Tri Delta’s “Our Louise Fitch” on Thanksgiving Eve

Delta Delta Delta was founded at Boston University on November 27, 1888, which fell on the day before Thanksgiving that year. Tri Delta’s Founders’ Day is celebrated on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Sarah Ida Shaw (Martin) and Eleanor Dorcas Pond (Mann, M.D.) both graduated first from their respective high school classes.

In the fall of 1888, four women seniors, who had not joined any of the women’s fraternities then at Boston University – Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi, or Gamma Phi Beta – discussed their situation. Shaw and Pond threw themselves into the details associated with the founding. All was finished by Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, 1888, but the two met again on Wednesday afternoon, before leaving for the holiday. They met in the Philological Library at the top of the college building. Shaw and Pond embraced and said “Tri Delta is founded.”

Shaw and Pond were intent on getting the other two unaffiliated seniors to join their organization. Florence Stewart quickly agreed, but Isabel Breed took a little more convincing due to her highly religious nature. When she was given the job of chaplain, she relented and joined her three friends. Although these two did not take part in the actual formation of Delta Delta Delta as Pond and Shaw had done, the four are considered founders. Soon three juniors pledged allegiance to Delta Delta Delta as well as five sophomores and six freshmen. These women were initiated at the Joy Street home of Emily F. Allen on January 15, 1889.

In 1889, the Epsilon chapter of Delta Delta Delta became the second women’s fraternity at Knox College. Kappa Beta Theta was a local organization founded in 1888 by sisters Patsie and Ola Ingersoll.  Beta Theta Pi had a chapter at Knox College and a Knox Beta told his brother, who was a member of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Boston University. The Boston University Beta gave the information to his friend, Delta Delta Delta founder Sarah Ida Shaw.  Shaw began correspondence with the Knox College women.  A Tri Delta charter was granted on July 9, 1889.  A member of the Simpson College chapter, Hattie Berry, initiated the chapter in August 1889, at the home of one of the charter members, Alta March.  A reception was held at the Phi Gamma Delta Hall at Knox College. One of the early initiates of the Knox chapter was Rachel Louise Fitch, known to Tri Deltas as R. Louise Fitch, or more lovingly, “Our Louise Fitch.”

Fitch, a woman well ahead of her time, won honors as a student at Knox, she served Tri Delta in many capacities, including Grand President. She was a career woman, too. She was born in Galva, Illinois, a little northwest of Galesburg, Illinois. She died on March 12, 1958 in Tacoma, Washington, and is buried in the cemetery in Galva. I knew about some of her work, but I hadn’t planned on writing about her. However, the more I researched, the more she intrigued me. I will write more about her soon, but this report, as Tri Delta’s first Chapter Inspector made me exhausted just reading it. Think of all the hours she spent on trains and in train stations!

It is quite impossible to give a detailed account of the results of the visits of the first Chapter Inspector for all the information relative to conditions at the time of each visit has been reported simply to the Council and it is thought advisable to keep it in the Council. However a brief account of the trip and the methods employed to obtain desired information may be of interest.

The first Chapter visited was Upsilon at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. This was in May 1905. From there, I went to Columbus, Ohio to visit Nu Chapter, then to Cincinnati, Ohio where Zeta is. At the request of two locals in that vicinity, I visited each of them for several days. In October,  Mu at Madison, Wisconsin, was visited and a petitioning group in that vicinity. In November, I spent several days with Phi at Iowa City, in December with Theta at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. January 8th, 1906, I started west visiting in order Delta at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa, Kappa at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., Lambda at Baker University, Baldwin, Kansas, the Denver Alliance at Denver, Colo., and then took a couple of days rest or at least of change at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Then on to Pi at University of California at Berkeley, Calif., and down to Los Angeles to see the Alliance there. At Pasadena, cares were forgotten for a week in enjoying the mountains and the side trips to the ocean. I reached Galva, Ill., again on March 1st and visited Epsilon, Knox College, Galesburg, Ill., the second week in March.

I started east March 23rd, and visited in order Gamma at Adrian, Mich., Omicron at Syracuse, NY, Beta at Canton, NY, Eta at Burlington, Vt., Alpha at Boston. After a four days rest, I visited Sigma at Wesleyan University at Middletown, Conn., Rho at Barnard College, New York City, Tau at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Penn., Psi at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Xi at Woman’s College Baltimore, Md., and last the youngest chapter Alpha Xi at Randolph Macon Woman’s College, Lynchburg, Va. Left for Galva, Ill. May 25th.

As far as possible four days were spent with each chapter. In that time, at each school, some social affair, tea, reception, card party, or something of the kind was given, at which I was enabled to meet the members of all rival Sororities in the institution. Dinners, drives, theatres, dances, receptions, chafing dish spreads, luncheons, some or all were given at each chapter to enable me to meet all active members and Alumnae, and in some cases gentlemen friends, of each chapter socially. During each visit, a regular chapter meeting and also a regular Alliance meeting where an Alliance existed, were held and regular business conducted in the ordinary way. Every chapter book was examined, plans and policy of chapter characteristics, and strength of rivals, house finances, and methods of meeting bills for house or room for Grand and Chapter dues were discussed. At every school, I was privileged to meet the President or Dean and talk over fraternity affairs. At every institution, except one, I was allowed to obtain the grades for the previous or present year as I chose in some cases for the entire course for each member. In the excepted school, I was informed that no one under any provocation whatsoever could be allowed to ohtain any idea regarding the standing of any student.

In several instances, at the invitation of the Local Pan Hellenic Association, I was asked to talk Pan Hellenic matters with the association and give what ideas I had gathered regarding rules and conditions in other schools. I met the Dean of Women at each school, where such an official exists, at her request, and talked over conditions among the college women and how the sororities might be of service to college authorities in bettering conditions, etc. Every spare moment was spent talking, planning with chapter officers and members, discussing national affairs, hearing troubles, suggesting remedies, planning for everything from keeping books and financing houses to rushing stunts.

At each school, the chapter was urged strongly to do everything possible to promote Pan Hellenic interests and to aid in college organization and interests. Each was urged also to mix wisely social and intellectual accomplishments. In every instance, rival fraternities were delightfully cordial and hospitable. At Madison, Kappa Kappa Gamma, at Lincoln, Kappa Alpha Theta, and at Berkeley, Kappa Alpha Theta, sent invitations to dinner to the chapter house, each of which was happily accepted. A number of Grand Officers of Kappa Alpha Theta, of Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma, and Chi Omega, were met at various places and the little exchange of experiences was exceedingly enjoyable.

The task of visiting the chapters is not a light one. The social side alone is wearing, though pleasant, and the energy necessary to judge quickly, and fairly ferret out true conditions, be ready with solutions for any kind of problem, to go with but little or no sleep, catch trains at any hour of day or night, etc., this energy expended is incalculable. But if as is hoped, the greater possibilities of usefulness for fraternity members is realized, if system and order prevail, if more enthusiasm is aroused, and interest increased, then the first visiting delegate will feel that the discomfitures and hard work are more than repaid. 

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