Kappa Kappa Gamma and P.E.O.

Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, the Monmouth Duo. were founded at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. Pi Phi was founded in 1867 and Kappa in 1870. By the late 1870s, their Alpha Chapters were forced off campus due to anti-fraternity sentiment. That both organizations exist today is an amazing story and one I’ve told on many occasions.

Photo by Melisse Campbell, a Kappa Kappa Gamma

On January 21, 1869, P.E.O. was founded at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Libbie Brook, one of the founders of I.C. Sorosis, Pi Beta Phi’s name at its founding, enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan with the express purpose of establishing a second chapter of her women’s fraternity. On December 21, 1868, her plan came to fruition. Legend has it that several of a group of seven friends was asked to join Libbie’s group, but they decided to start a society of their own. Those seven women, Hattie Briggs, Franc Roads, Alice Bird, Alice Coffin, Ella Stewart, Mary Allen, and Suela Pearson, settled on the star for their emblem. 

In the early years, the rivalry was intense between those who wore the arrow and those who wore the star. Chapters of both organizations competed for members at Belden’s Seminary in Mount Pleasant, the Jacksonville Female Seminary in Jacksonville, Illinois, the South Iowa Normal School, and Hastings College.

Those who wore the key of Kappa Kappa Gamma had never been in competition with those who wore the star and therefore there were no memories of any rivalry. In fact, Kappa Kappa Gamma founder Anna (Elizabeth) Willits (Pattee) was a member of P.E.O. Her chapter, Chapter E in Monmouth, was organized on December 6, 1900. Two of the seven charter members of Chapter E had lived in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and two others had heard about P.E.O. from their time living in towns which had chapters. The four met and talked of organizing a P.E.O. chapter.  When the Organizer of P.E.O.’s Supreme Grand Chapter visited the Monmouth women  “there was a terrific electrical storm, rain descended in torrents, the floods came, but this did not dampen the intense interest of these sisters, nor has that interest lessened through the years. Anna Willits Pattee was initiated into P.E.O. sometime after Chapter E’s founding.  She died in 1908 and she was the first member of Chapter E to enter Chapter Eternal. 

Anna Elizabeth Willits (Pattee)

Four years before the founding of P.E.O. Chapter E, Illinois, in Monmouth, this appeared in the November 1896 P.E.O. Record

From the November 1896 P.E.O. Record

When this letter was written, there was only one collegiate chapter of P.E.O. in existence, the chapter at Iowa Wesleyan. In 1902, it became the second chapter of Alpha Xi Delta.

It is also interesting to note that Sue Baker, P.E.O.’s current President of International Chapter, is a Kappa Kappa Gamma. And I would be remiss if I did not offer a shout out to my friend Kylie Towers Smith, Kappa’s Archivist, who is a member of the Ohio State Chapter’s board. She will preside at the Convention of Ohio State Chapter during P.E.O.’s Sesquicentennial year. (Extra points if you know that a Delta Zeta founder was the first President of P.E.O.’s Ohio State Chapter – see the link in the header above for additional posts about the P.E.O. Sisterhood,)

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