On Tri Sigma’s Founding Day, the Convention of 1909

When the Sixth Annual Convention of Sigma Sigma Sigma was held in September of 1909, the Hotel Patten in Chattanooga was only about a year old. The site of the convention was dedicated in 1908. 

Tri Sigma, which was founded on April 20, 1898, at the State Female Normal School in Farmville, Virginia (now Longwood University), was but 11 years old. A report in The Triangle noted, “It was a great pity that every Sigma Sigma Sigma could not have
been present, for it was the most enthusiastic and inspiring and successful convention ever held. The people of Chattanooga displayed much friendly interest towards the convention.” The Chattanooga Times said, “Chattanooga had a real genuine girls’ sorority in its midst, the first of its kind ever held in our city.”

Delegates from six chapters were in attendance, along with the presiding officers and several alumnae. On Monday, September 6, “a very informal reception was held, at which all the girls became known to one another.” It was followed by the first business session.

The formal opening of convention took place on Tuesday morning, at nine-thirty, with a welcoming address given by Bess Brower, the organization’s second National President. Her talk was “one of great inspiration and much well-chosen advice to the convention.”
She asserted that after a woman becomes a member, it was “the bounden duty of each member to stand by her; to try to make her happy as a Sigma Sigma Sigma, and to try to make her become a true Sigma Sigma Sigma.”

Bess Brower (Willis)

After the talk, the delegate had an informal discussion on  “The Purpose.” The delegates came up with the following statements:

Alpha—Our purpose should be to make of ourselves that which we wished to become in joining an order we did not help to build, and that the order helps those who help themselves.

Gamma—The purpose to the individual is to add honor to the whole, and to uphold its standards.

Delta—The purpose is to promote ideal friendships between college girls, and the convention should advance methods by which this can best be obtained.

Epsilon—The purpose of a chapter in college is that it may be a source of help in trouble as a family is at home; in which sympathy may bring together girls of social, intellectual and moral equality, and prove its worth to be of such value that every one in college will respect it as an order.

Alpha Delta—Having studied the advance of many sororities, the purpose is to impress all with the necessity of following upright methods; to band together and fight for clean methods through better or worse.

Sigma Phi—The purpose is to find the best girls in each college and to stand by them.

After these points were made, the National President affirmed that the “unselfish purpose was the only real way in which to improve your college, to develop your own characters, and that that which really counted in a sorority was that which added to your characters some undeveloped goodness.” National Secretary Emma Moffett made “a strong plea in that as much as we put into our sorority life the more we gain from it; that we should try to make of it what we would be an example of, and, above all, to try to live above small disagreements.” Anna Mae Kanouse spoke about individuality, “inasmuch as the most good could be obtained by following our own teachings rather than trying to outstrip other sororities in college, in college politics, in great numbers, etc.; that such rivalry should not exist between sororities as sororities, but between individuals as college mates.” The discussion was followed by the “singing our oldest and most familiar sorority songs.”

Thursday’s activities included a trip to Lookout Mountain, and an automobile ride around Missionary Ridge.  A banquet later that evening in the hotel’s Red Room closed the convention. “After the chant and our yell had been lustily given the convention of 1909 came to an end, but a more enthusiastic, more hopeful was never held.” A delegate reported they had been “treated like queens by the Hotel Patten management, and we are not anxious to say good-bye to the hostelry.”

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