History Matters

Hall of Languages, Syracuse University

The cornerstone for the first building on Syracuse University’s campus, the Hall of Languages, the one pictured above, was laid on September 1, 1871. It was dedicated on May 8, 1873. Sometime between those two events, Alpha Phi was founded. The Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter was installed in 1871. There were about 20 women enrolled in the university – 20!!! Ten brave young women decided to form a society like that of the men. And so they did. Two years later, another group of women, led by Frances Haven (Moss) daughter of the new President of the University, Erastus O. Haven, founded Gamma Phi Beta. The women of Alpha Phi and Gamma Phi socialized with the men of DKE, Delta Upsilon (1873), Psi Upsilon (1875), and Zeta Psi (1875). Frances Haven married a member of the Psi Upsilon chapter. A few of the posts on this blog chronicle my quest to find their graves near the University of Illinois campus, where Professor Moss taught.

As a alumna of Syracuse University, I fell in love with the campus during the summer. I had no clue what winter looked like in Syracuse. Yet, most of my memories of it are snowy ones, for it snows an astounding amount in the city and environs.

How difficult did that snow make life for the brave women of the 1870s? That is a thought that often runs through my brain. And for that matter, how was life for the women who founded other organizations in the 1870s? What was it like for those women of Monmouth College (Pi Beta Phi 1867 and Kappa Kappa Gamma 1870), Indiana Asbury University (DePauw, Kappa Alpha Theta 1870) and the ones who founded Delta Gamma in post-Civil War Mississippi in 1873?

Did they ever envision that the organizations they created would have a hand in shaping women for nearly 150 years? Could those who came of age in the 1870s imagine life in 2017? They had no indoor plumbing, electricity, transportation beyond steam engines, boats, farm animals, and their own two feet. The things today’s students take for granted and can’t imagine a life without were not even dreams of any of the founders of these organizations.

And yet, these organizations exist today. Fellowship, with sincere friendship at its core will hopefully never go out of style. Those who believe in the GLO experience must take care of it as a precious commodity. The story of the organizations, these and those who came later, need to be told, over and over. The stories of those members no longer here to tell their own stories, need to be told, over and over. Moreover and most importantly, those who do not choose to live up to the ideals of the organizations need to not be extended membership or must be dismissed if they accepted membership.

Our organizations mean so much more than the social life most often seen by non-members as the primary purpose. 

As the year winds to a close, I thank those who read the stories on this blog and pass them along to others. I appreciate your efforts. Happy Holidays.

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