#WHM – Gladys Gilpatrick, AΔΠ, and the Pillar in Memorial Stadium

March is Women’s History Month (#WHM and #WHM2016), and it is my goal to highlight an outstanding sorority woman each day in March. Please check back every day to see who is in the spotlight for that particular day.

I just wrapped up writing the history of the Illinois Delta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Illinois. I have written three fraternity and two sorority histories for the Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing. World War I took its toll on the Illinois campus and that came through in each of those histories.

After the war’s end it was decided to build a stadium in honor of the students who left campus and perished in the war effort. Memorial Stadium was dedicated on October 18, 1924; it was the University’s 15th Homecoming. On the east and west sides of the stadium there are 200 columns; 183 of those columns display the name of a University of Illinois student or graduate who lost their life in World War I. All but one of those names belong to males. The sole woman who lost her life and who is memorialized with a pillar in the stadium is a 1917 graduate, Gladys Gilpatrick, who was an initiate of Sigma Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi.

Gladys Gilpatrick is in the top right hand corner in this 1917 photo of the Sigma Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi at the University of Illinois taken from the 1917 Illio.

Gladys Gilpatrick is in the top right hand corner in this photo of the Sigma Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi at the University of Illinois taken from the 1917 Illio.

Remember that in 1917 women could not yet vote in a federal election. Women could not serve in the Armed Forces except in peripheral roles, i.e., nurse, ambulance driver, telephone operator, etc.

Gilpatrick, who was from Plano, Illinois, began her post college career as a teacher. Wanting to help in the war effort, she attended a summer training for nurses at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was in nurse’s training at Philadelphia General Hospital. There she came down with influenza. It developed into pneumonia. She died on October 12, 1918.

In the June 1919 Adelphean, Margaret Hill Pletcher, the Sigma chapter’s correspondent wrote, “We feel that Gladys was a war heroine, in spite of the fact that she didn’t go across. When taken ill she was studying nursing, preparatory to going ‘over there.’ Permission had been granted to the student nurses who so desired to return to their homes until after the epidemic, but Glad, characteristic of herself, stayed to give what help she could. Although we think of her death with the greatest sorrow, we are, nevertheless, very proud of her.

When Memorial Stadium was dedicated, 35 alumnae returned from towns outside of Champaign and Urbana, and a good many local Alpha Delta Pi alumnae attended. According to an account in the January 1925 Adelphean, Gilpatrick’s mother, father, and sister attended dinner at the chapter house and returned for a short visit after the dedication. 

October 16, 1918 Daily Illini

October 16, 1918 Daily Illini, page 2.


On March 1, 1868, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity was founded at the University of Virginia. According to the Pi Kappa Alpha website:

It all started in Room 47 West Range when Frederick Southgate Taylor turned to Littleton Waller Tazewell, his cousin and roommate, for help in starting a new fraternity. Also present were James Benjamin Sclater,  Jr., a schoolmate of Tazewell, and Sclater’s roommate, Robertson Howard. Those four men voted to add a fifth to their group and chose Julian Edward Wood. In addition, William Alexander, probably a friend of Sclater, was proposed for membership and admitted as a founder. 

Senator Everett Dirksen, whose name is on the plaques in many buildings in Illinois, was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha. Dirksen is buried in Pekin, Illinois. We passed the cemetery many times as we drove the scenic back roads to Knox College to watch our sons play football.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates through the comments section below. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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