"You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
What does an archivist do when she receives an incredible collection of materials related to founder Bettie Locke and her daughters, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter? She immediately makes plans to share it with everyone! With the opening of the special exhibit "Bettie Locke and Her Family: Four Generations of Thetas" which will run through April 30, 2017, I get to do just that.
Since I began to receive photographs and tintypes, clothing and accessories from the family of Carole Cones-Bradfield, great-granddaughter of Bettie Locke, I have been talking about these items with anyone who came through the archive space. I have been sharing with my coworkers here at headquarters (they have been really patient with me), Thetas who have come through headquarters on visits, and friends, and family who have asked what I have been doing lately (True confession: sometimes they didn't even have to ask.) Recently my opening line in many a conversation has been, "You won't believe what we have at headquarters!"
The last few months have been filled with discoveries. Every time we open a box or sort letters still in their envelopes—most likely not opened since they were first read more than 100 years ago (See Fraternity Archivist Lisa McLaughlin's blog about some of her finds.)—I again realize the breadth and depth of this collection. Artifacts that have never been seen outside Bettie's family urge me toward research to find out more about them and how they represent the lives of American women over the last 150 years. (Wait until you see the personalized hanky of Eulalia Hamilton Hartley from 1901!)
So, to share just a few of the treasures related to the Bettie Locke family collection, I, with assistance from fellow staff members, have created a special exhibit at headquarters. Our goal is to provide a glimpse into the lives of Bettie, Edna, Eulalia, Genevieve, and Carole so that you too, can get to know these wonderful leading women. I am thrilled to share with you their lives as collegians, wives and mothers, and active community members ... all with the thread of Theta running throughout.
I encourage you to visit the exhibit in person if you can; please contact me to schedule a tour. If you can't come in person, follow along on social media throughout the run of the exhibit. Believe me: you won't believe what we have at headquarters!
December - the season of giving! Each year, Theta is pleased to honor our 50- and 75-year members with the gift of anniversary pins. We also recognize our 25-year members with a letter or email. This year, we will recognize 3,700 25-year members, 1,650 50-year members, and about 250 75-year members!
The Fraternity officially starting recognizing 50-year members in 1954 with a Golden Link certificate. These certificates were hand-made on shiny gold foil paper and sent to anniversary members. We only have a few of these in the archive ... and one is Bettie Locke Hamilton's daughter's certificate! Sometime later, Theta began sending black and gold pansy stick pins to 50-year members, and then the pins we send today.
In 1963, the decision was made to add 75-year members to the recognition list, and Grand Council selected a pansy pin with a gold coat-of-arms in the center.
Many members look forward to receiving these gifts, while others are surprised to see one in their mailbox!
From the archive, a letter from 1987 states: "Dear Theta Sisters, I was amazed, surprised, delighted, and horrified to receive my 50-year Theta pansy pin. Delighted you remembered me, amazed it was 50 years! Horrified the years have passed so swiftly by and surprised I feel and am the same Theta who was so happily pledged at Cal in '37. I shall wear it with pride and great gratitude for the fun, friendships, and high standards Theta has always meant." Polly Peters Hutchins Omega/UC Berkeley 1938.
Congratulations to all our members celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2017! We hope these pins and letters invoke many wonderful Theta memories and inspire you to create many more.
Most of us recognize 1 Corinthians 13 as the "love chapter," often read at weddings, funerals and other life events. It also has a place in Theta ritual. I'm sometimes asked why we haven't changed it to adapt to the more diverse membership of the present. After all, many Thetas today do not subscribe to the New Testament. My response is that even though our membership is beautifully diverse, this particular piece of literature is universal. To understand why this passage is part of (and remains in) our services, one must first contextualize its place in our history and understand its meaning beyond the literary home.
Our founders were Christians; Bettie Locke's father was a Methodist minister. So, it's safe to say she was familiar with the content of the New Testament. But, she was not founding a religious order. So, why would she put a passage from the Bible in our ritual?
She was founding a values-based organization and was looking for a way to express those values. Bettie was a student in post Civil War America, when books were expensive and treasured. Given her family background and her lack of other resources, the Bible was probably her first stop. And, when she found 1 Corinthians 13, she did not need to look further.
Why 1 Corinthians 13? Most biblical scholars agree that this passage does not refer to a romantic love nor, despite its context in a collection of religious writings, does it have anything to do with any prophet or religious belief. Instead it was probably chosen because the love represented in the passage refers to:
- A regard, respect, and caring concern for another person that does not depend on the worthiness or "lovableness" of that person
- An act of the will which places the welfare of others above the interests of oneself
(Short Bible Studies, purifiedbyfaith.com)
Bettie and her friends had a need for support during what was probably the most difficult time of their young lives. They turned to each other and took vows that are the same as what we say today. Did they know that nearly 150 years later, these sentiments would still mean so much to so many? Our values have stood the test of time, and continue to remain relevant.
