Doris Holmes Blake, Alpha Delta Pi #amazingsororitywomen

Alpha Delta Pi was founded as the Adelphean Society on May 15, 1851 at Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Georgia. In 1905, the Society changed its name to Alpha Delta Phi. With the installation of its Beta Chapter at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Alpha Delta Phi became a national organization.

The third chapter was founded at Mary Baldwin Seminary, in Staunton, Virginia, in 1906, the same year that Macon, Georgia was the site of its first national convention. Alpha Delta Phi joined the National Panhellenic Conference in 1909.

The installation of the Sigma Chapter at the University of Illinois in 1912 came shortly after the installation, on the same campus, of the Illinois Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi, a men’s fraternity whose chapters were primarily in the northeast. Alpha Delta Phi, the men’s fraternity, was founded in 1832 at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. The women made their organization aware of this duplication of name and the problems that surfaced because of it. In 1913, the convention body voted to change the name  to Alpha Delta Pi.

On December 16, 1911, the first chapter in the northeast was installed. Doris Holmes was one of  the charter members of the Rho Chapter at Boston University. In 1916, she was included in an Adelphean article entitled “Some Acorns of Alpha Delta Pi.” They were called acorns because, it was said, “You remember the adage ‘Great oaks from little acorns grow,’ so it is possible that by introducing AΔΠ to some of their own acorns they may get a vision of the great oak forest of the future of AΔΠ. And we believe that there are signs of a strong and sturdy youth which bodes well for maturity.” As a young alumna, she was working as a “secretary to Professor Yerkes, head of the psycholobical work at the Psychopathic Hospital, Boston. In addition she is studying child psychology under Professor W. F. Dearborn.” In the article she told of her duties, “I take down all the interviews when the patients are examined and prepare them for the files.” She added, “Isn’t the vocabulary fiendish? I thought at first sight I would get signs for the frightfully long names the doctors use, but I finally worked out a little system of my own, and once you get the idea it is easy, and so interesting.” When asked what she did in her spare time, she replied, “Oh, I’m working for my A.M. at Radcliffe.” The author of the article “gasped at Doris, and came home; thinking that it would not be strange if our quiet, retiring little Doris would not be the one to introduce AΔΠ into Who’s Who.”

In 1918, Holmes  received her A.M. from Radcliffe College. That year, she married  her childhood sweetheart, Sidney Fay Blake, Ph.D. According to the marriage announcement in The Adelphean, “Previous to her marriage, Doris was working in the Psychopathic Hospital connected with the Laboratory of Social Hygiene at Bedford Hills, New York, an experiment of Mr. Rockefeller to investigate delinquents at the Bedford Reformatory. She hopes to carry on the psychopathic study, to which she has devoted the past five years, in reconstructive war work. Dr. Blake has spent several years studying in Europe, and is now botanist in the Department of Agriculture.”

Doris Holmes Blake, Alpha Delta Pi

Doris Holmes Blake, Alpha Delta Pi

In 1921 Doris Holmes Blake wrote The Adelphean that she was “enjoying immensely the informal monthly meetings of the Alpha Delta Pi girls who are living in Washington,
D. C.” In November 1921, she composed a letter which was published in the same volume of The Adelphean:

I am writing from our Washington, D. C, Alpha Delta Pi Club for the purpose of rounding up any other Alpha Deltas in our vicinity. We feel that there must be some wandering through this metropolis now and then and not knowing of our existence here.

During the war time we held nightly monthly meetings, but now everyone is going home and our club is dwindled down to about ten. As it is, we have a fairly representative group: Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. White and her two daughters, Roberta and Josephine, from Georgia; Mrs. Pollard (Ethel Knight) from Alabama; Mrs. Wiegel from Ohio; Florence Heddon from Iowa, Mrs. Bartlett (Helen Allen) and myself from Boston.

