Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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Kappa Alpha Theta was the first national Greek letter fraternity for women, founded January 27, 1870, at Indiana Asbury (now DePauw) University. The first sorority chapter at Swarthmore College was Kappa Alpha Theta, who formed the Alpha Beta Chapter on September 24, 1891. The second sorority at Swarthmore was Pi Beta Phi, chartered in October 1892. It maintained a steady presence there until the abolishment of women's fraternities on December 12, 1933.
Pi Beta Phi traces its roots to the sorority I. C. Sorosis, formed in 1867 in Monmouth College, Monmouth Illinois, as a parallel to recently created men's fraternities on that campus. A second chapter was established at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa the next year, and additional chapters at other schools followed. In 1885 the sorority newsletter "The Arrow" was first published by Kansas Alpha at the University of Kansas. In 1888, the sorority changed its name to Pi Beta Phi.
The Swarthmore Chapter of Pi Beta Phi was chartered in 1892 with 7 charter members. Swarthmore became prominent within the national sorority when the twenty-first Biennial Convention was held there in 1910. Considered one of the most important conventions in Pi Beta Phi history, it was at the Swarthmore Convention that the sorority voted to establish a settlement school at the urging of Pi Beta Phi Grand President Emma Harper Turner in the Appalachian community of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The sorority supported the school financially for several decades. In the 1940s, the county gradually began taking over its administration, and by 1966, the sorority was no longer supporting the school. The sorority deeded land on which the school was built to the county and issued a long-term lease at a rate of one dollar a year for the playground. There is still an elementary school operating under the name Pi Beta Phi as of 2015.
The Swarthmore campus buildings now known simply as Bond Memorial and the Lodges were completed in 1928 with the function of serving as a social annex to the women's dormitory, Worth Hall. Kappa Alpha Theta used the sixth lodge, the one nearest to the Benjamin West house. The other women's fraternities were assigned to the other five lodges in order of their establishment after Kappa Alpha Theta at Swarthmore College, with the most recently installed fraternity in lodge 1: Delta Gamma (#1), Phi Mu (#2), Chi Omega (#3), Pi Beta Phi (#4), and Kappa Gamma (#5). The lodges consisted of living-rooms, kitchenette, and a guest suite and did not serve as regular living quarters for fraternity members.
The construction of the Bond Memorial Hall and Women's Lodges was quickly followed, however, by the dissolution of women's fraternities at the College. The role of Greek life on campus had been the subject of debate for years. In 1931 an inquiry was suggested to President Aydelotte by a group of graduates who were members of fraternities and wanted the quality of the social atmosphere on campus to improve. In response, Aydelotte, published a statement in the November 24, 1931, issue of The Phoenix, the College newspaper, outlining his concerns about the centrality of fraternities to social life on campus. It was the second time in ten years that the abolishment of women's fraternities was proposed. The President pointed out that fraternity membership among female students increased sharply from 60% upon his arrival at the College in 1920 to 77% in 1931. He voiced concern that hasty rushing at the beginning of freshman year segmented the student body and undermined the College's sense of community. President Aydelotte was hopeful that Swarthmore's social shortcomings could be resolved by reform of the fraternity system but he made it clear that if such changes were not effected by the fraternities, then they would be laid down. A series of College-wide referenda of the female population resulted in indecision, as various measures for social reform were proposed and sometimes attempted. The issue was finally laid to rest on December 12, 1933, when the majority of women students voted for the abolishment of the fraternities.
In 1932, shortly before the abolition of sororities, Pi Beta Phi boasted the most members of any sorority on campus, with 42 sisters.
This collection consists of two volumes: "Songs of Pi Beta Phi" (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Music Lithography Co., 1923) and ""Pi Beta Phi" Rushing Songs," 1929. The former is a published volume likely in use across the country. The latter is a custom compilation of sheet music for various songs, with alternative sorority-specific lyrics typewritten below the standard words.
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Collection is open for research.
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