Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pi Beta Phi Founders Day: April 28, 1867

Happy Birthday to Pi Beta Phi! Today the women's fraternity has 134 collegiate chapters and more than 241,000 members across North America. The Kansas Alpha chapter was established at the University of Kansas in 1873. Here's some information on the fraternity's history and its founders.

On April 28, 1867, 12 women joined together to form the first national secret society for women at a time when only five state universities admitted women. That society was founded as I.C. Sorosis at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. Pi Beta Phi was the motto of this secret socitey and in 1888 the fraternity changed its official name to Pi Beta Pi.

Meet the Founders

Jennie Nicol, M.D. Jennie was a pioneer among physicians; she was one of the first women to study medicine.
Quote: No woman ever entered the profession with a nobler purpose.

Libbie Brook GaddisThe youngest founder, she established Pi Beta Phi’s second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan University.
Quote: For while there are deeper and holier relations than that of … Pi Beta Phi, still nothing purer or lovelier graces the name of friendship.

Clara Brownlee Hutchinson Gentle and shy, she was Emma Brownlee’s younger sister. In challenging circumstances, she showed an admirable strength of character.

Ada Bruen Grier
A teacher and minister’s wife, she formed friendships in Pi Phi that lasted her entire lifetime. Her son, the Rev. James Harper Grier, became president of Monmouth College.
Quote: It has always been a real joy to me that I had a little part in the founding of Pi Beta Phi, and I wish you all continued prosperity of success.

Emma Brownlee Kilgore A true leader and Pi Beta Phi’s first president, she was the only founder to live continuously in Monmouth, Illinois. The Fraternity coat of arms is derived from the Brownlee family crest.

Fannie Thomson Radiating happiness, with a beautiful voice, in her short year of membership she was a faithful and enthusiastic member. The first Pi Beta Phi Convention was held at her house in Oquawka, Illinois, in August of 1867.
Quote: Our object … is to send out into the world women who will ever be an honor and a blessing.

Margaret Campbell Pi Beta Phi’s first treasurer and a promoter of philanthropic work.

Jennie Horne Turnbull Quiet and charming, she planned her life around her work as a minister’s wife and Pi Beta Phi. Jennie was a charter member of the Philadelphia Alumnae Club and had Illinois Alpha granddaughters.
Quote: The founders dreamed dreams as to our future but truly this has gone far beyond our wildest dreams. Words fail to express the pride the founders feel in the work, and well we should. It’s wonderful.

Rosa Moore Generous and sensitive to the needs of others, she spent her days in social work and missionary endeavors.
Quote: The one word out of my heart to every other heart is give all that you are and have, and this consecration will restore all that has been lost to you, to others and the world forevermore.

Nancy Black Wallace
Pi Beta Phi’s first secretary and an enthusiastic extensionist. She installed the third chapter of I.C. Sorosis at the Seminary in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Quote: I am glad that the great, sympathetic heart of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity has responded to the call of true service, that the result is worthwhile work in a needy field, uplifting the womanhood of our own America. This is a worthwhile work and commands the admiration of those of us who launched the craft.

Inez Smith Soule
Independent, beautiful and known for her keen wit, she established a long Pi Phi legacy through a Pi Phi daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.
Quote: Said of Inez, “Any attempt to transfer her enthusiasm, her keen humor and her lovable charm into the category of printed words fails from the outset. There is an inner radiance expressed by her actions which finds no other medium.”

Fannie Whitenack Libbey It was in her home that the groundwork was laid for Pi Beta Phi. She always remained young at heart and found great joy in meeting with the girls of Pi Beta Phi.
Quote: I trust that the companionship and friendships formed in your college may prove sweet and lasting as those of us girls in 1867 … a tie that will bind you to achieve the highest and best in life.


Information taken from the Pi Beta Phi International website at 

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