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History of Sigma Kappa Sorority 


Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, was the first college in New England to admit women on an equal basis with men students. During this period of change for women, they were insulted, boycotted and denied a share of the more prized college rights. But they were courageous and determined to make a place for women in the collegiate world. This feeling inspired the formation of sororities on the basis of scholarship, friendship, mutual interests and ideals.


Mary Caffrey Low was the first woman to be admitted to Colby in 1871. She remained the only female student until 1873, when four more young womenfrom Maine, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Fuller, Frances Mann and Louise Helen Coburn joined her. The five young women frequently found themselves together. During the school year of 1873-74, they decided to form a literary and social society. College administrators informed them that they needed to present a constitution and bylaws with a petition requesting permission to form Sigma Kappa Sorority. They began work during that year with an eager glow of enthusiasm. Their purpose at the outset was that the sorority should become what it is now, a national organization of college women. On Nov. 9, 1874, the five young women received a letter from the faculty approving their petition. Thus, this date has since been considered our Founders' Day.

In the first constitution, chapter membership was limited to 25. The original group was known as Alpha Chapter, and as the sorority grew, Beta Chapter and Gamma Chapter were also established at Colby College. Early records indicate that the groups met together; but in 1893, the Sigma Kappa members decided intramural expansion was not desirable. They voted to fill Alpha Chapter to the limit of 25 and to initiate no more into Beta and Gamma chapters. Eventually, the second and third chapters would vanish from Colby’s campus. Finally, the Sigma Kappas realized if the organization was going to continue to grow, it had to expand beyond the walls of Colby College.

In 1904, Delta Chapter was installed at Boston University. Elydia Foss of Alpha Chapter transferred to Boston and met a group of women who refused to join any of the other groups on campus. When asked if Sigma Kappa was a national organization, Elydia replied, "No, but it is founded on a national basis." Elydia then took the necessary steps to make Sigma Kappa a national sorority. It was incorporated in the state of Maine on April 19, 1904. The new status as a national sorority made Sigma Kappa eligible to join what was then called the Interfraternity Conference, now known as the National Panhellenic Conference.

 

History in the Making

Since the leadership of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) is determined through a rotation process, and there are 26 member groups of NPC, leadership of the NPC comes every 52 years. Only three Sigma Kappa alumnae have served as chairman of NPC since 1905. It has been almost 100 years since the first Sigma Kappa, Ethel Hayward Weston, Alpha, was chairman of NPC from 1919 to 1921. Sigma Kappa’s second opportunity came in 1965 when Ruth Rysdon Miller, Theta, assumed the chairmanship. Now it is Sigma Kappa’s time once again. It is our time to continue the leadership of these courageous Sigma Kappa women and other outstanding Panhellenic women leaders. Sigma Kappa is proud that our sister, Donna Crain King, Epsilon Rho is the face and the collective voice for all Panhellenic women. Our sisters coast-to-coast have been celebrating this historic occasion since Donna was installed as NPC chairman in 2015. 

Donna, in her role as chairman, advocates on behalf of the 26 NPC sororities and the value they add to the collegiate experience. She ensures that NPC defends and promotes sorority membership through positive exposure. She leads an organization that serves as the national voice on contemporary issues of sorority life. As Donna serves as NPC chairman until October 2017, this is Sigma Kappa’s time to celebrate our accomplishments, develop interfraternal relationships, and leave our mark in our Panhellenic communities. 

In addition, as Sigma Kappa's delegate serves as NPC chairman, our national president serves as chairman of the NPC inter/national presidents committee. This committee is composed of the inter/national presidents of all 26 NPC member organizations, which collaborates on issues of mutual concern.

 

Purpose of NPC

By 1900, there were 18 Greek letter organizations for women. As these groups expanded to other campuses, they realized a need to coordinate their efforts. As a result, NPC was organized in 1902. Sigma Kappa became a member of NPC in 1905. Today, Sigma Kappa is one of 26 women’s Greek letter organizations holding active membership, and voting privileges in the National Panhellenic Conference.

NPC provides support and guidance for its 26 member groups, and serves as the national voice on contemporary issues of sorority life. It provides a forum for discussion of current fraternal issues, mutual interest programming, and support to both collegians and alumnae. NPC’s mission is to serve as the premier advocacy and support organization for the advancement of the sorority experience.

 

Sigma Kappa Milestones

Milestones

Sigma Kappa Sorority was founded in 1874 and has achieved a number of goals and set many benchmarks since then. Below is a listing of the greatest milestones and achievements of Sigma Kappa Sorority from its founding until today.

 

1874

On November 9, 1874, our five founding women received a letter from the college administration approving their petition to form Sigma Kappa Sorority. Thus, this date has since been considered our Founders' Day.

1875

First initiation ceremony. Death of Elizabeth Gorham Hoag.

1890

Because of a membership limitation of 25, Sigma Kappa established Beta* chapter on the Colby campus.

1891

Lavender and maroon were first mentioned as sorority colors.

1892

At the annual reunion meeting, the violet was chosen by unanimous vote as the sorority flower at the earnest request of Nellie Bakeman Donovan, Alpha.
Gamma* chapter established at Colby.

1893

It was decided to fill the ranks of Alpha chapter, to initiate no more into Beta and Gamma chapters, and to extend Sigma Kappa beyond Colby walls.

1894

Triangle pin was adopted- "maroon enamel, unjeweled."

1896

Odes of 1896 were published.

