A Journey of 145 Years: Happy Founders Day!

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Duvall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

Just this past November, Kappa Alpha Theta established its 137th active chapter, Theta Kappa, at the University of Louisville. Living in the area, I looked at a route option offered by one of the map websites that puts the driving distance between Greencastle, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. at 145 miles. It also happens to be 145 years between these two locations in Theta’s history. The drive encompasses some interesting scenery, a few hills and valleys, and several twists and turns, but in all, a sense of accomplishment upon arrival at the newest stop along the road of Theta’s history.

Indiana Asbury College, now called DePauw University, was a small Midwestern college in 1870. The student population was about 400, of which only half were enrolled in college classes (22 graduated in 1870), and the women, who had just been first admitted in 1867, graduated in 1871 (just four: Bettie Locke, Alice Allen, Mary Simmons, and Laura Beswick). With the founding of Theta on January 27, 1870, by Bettie Locke, Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton, and Hannah Fitch, Indiana Asbury was the home of the first Greek-letter fraternity for college women. As our newest chapter with 91 initiates, Theta Kappa is the most recent of the women’s Greek groups on the Louisville campus. The University of Louisville boasts nearly 16,000 undergraduate students, 51% of whom are women.

Today, that mapping site told me it would take only 2 hours and 43 minutes to drive between Greencastle and Louisville. Back in 1870, it would have taken just a bit longer, at least a full day, if not two, most likely by railroad. However, even more than the differences of travel between 1870 and 2014 would have been the environment on college campuses. In 1870, less than 1% of women attended college; as of 2012, 71% of female high school graduates were enrolled in college immediately after high school. There were no female faculty at Indiana Asbury; at the University of Louisville, 51% of the faculty is women.

Like the journey by car, Theta and its members have experienced the interesting scenery of time, participating in and contributing to events along the way. As a Fraternity, there have been many peaks but a few valleys along the way, and even a few twists and turns. As each challenge presented itself as the Fraternity grew from a small network of Midwestern schools to a national and then international network of collegians and college-educated women throughout the United States and Canada, Theta responded with the spirit of those first four women.

Bettie Locke once wrote, “I take this opportunity to thank each and all of you for what you have done to make K. A. Θ. what it is today for without the efforts of all girls who followed us, our struggles in trying to found a fraternity for women would have been in vain.” On this, the 145th anniversary of the founding of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, we thank you Bettie, Alice, Bettie, and Hannah for this great journey, and we can’t wait to see what will be around the next corner.