#WHM – M. Esther Funke, Theta Phi Alpha and Lawyer

Marie Esther Funke was born on June 29, 1906 in Edwardsville, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. She died in Edwardsville almost 60 years later. She is buried there in the Calvary Catholic Church cemetary. Her professional name was M. Esther Funke. Her profession was law. And she was a member of Theta Phi Alpha.

Funke attended St. Louis University, St. Mary’s-of-the-Wood’s College, Indiana, and the University of Illinois. The March 6, 1925 Daily Illini had an article with the headline, “8 women among 228 students in College of Law.” It went on to name the eight woman, and noted, “There are two other first year students – Marie Funke, Edwardsville, a transfer from St. Mary’s-of-the-Woods of Terre Haute, Ind., which she attended for two years…”

While at the University of Illinois, she became a member of Theta Phi Alpha. It was founded in 1912 at the University of Michigan as a sorority for Catholic women. The second chapter was founded at the University of Illinois in 1919. (A chapter of Theta Phi Alpha was chartered at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1955. It would be interesting to know if Funke attended the installation.)

According to her obituary, she practiced law for about 35 years. She started her law career in Salem, Illinois. During that time she was a member of the Salem Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club; she served as the organization’s state treasurer from 1936-38 and state program coordination chairman from 1938-39.

During the administration of Edwardsville Mayor Oscar Schmidt in the 1940s, Funke served as city attorney. She belonged to the Madison County Bar Association, League of Women Voters, University of Illinois Alumni Association, Edwardsville Business and Professional Women’s Club, Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, American Association of University Women, Lane of Goshen Historical Society, Edwardsville Humane Society, and St. Boniface Catholic Church.

M. Esther Funke (Photo courtesy of The Illio"

M. Esther Funke when she was at the University of Illinois. (Photo courtesy of The Illio)

© 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.

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