In October 1872, the ten female students at Syracuse University gathered to discuss the possibility of creating a club for, as Clara wrote 40 years later, “… a circle of sympathetic friends whom we would know personally. We had as our aim the mutual improvement of each other, ever trying to do our best in college work, always keeping a high ideal before us. … We were to be ever loyal to one another, in joys or sorrows, success or failure, and ever extend a helping hand to our sisters who needed our aid; truly we planned to be a ‘Union hand in hand.'”
Almost 140 years later, Alpha Phi has more than 145 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. We Alpha Phis use Founders’ Day to look back at the women that initially formed our sisterhood so that we may hope to live up to the ideals and examples they set.
Note: This website was taken down in 2017. The posts I wrote for the blog are no longer available to link to, so I have included the full text below, removing links where necessary.
Fast Founders Facts
In honor of Founders’ Day, today, October 10, 2011, here are a few facts about our Founding 10 from Syracuse University:
- Clara Wheeler Baker Burdette
Clara lived the longest, most active life of our founders. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, the writer, lecturer, businesswoman and philanthropist lived to the age of 98.
- Hattie Chidester Lukens
Hattie completed her B.S. in 1875 and her M.S. in 1879, teaching higher mathematics in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York, and Iowa.
- Martha Foote Crow
Martha earned a Ph.D. in English literature and studied abroad at Cambridge, Oxford and Leipzig. She was the first national president of Alpha Phi and also a founder of the American Association of University Women.
- Ida Gilbert DeLamanter Houghton
Ida completed her B.S. and M.S. in modern languages, going on to teach school and write for newspapers and magazine. People said Ida never entered a room, she breezed in; the consummate hostess arranged the first Alpha Phi banquet with her mother following the original initiation, a tradition carried on today.
- Jane Higham
Another member of Phi Beta Kappa, Jane earned her B.A. and M.A. and taught Latin. After her last Alpha Phi Convention, she wrote, “When I think of the faces of Alpha Phi women, I feel sure that Alpha Phi is big enough and noble enough to reach out and help others where there is the greatest need.”
- Kate Hogoboom Gilbert
Kate received her B.S. in science and her M.S. in music, continuing her post-graduation musical studies in Boston and then teaching in Newark, NJ and Ithaca, NY. She was the first recording secretary of the chapter and, with Martha Foote, wrote the Ritual and the first Constitution.
- Elizabeth Hubbell Shults
Before Elizabeth had entered Syracuse University, she had already graduated with honors from the Rochester Free Academy at 13 and taught at the Rochester Collegiate Institute at 16. She was 22 years old when Alpha Phi was founded, and the only founder old enough to sign the legal documents.
- Rena Michaels Atchison
Rena was the first president of Alpha Phi, and it is for her that the Michaelanean Society is named, a group that still exists as a corporation and owns the Alpha Phi Syracuse chapter house. After earning her Ph.D. in history, she was a professor of modern languages and literature at Upper Iowa University, Albion College, and DePauw University, and eventually was Dean of the Women’s College at Northwestern.
- Louise Shepard Hancock
A close friend of Jane Higham, Louise graduated from Syracuse University in 1876 and finished her master’s degree two years later. Throughout her life, she made literary contributions to various papers and envisions many of the privileges which have come to women today.
- Clara Williams
Clara was the only farmer’s daughter among the original founders; the first Alpha Phi meeting was held in her room on campus. Looking back at the founding of Alpha Phi, Clara wrote, “We thought it would be a find idea socially to form a circle of sympathetic friends whom we would know personally. … We were to be ever loyal to one another, in joys or sorrow, success or failure, and ever extend a helping hand to our sisters who needed our aid; truly we planned to be a ‘Union hand in hand.'”
Want to more about the Alpha Phi Founders? Read all about them on the Alpha Phi website.