Armistice Day has come and gone in Washington. It was a great day. Some of us managed to get to Arlington amid the thousands that attended. The Amphitheatre in that great soldiers’ cemetery is built on a hillside overlooking the Potomac, and beyond Washington and the Maryland hills. It is a beautiful, round, colonnaded, marble structure set among dark fir trees. That day the place was thronged with men of all nations,—the Blue-cloaked Frenchmen, the English in all their gold braid, the almost barbaric splendor of the Japanese in their waving plumes, and strangest of all a group of full feathered Indians.

Most impressive it was to watch these high officials passing up and down the marble stairs. But the greatest moment of all came when we heard the distant beating of drums and gradually the low, mournful music, the funeral march, and then the procession appeared,—the horses slowly pacing, the soldiers in their measured tread, and the casket borne by the six black horses, and followed by a long, long line of military men that passed slowly before us, surrounding the Amphitheatre, and stood siliently with their guns resting on the ground. Somewhere over beyond, the musicians still played that saddest and tenderest of funeral marches. And at regular intervals from across the river came the low booming of cannon that was fired incessantly all the morning till the body of the soldier was at rest. The services were short and the addresses clearly heard all over the cemetery. We saw President Harding, Foch, Diaz, Beattie, with representatives of many other nations as they gave their country’s homage.

Armistice Day night we flocked to see the lighting of the Victory Arch down beyond the Ellipse. As in the morning the city was full of hurrying people, now a dim mass moving across the wide Ellipse in the direction of the bright lights by the Pan American building.

The Monument rose before us in the clouded sky, its top bathed in soft light from some far off search light. As we came closer we saw rosy clouds of incense rising from the base of the pillars of the arch, and the light reflecting from these was caught by a million glittering jewels on the great swinging network. The pillars themselves shot forth sparks of varicolored light. We waited there in the ever increasing crowd till we heard cheering and could see President Harding ascending the platform, and in a moment he touched the switch which illuminated the shining arch. At the same time the searchlights began to play from all angles and the cannon at the base of the Monument again boomed forth in the national salute. But this time instead of the dull, foreboding burst that had reached us during the funeral march at Arlington, there was a roar that ended in bright coloured lights which glowed and drifted off in smoke each time. And the Monument was alight with long stripes of red, white and blue. As we came out of the crowd homeward, after watching the many colours playing on the arch, we saw the Capitol over yonder with a cloud of rainbows floating above it. My husband said that the sky shot as it was with the many fingered searchlights re- minded him of London in Zeppelin days. But this was on the eve of the Peace Conference.

To return to Alpha Delta Pi affairs, we are especially anxious to get in touch with any Alpha Delta Pi clubs which may be forming in the country. We have heard rumors of one in New York and an-other in St. Louis. By a club, we mean a heterogeneous lot of Alpha Delta Pi girls from various colleges who are assembled as we are in one city. We hope to hear of others being formed in the near future, and to hear from them in The Adelphean.

With greetings to you all.
Yours in Alpha Delta Pi,
Doris Holmes Blake.

In Washington, from 1919 until 1928, she worked for the United States Department of Agriculture in its Bureau of Entomology. Under the tutelage of Frank H. Crittenden, she began the entomological studies that would be her passion for the rest of her life. In 1927 she gave birth to a son who died shortly afterwards. In 1928, a daughter, Doris was born. That year, with a nurse caring for the baby, Blake joined the Department of Entomology at the United States National Museum (Smithsonian Institution). According to her biography on the Smithsonian website, “In 1933 her official employment came to an end with the institution of regulations prohibiting more than one member of a family from holding a government position (Sidney Blake was then working for the Department of Agriculture). Although no longer on the payroll, Blake continued her taxonomic work on the family Chrysomelides (leaf beetles) for almost 45 more years, first as a collaborator and then as a research associate of the Smithsonian Institution.”

During her lifetime she published 97 scientific papers and was still researching until shortly before her death on  December 3, 1978. In addition to her scientific papers, she wrote at least one work for Alpha Delta Pi. The ceremony for the Jewel Degree, one of Alpha Delta Pi’s rituals, was written by Mary Thayer Ashman who was assisted by Blake. Ashman and Blake were both members of the Rho Chapter. 

Doris Holmes Blake (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution)

Doris Holmes Blake (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution)

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