1904

With the installation of Delta chapter, the first beyond the Colby campus, extension grew nationwide. Sigma Kappa was incorporated under the laws of the state of Maine.

1905

Sigma Kappa was admitted to the National Panhellenic Conference.

1907

The Sigma Kappa Triangle, Sigma Kappa's official magazine, was established and has been published regularly since its first issue in January 1907. A new song book, edited by Sara M. Collins, Delta, was published.

1911

Sigma Kappa coat-of-arms adopted.

1915

The pearl was adopted as our official jewel. Our official banner was accepted.

1918

The Maine Seacoast Missionary Society was adopted as our national philanthropy in honor of our founders, who were all from Maine.

1920

New member pin adopted.
A second edition of the song book, edited by Sara M. Collins, Delta, was published.

1924

History of Sigma Kappa, 1874-1924, edited by Emma E. Kinne, Epsilon, was published.
National headquarters was first established and located in Reading, Massachusetts.
Hattie May Baker, Delta, was appointed as executive secretary.

1926

Death of Mary Low Carver.

1927

The name, Sigma Kappa, was trademarked and copyrighted.

1930

A new song book was published. Ruth E. Litchen, Xi, was appointed executive secretary, and national headquarters was moved to Lawrence, Kansas.

1933

Death of Ida Fuller Pierce.

1935

Death of Frances Mann Hall.

1936

National headquarters was moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Margaret H. Taggart, Alpha Iota, was appointed as Director of NHQ. In honor of our 60th anniversary, a poetry anthology edited by Lillian M. Perkins, Omicron, entitled Brave Maroon, was published.

1937

First traveling secretary (field consultant), Ruth Norton Donnelly, Lambda, was appointed.

1941

October issue of the Sigma Kappa Triangle was our fourth song book.

1949

Death of Louise Helen Coburn.

1950

History of Sigma Kappa, 1874-1949, written by Lillian M. Perkins, Omicron, was published.

1954

Gerontology was adopted as our third national philanthropy.

1956

With the purchase of a permanent national headquarters at 3433 Washington Blvd., Indianapolis, Indiana, Sigma Kappa became one of the first NPC groups to own its own home.

1959

Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Sigma sororities merged.

1962

The Sigma Kappa Foundation was established to award scholarships and grants to students and to handle all of the sorority's philanthropic endeavors.

1970

Sigma Kappa Directory was published.

1974

CENTENNIAL YEAR-History of Sigma Kappa, 1874-1974, was published.

1978

The Order of the Triangle ceremony was accepted as part of our ritual.

1982

Graduate consultants were added to our field personnel.

1984

Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders was adopted as a focus for our gerontology philanthropy.
Brave Maroon II was published. The second poetry anthology was edited by Lillian Perkins, Omicron.
The dove was accepted as our official symbol.

1985

First Sigma Kappa in space, Dr. Rhea Seddon, Lambda. A mission specialist for NASA, she carried Sigma Kappa's badge on the space shuttle.

1987

AWARE-Guidelines for the Social Chairman was published.

1988

Booklet of Significant Sigma Kappas was published.
Heart adopted as an official symbol.

1990

The national headquarters building located at 8733 Founders Road, Indianapolis, Indiana, was purchased by the Sigma Kappa Foundation.

1992

Adoption of Inherit the Earth as an additional focus for the gerontology program.

1993

National Housing Corporation established to assist collegiate chapters with housing and furnishing needs.

1996

Sigma Kappa becomes the first NPC sorority to undertake a consistent graphic identity campaign as a part of a marketing communication plan.

1997

Promise for New Members was published.

1998

Sigma Kappa Web site debuted.

1999

Promise for Initiated Members was published.
Sigma Kappa celebrated 125th Anniversary.

2000

Sigma Kappa became one of the first Greek letter organizations to begin a licensing program for its vendors, Shop Sigma Kappa.

2001

Virtual Violet, an online e-magazine for alumnae, debuted. 

For Sisters Only section added to the Web site.

2003

Sigma Kappa's paperless plan was debuted - All printed materials were made available on the private side of the website and monthly officer mail started being sent via email.

2004

The 25-year pin was adopted at the 2004 national convention.

2005

Redesigned Web site debuted.

2008

Sigma Kappa Foundation’s Ultra Violet Campaign debuts.

National Vice President for Extension added to national council.

2009

Visual identity updated.

2010

The recording secretary and corresponding secretary positions were combined into one position named vice president of communication. 

The philanthropy and Sigma Kappa Foundation chairmen positions were combined into one position named vice president of philanthropic service.

Field consultant program was renamed leadership consultant program.

2012

College Officer Training School (COTS) was renamed regional leadership conference (RLC), formatted to bring programming closer to our members and allowing more members to participate.

The SKoop replaced Virtual Violet and Sigma Kappa Savvy as the official newsletter of Sigma Kappa Sorority.

2014

The Promise program for New Members underwent a complete update and transition to a new delivery model, including e-learning.

The programming responsibilities were removed from the executive vice president’s role and a new vice president of programming was created.

The Sigma Kappa Foundation pledged to donate $1 million to the Alzheimer’s Association and become a member of the Zenith society, the Association’s group of most engaged and dedicated donors.

2015

Donna Crain King, Epsilon Rho, installed as chairman of the National Panhellenic Conference.

*NOTE: From records of Alpha chapter meetings, the three chapters apparently met together. We note in several instances where "in the absence of Alpha's secretary, voted to have Beta's secretary take notes." And once, "in the absence of Alpha and Beta secretaries, voted to have Gamma secretary take the notes."