Grace Lumpkin, Phi Mu, on Founders’ Day, #amazingsororitywomen #WHM2017

Phi Mu was founded on January 4, 1852 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Originally known as the Philomathean Society, it was founded by Mary DuPont (Lines), Mary Myrick (Daniel) and Martha Hardaway (Redding). The founding was publicly announced on March 4, 1852, the day that is celebrated as Founders’ Day. On August 1, 1904, the group received a charter from the state of Georgia and was established as Phi Mu Fraternity. The second chapter was founded at Hollins College in 1904. Phi Mu joined the National Panhellenic Conference in 1911.

During World War I, Phi Mu voted to send an official war worker to France. Grace Lumpkin, from the Mu Chapter at Brenau College, the Fraternity’s Philanthropic Board Chair, sailed for France along with other war workers from the Y.W.C.A.

Grace Lumpkin

The November 1919 Aglaia included “An Opportunity for Service.” It offered Phi Mus a chance “to help along the work being done by American women in France, and incidentally to live the ideals of love and service that Phi Mu upholds. Remember the words of our Creed: ‘to minister to the needy and unfortunate.’ These French girls are needy,— in their lack of interests and pleasure as well as in their absence of funds. How many Phi Mus will respond to this appeal?”

Lumpkin, coincidentally the author of the Phi Mu Creed, was asking Phi Mus to “adopt” a French young woman and exchange letters and photos. She though “it would bring into the lives of some of the girls to have that interest.” She added, “I have had dozens of chances of doing that this summer, and as I’ll continue in French Work there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be other chances. If the girls would send in through you, or straight
to me, their names and addresses, I could connect them with a girl here.” A follow-up explanation noted that the “French girls are most in need of is an added interest in life, something new and apart from their small world, which is now so sadly suggestive of sorrow and loss. There is no better way to meet this need than correspondence with
wide-a-wake, intelligent American girls, for the French are vitally interested in America, whose boys made the supreme sacrifice to help their cause.”

A letter in the January 1920 Aglaia, Lumpkin wrote from Chateau Thierry, “It seems almost impossible that for over a month I have been living in a part of devastated France.” She added:

Although I will probably not be here long, it has been a very wonderful experience, and it worries me that it isn’t possible to share it with you all. We have charge right now of the two cemeteries, Belleau Woods and Fere en Tardennois. Belleau has three thousand straight white crosses and Fere four thousand. At each cemetery is a small house which will have a bed, a cozy sitting-room, and facilities for serving tea to the American relatives who are already coming over to find the particular cross which marks the part of French soil that is their special, terrible sacrifice for the liberty of the world. The house at Belleau will serve luncheons also, to those who wish to stay longer, and there will even be facilities for people staying overnight, if necessary. Busses furnished by the Red Cross meet the trains and carry those who are looking up graves out to the different cemeteries. Both the houses will have the plans of the cemeteries in their living-rooms so that the graves can be looked up under shelter. One doesn’t realize the need of shelter unless he has spent a winter in France. Already we have had a good many relatives, and so we realize what the house may mean to them. And it means much to us, too, to be able to help make the burden of those who have sacrificed so much for us a little lighter.

When she returned from France, she worked for the Y.W.C.A. in Georgia for a time, before turning to writing as an occupation. She wrote for magazines and four of her books were published: To Make My Bread (1932); A Sign for Cain (1935); The Wedding (1939); and Full Circle (1962).

In the late 1920s, she became involved in the Communist Party, although she stated she was never a member of the Party. Her last book was a renouncement of communism. She died in 1980 at the age of 89.

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