Alpha Sigma Alpha Turns 114!

Happy Founders’ Day, Alpha Sigma Alpha! Thank you for giving us NPC’s International Badge Day which, since 1997, has taken place on the first Monday in March.

In the spring of 1996, after she wore her Alpha Sigma Alpha pin to work one day, Nora M. Ten Broeck wrote an article about her experience. It appeared her sorority’s magazine, The Phoenix, and was titled “A Simple Solution – Wear Your Membership Badge Today.”  

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Alpha Sigma Alpha was founded on November 15, 1901 at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia. Its founders had been asked to join some of the other sororities on campus, but they wanted to stay together. The five, Virginia Lee Boyd (Noell), Juliette Jefferson Hundley (Gilliam), Calva Hamlet Watson (Wootton), Louise Burks Cox (Carper) and Mary Williamson Hundley, started their own sorority; they called it Alpha Sigma Alpha.

(Sarah) Ida Shaw Martin, who as a collegian at Boston University was a founder of Delta Delta Delta, played an integral role in Alpha Sigma Alpha’s early history. Martin had written the Sorority Handbook, first published in 1907. She was an expert on women’s fraternities/sororities.

Ida Shaw Martin

Alpha Sigma Alpha sought Martin’s help in 1913. While 13 chapters had been installed, only the Alpha chapter was viable. Martin encouraged the organization to consider extension to the Pi Alpha Tau organization at Miami University. In May 1913, the Pi Alpha Taus became an Alpha Sigma Alpha chapter. Alpha Sigma Alpha realized Martin’s knowledge and assistance could help the group grow. She was elected its National President. Although  she never presided at a convention, she was guiding the proceedings from behind the scene. Martin led Alpha Sigma Alpha until 1930, when Wilma Wilson Sharp was elected National President.

She also played a role in the 1915 formation of the Association of Pedagogical Sororities. Of the Farmville Four, the organizations founded at the State Female Normal School – Zeta Tau Alpha, Kappa Delta, Sigma Sigma Sigma, and Alpha Sigma Alpha – the former two became members of the National Panhellenic Conference and the latter two formed the Association of Pedagogical Sororities (its name was quickly changed to the Association of Education Sororities).

As an Association of Education Sororities member, Alpha Sigma Alpha had to relinquish chapters not located at teacher’s colleges. Its Iota Chapter became the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi on May 10, 1913. The chapters at Brenau and Mt. Union became Delta Delta Delta chapters.

Martin’s dual membership occurred when the Association of Education Sororities (to which ASA belonged) and the National Panhellenic Conference (to which Tri Delta belonged) were separate and distinct organizations. It was not until the late 1940s, when dual membership came to the forefront. When the AES organizations merged into NPC, sorority members claiming dual membership were asked to resign from one of the organizations. Martin died in 1940 and, by then, her dual membership was a moot point.

© 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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