Today, Veterans Day, commemorates the date upon which World War I ended – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It had been known as Armistice Day, but in 1954 it was renamed Veterans Day. It is also that date of the founding of Gamma Phi Beta, an event that took place in 1874.
Frances Haven Moss and I share a first name, although very few people call me Frances. We both spent time in Syracuse, Ann Arbor and downstate Illinois. I love carnations and I suspect she did, too. And so I write about her again.
Frances Haven was the daughter of Dr. Erastus Otis Haven, the Chancellor of the University (Syracuse’s Haven Hall is named for him). He also spent time at the helm of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University before he arrived in upstate New York.
The first social event Frances attended after she moved to Syracuse in 1874 was a church oyster supper. She met Charles Melville Moss, a member of Psi Upsilon, at that supper. He would later ask her to marry him. She also met two members of Alpha Phi, a women’s fraternity founded at Syracuse in October of 1872. Instead of accepting the invitation to join Alpha Phi which had been offered to her, she joined with three other women – Mary A. Bingham (Willoughby), E. Adeline Curtis, and Helen M. Dodge (Ferguson) – and they founded an organization of their own. The date was November 11, 1874. The organization is Gamma Phi Beta, the first of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) organizations to use the term “sorority;” Syracuse Latin professor Frank Smalley suggested the word to the young women.*
Frances and Charles moved to Illinois where he spent most of his professional career teaching Greek at the University of Illinois. Frances was instrumental in the founding of the Omicron Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta at Illinois. The chapter was originally founded as a local organization, Phi Beta. Its intent was to become a Gamma Phi Beta chapter. Frances and Violet Jayne Schmidt, a member of the University of Michigan chapter, spearheaded the effort. Petition books were created and sent to chapters and alumnae organizations as this was the manner in which extension was done during the early 1900s. Dr. Moss, as a faculty member, added a letter to the petition book endorsing Phi Beta’s efforts. The petition was approved.
On May 24, 1913, the Omicron chapter of Gamma Phi Beta was installed. It was the only Gamma Phi chapter to be founded by a founder. Alida Helen Moss, their youngest daughter, became a member of the chapter. Alida is the only daughter of a Gamma Phi Beta founder to become a Gamma Phi herself. Frances and her husband helped the chapter obtain a house. The Mosses are buried in a cemetery at the edge of the campus.
The haunting poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by John McCrae, M.D., a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army during World War I. He was a Zeta Psi from the University of Toronto chapter. McCrae wrote the poem after the May 2, 1915 death and burial of his friend and former student Lieutenant Alexis Hannum Helmer. McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, while commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
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