There have been millions of pieces of literature written about love since 1870. We haven't changed our ritual because to do so would be to lose that connection we have to that snowy day in Greencastle. To think we could do better than the women who experienced the beginnings of this organization would be disrespectful to the valor and devotion of our Founders.
Who were these women? Of course they were Thetas; in fact, they were the first Thetas. They were our founders, the original Kappa Alpha Theta leading women.
This Founders Day, for the 145th time, we pause to commemorate and honor the perseverance, independence, and faith of Bettie, Alice, Hannah, and Bettie. Their vision has stood the test of time, and although much has changed since 1870, the values upon which Theta was founded as the first Greek-letter fraternity for women have not. They remain as relevant today as they were 50, 100, and—yes—nearly 150 years ago.
How many organizations for women have not only survived but thrived for nearly one and a half centuries? Not many! I believe Theta continues to flourish because each of us—like our founders—continually strives to personify our ideals and manifest our ritual in unique and powerful ways. Our ideals and ritual are not simply words we say; they are commitments we have made.
On Founders Day, we celebrate not only our history, but also our potential. In Kappa Alpha Theta, our founders created a singular opportunity to learn, serve, and grow in a supportive environment. They created a sisterhood in which we give kind and thoughtful care to one another. And they created a platform upon which we can build and expand to meet new challenges, while staying true to our purpose. Please join me in taking some time this Founders Day to reflect upon what a treasure our Fraternity is and to renew your pledge to its advancement and welfare.
One of the purest affirmations of our commitment to one another is the Friendship Fund. Established to provide gifts to Thetas experiencing extreme financial hardship, the love and support it demonstrates are proof that Theta is larger than ourselves and that what we give to one another comes full circle. One recipient wrote, "I really cannot put into words my appreciation for the recent gift I received from the Friendship Fund. When I opened your letter, it immediately brought tears to my eyes. I will be forever grateful and hope to someday be on the other end and give back to a sister in need of my help. I am very proud and privileged to be a Theta."
This Founders Day, we can all feel proud of our determined, confident, passionate, and caring founders, just as we can feel privileged to be part of the sisterhood they began, a sisterhood that helps shape us as leading women.
Download this message to use for your chapter's Founders Day celebration.
If you think back to 1870, Bettie Locke didn't establish Kappa Alpha Theta for herself; she created Theta to benefit all women in pursuit of intellectual curiosity, leadership, community involvement, and personal excellence. That is what the Day of Service is about—serving in however big or small a capacity to benefit the larger community. How amazing it is to know that your actions, combined with those of thousands of other Thetas, can make a lasting imprint on the world every Oct. 19.
When you're planning how you will spend the Day of Service, think about the intention behind the Day of Service. In developing your plans, remember the difference between service and philanthropy:
Through service, we provide help or aid to others. For example, you can clean up litter in the park, visit senior citizens in a retirement home, read to a child, or walk dogs at the local animal shelter.
Philanthropy is when we donate funds or goods to organizations or people in need. Donating to food drives, raising money for CASA or Theta Foundation, or collecting prom dresses would be great examples of philanthropy. We love 5Ks just as much as the next group of energized women ready to put on those running (or walking!) shoes, but 5Ks are an example of philanthropy, not service!
Follow @BettieLocke on Twitter to help your chapter, friends, and others prepare for Day of Service! Two weeks before you serve, Bettie will be tweeting different ideas for service projects. During the Day of Service, tweet Bettie pictures of the impact you are making in your community. Check out the Theta website for additional resources that can be utilized before, during, and after the Day of Service.
Because we're focused on impact, this year's Day of Service Photo Contest will be a bit different. This year, send us a one-paragraph description of what you did on Oct. 19 and how you made a difference. Submit accompanying photos (no more than five) to email@example.com, and Facebook visitors will have the chance to vote for a photo that best exemplifies the spirit of impact behind the Day of Service!
This year, 70 college and alumnae chapters let us know what they did to celebrate Day of Service. From cleaning up campuses, writing letters to the troops, cooking meals for the homeless, working with children at child care facilities, and much more, Thetas made a tremendous impact on our special day.
Each year, we ask college and alumnae chapters to submit photos and videos of their Day of Service projects. We then post the submissions on our Facebook page and YouTube channel and open the submissions up to the membership (and their friends, families, Panhellenic and campus communities, and beyond) for a vote. The top five vote recipients in each category are then judged by Fraternity staff, and a winner is selected in each category.
Congratulations to this year's winners: (photo) Delta Upsilon/Eastern Kentucky, which cleaned two local parks near the Eastern Kentucky campus, and (video) Epsilon Pi/Bucknell, which supported LitWorld's global literacy campaign, Stand Up for Girls.
Thanks so much for spreading the widest influence for good on Oct. 19 and beyond!
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