Mary A. Bingham (Willoughby), E. Adeline Curtis, and Helen M. Dodge (Ferguson) –  and they created an organization of their own. The date was November 11, 1874. The organization is Gamma Phi Beta, the first of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations to use the term “sorority;” Syracuse Latin professor Frank Smalley coined the word for the women.*

Shortly after the U.S. entered the World War I, Gamma Phi Beta’s Grand Council adopted a French orphan, Louise Miroux. This is from a 1918 Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta:

[Louise Miroux, who has been adopted by the Council of Gamma PhiBeta, sends the following quaint and delightful letter which we print exactly as it was written.]

17 Novembre, 1917.
My dear benefactress:
How may be able to tell you all my gratitude for your generosity about us. That will do ray mother less poor in this time so hard, she il all the day working in manufactory. I go to the school during this time with my little sister, SIMONE, which is nine years old. We work our best possible at the school where we learn to love our France.
Our Mistress tell us it is a great bonheur for us to have many friends as your “AMERICAN’S” and we must love you like our soldiers.
Dear Miss it is a great pleasure for me to send you my photographie with my sister SIMONE. I have not any other sister, not brother. My little sister would kiss my benefactress and I kiss you also with all my heart. I send also a good kiss to your dear mother. My mother thanks you very much and asks you to accept her best regards.
I must tell you dear miss, I am learn to knit for our soldiers.
Your Little Affectionate
Louise Miroux.

Since this is Veteran’s Day, too, “the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” I would like to honor all those Gamma Phi Betas and others who have served in the armed services. This includes a reader of this blog, Cele Hoffman Eifert, who allowed me to use these photos.

USC AFROTC Drill Team Early 1970s. There are two women in this photo. Cele

The University of Southern California AFROTC Drill Team in the early 1970s. There are two women in the photo. Cele is in the back row, fourth from the left, and her female comrade-in-arms is in front of her.


Cele and Lesa Crow Wagner Juday on the cover of the Crescent. The photo was taken in 1977 when, during training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, they discovered they were Gamma Phi Beta sisters. Cele wrote the article about military sisters for this issue.



Cele in front of a poster of that cover which is displayed in Gamma Phi’s HQ.

* For more on Dr. Frank Smalley and the word “sorority,” see http://wp.me/p20I1i-ZH.

For more information on Dr. Erastus Haven, the father of Frances, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-e5.

For more information about the history of Gamma Phi Beta,  http://wp.me/p20I1i-6h. This link includes a picture of an early Gamma Phi house on Irving Avenue in Syracuse.



Today is Veterans Day, a day when we give thanks to the brave men and women who make it their business to protect the rest of us. The sacrifices they make are many and I, for one, am truly grateful. 

The haunting poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by John McCrae, M.D., a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army during World War I. He was a Zeta Psi.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

President Woodrow Wilson, a member of Phi Kappa Psi, proclaimed November 11, 1919, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day (the truce took place on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month although the treaty was signed months later). He said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” After World War II, the day took on the name “All Veterans Day” to honor those of other conflicts. Somewhere along the way, the day became known as “Veterans Day.”

For a post about the War Work done by NPC women during World War I, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-BT.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved.  If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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