Happy 200th to Indiana and Its Importance in Women’s Fraternity History

Happy 200th Birthday to the state of  Indiana. On December 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state. Today Indiana is home to many GLO headquarters, but its importance in the history of women’s fraternities happened about a century and a half ago.

Between 1867 when Pi Beta Phi was founded as I.C. Sorosis at Monmouth College and 1881, when Alpha Phi’s second chapter was chartered at Northwestern University, there were only four of today’s National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) groups which were expanding on to other campuses. These groups –  Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Delta Gamma and Pi Beta Phi. 

Kappa Alpha Theta was founded in 1870 at Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw University) in Greencastle.  Although the first decision to allow women to attend Asbury was made in 1860, it was rescinded several times with debate following each decision. Bettie Locke, the daughter of a mathematics professor, was a formidable student.  During her sophomore year, Bettie received an invitation to wear a Phi Gamma Delta badge.  The badge did not come with a dating arrangement as later tradition would have it, nor did it come with the benefits given to men who were initiated into the fraternity.  When Bettie declined the badge because it did not come with full membership rights and responsibilities, the Phi Gams substituted a silver cake basket, inscribed with their Greek letters.  With encouragement from her father, a Beta Theta Pi, and her brother, a Phi Gamma Delta, Bettie  began plans to start her own fraternity.  She and Alice Allen studied Greek, parliamentary law and heraldry with an eye towards founding a fraternity for women.

The family of Carole Cones-Bradfield, great granddaughter of Bettie Locke Hamilton, stopped by the Kappa Alpha Theta HQ for a tour. Carole recently passed away, and she generously donated many items to the Theta archive that belonged to her great-grandmother. CEO Betsy Corridan is pictured holding Bettie’s famous Theta cake basket. On the left is Dane Hartley, great-grandson of Bettie Locke, a DePauw alumnus, and a Phi Gamma Delta. He was Carole Cones-Bradfield’s cousin. On the right is Landis Bradfield, Carole’s husband.

On January 27, 1870, Bettie stood before a mirror and repeated the words of the initiation vow she had written.  She then initiated Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton, and Hannah Fitch.  Five weeks later, Mary Stevenson, a freshman, joined the group.  

A few months later, a chapter of I.C. Sororis, whose Greek motto was Pi Beta Phi, was founded at Indiana Asbury. Laura Beswick, who was in the first group of female students, was a founder of that chapter. A Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter joined the two in 1875 and as sometimes happened when a new group came to campus, another chapter faltered. The chapter that faltered was the Pi Phi chapter and it was gone by decade’s end. Alpha Chi Omega was founded at DePauw in 1885. Two years laterAlpha Phi joined the mix at DePauw.

Indiana University became home to Theta’s second chapter  Bettie Locke’s father had a friend who was a trustee at Indiana University  The friend had a daughter, Minnie Hannamon, who was college age.  In April 1870, a letter was written to Minnie, and Bettie visited Bloomington in early May.  On May 18, 1870, Bettie installed Kappa Alpha Theta at Indiana University with the initiation of the three charter members.

Two and a half years later, in 1873, Kappa Kappa Gamma made its appearance at  Indiana. A male student at Monmouth College, where Kappa was founded in 1870, had a female cousin attending Indiana. Correspondence ensued and the chapter was installed. A Pi Beta Phi member arrived to study at Indiana and saw what she considered to be material for a Pi Phi chapter. A charter was issued in March 1893. In December 1898, the Delta Gamma chapter was the last women’s fraternity to be installed on the IU campus prior to 1900.

Northwestern Christian College, the name Butler University had when the first women’s fraternity was founded there, was the next site of expansion for the women’s fraternities in Indiana. Theta was again the first group on the campus, chartering in 1874. A Kappa chapter followed in 1878 and Pi Beta Phi chartered in 1897.

Franklin College, followed Butler in expansion and Franklin College has a special place in the history of the women’s fraternity system and that story starts in Mississippi. Delta Gamma was founded at the Oxford Female Institute, also known as the Lewis School, at Oxford, Mississippi. Delta Gamma’s three founders were weather-bound at the school over the Christmas holidays in December of 1873 and founded the organization. Delta Gamma was brought to the north by a man, the only man to be an initiated member of Delta Gamma.

In May 1878, 20-year-old George Banta was on a train returning to Franklin College from a Phi Delta Theta Convention. He sat with Monroe McClurg from the University of Mississippi chapter and shared with him his concern over the fraternity political situation in Indiana, noting that Indiana needed another female Greek group. McClurg agreed and offered a solution. McClurg told Banta about Delta Gamma and facilitated communication between Banta and Delta Gamma. After a visit to Oxford, he was initiated and given the power to form chapters. The first chapter he organized was at Franklin College. Among its charter members was Lille Vawter, who would soon become his wife. Banta bringing Delta Gamma to Indiana is a very big deal and his assistance was instrumental in Delta Gamma’s future. 

Emma Harper Turner, who was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Franklin College, before its charter was withdrawn by Kappa’s Grand Council, sought an honorable dismissal from Kappa. She then became a charter member of the Pi Beta Phi chapter at Franklin. She quickly became a member of Pi Phi’s Grand Council, serving as Grand President. She formed the Alumnae Association in 1893 and it was she who proposed the founding of the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School in 1910.

Emma Harper Turner, Pi Beta Phi’s Grand President. She started her fraternity life as a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at Franklin College (there is a post about her on this site.)

Hanover College was also the site of an early women’s fraternity system with a Delta Gamma chapter founded in 1881 and a Theta chapter in 1882.

The women’s fraternity system took root in Indiana in the late 1800s and the state has provided a fertile ground for growth its growth. Here’s to another century, Indiana!

© 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/ or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/378663535503786/

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