Perhaps writing a post a day during #WHM about a notable sorority woman wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I’d hoped to focus on women who have made notable contributions but who might not be as well known as others. And I want to cover all the groups, not just one or two. It’s not as easy as it seems. I was sitting in my P.E.O. meeting last night when I remembered that Blanche Skiff Ross, for whom the library at Cottey College is named, was an Alpha Chi Omega. I knew I had to tell that story before it slipped my mind.
Blanche Skiff was an initiate of the Gamma chapter at Northwestern University. The 1911 History of Alpha Chi Omega noted that at the Third National Convention in Evanston, Illinois, in 1894, she was in attendance. Later that year, she visited Gamma chapter on April 24 and “attended the musical given on that evening.”
The niece of P.E.O. Founder Alice Virginia Coffin, Blanche Skiff became a P.E.O. in June 1894. Her chapter of initiation was AO in Newton, Iowa. In 1899, she married Frank Ross, who at that time, was a travelling freight agent for Iowa Central Railroad. They lived in Monmouth and she was a charter member of Chapter E, Monmouth, Illinois.
In 1901, Frank Ross went into business with Blanche’s brother, Frank Vernon Skiff. They opened the Jewel Tea Company and it became very successful.
In 1910, the Rosses moved to Oak Park, Illinois, where Blanche became involved in many organizations including the Parent Teacher Assocation, a garden club, and the Art Institute in Chicago. She remained a loyal P.E.O.
In the late 1950s, plans were drawn up for a library building at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. The college’s founder, Alice Virginia Cottey Stockard, gave the college to the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1927. Blanche Skiff Ross and her daughters Verna Orndorff and Diane Fennekohl (a Kappa Kappa Gamma at Northwestern) were major contributors to the library fund and it was named in Blanche’s honor.
Blanche spoke at the laying of the building’s cornerstone on September 5, 1962. The Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library opened on March 16, 1963. The Georgian-style 27,000 square foot building was fully air-conditioned. It was dedicated on October 13, 1963. Blanche died in 1969. In 1977, her daughters funded the redecorating of the library.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. 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/