I have been to Monmouth, Illinois, many times and on each trip, I try to envision Monmouth College as it might have been in 1870. I walk past the spot where it is said two women talked about forming an organization of their own. If it is quiet and I stand very still might I hear those whispers from nearly 150 years ago?
On October 13, 1870, six women – Mary Moore “Minnie” Stewart, Hannah Jeannette Boyd, Mary Louise Bennett, Anna Elizabeth Willits, Martha Louisa Stevenson, and Susan Burley Walker – walked into chapel exercises wearing small golden keys in their hair.
The six were the founders of Kappa Kappa Gamma The Alpha chapter was disbanded by the mid 1870s when Monmouth College ordered the fraternities to leave campus, although there is evidence the some of the organizations maintained sub rosa chapters for several years. It is a testament to the strength of the organization that it, along with its Monmouth Duo partner, Pi Beta Phi, continued to grow and succeed despite the demise of the Alpha chapter a few years after the founding.
The first badges were made by the Bennett’s family jeweler who was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In order to have the badges made, 12 had to be ordered at a price of $5 each. Since the 1876 Convention, October 13 has been celebrated as Founders’ Day.
Almost a year ago, one of the readers of this blog, a Kappa Alpha Theta, sent me info about Margaret “Peggy” Kirk Bell, an initiate of the Rollins College chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, who had died in November 2016 at the age of 95. She and Bell shared a hometown of Findlay, Ohio. I promised the reader I would write about Bell. And I have been meaning to do it since that time; today seems like a perfect day to follow through on the promise.
Bell was born on October 28, 1921, in Findlay, Ohio. Although she was a gifted athlete, opportunities for women in sports were very limited when she was a young woman. She took up golf at the age of 17 and apparently learned it quickly and adeptly, with a lot of practice. She planned to teach physical education. In the years before the establishment of the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, she was one of the top amateurs, but again, her opportunities were limited.
In 1953, she married her high school sweetheart Warren Bell. She and her husband purchased the Pine Needles resort in North Carolina. The course has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open three times. She created “Golfaris,” a golf instruction method for women taught by women. She has been honored extensively. She was the first woman to join the PGA Golf Instructors Hall of Fame. She was awarded the Bob Jones Award from the United States Golf Association. The largest golf circuit for young women is named in her honor.
In 1977, the women’s golf team at Rollins College, her alma mater, instituted the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitation. It is played in the early spring and “stands as a lasting tribute to Bell’s influence on the present and future of women’s golf,” according to the Rollins College website. What an #amazingsororitywomen she was!