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An 1872 Theta Badge: A New Discovery for a Short-Lived Chapter

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

One of my favorite things about working with Theta’s archives is when I receive items from members or members’ families. Sometimes I just have packages show up on my desk without warning and sometimes I get news that something is headed my way.

Several weeks ago, I received a call from someone who wanted to pass along a relative’s badge who happened to be a Theta. She shared her relative’s name and that it was from a long time ago. When I looked up the individual, Jennie Harris Stewart, I discovered she was a member of Indiana Gamma/Moores Hill, initiated in 1872.

This past week, I received the badge, and it is lovely. It was most likely purchased in 1872 from John Newman, Theta’s jeweler at the time, and it is like the two founders’ badges that we have in the archives (Bettie Tipton Lindsay’s and Hannah Fitch Shaw’s).

1872 badge, front view.
1872 badge, back view.

Indiana Gamma Chapter was named as part of the original naming system when chapters’ names were based on the state and their order of founding. The chapter opened on April 26, 1871, and closed in 1876 in part due to anti-fraternity sentiment. The school itself opened in 1856 and was considered one of the earliest co-educational colleges in the U.S. It later moved to Evansville, IN, and became Evansville College, later the University of Evansville.

Over its brief history, Indiana Gamma Chapter initiated 18 members, several of whom were related. Jennie herself was a cousin to Abbie North and Grace North, two individuals who are in one of our earliest images of Thetas highlighting their lives as students. (Grace North passed away in 1877, and her mother made a mourning crazy quilt from her old dresses. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has the quilt in their collections and is considered a very early form of a crazy quilt.) Another member of Indiana Gamma Chapter, Alice Brewer Fitch, married Hannah Fitch’s brother, becoming her sister-in-law.

L-R: Abbie Humphrey and Grace North, both Indiana Gamma/Moores Hill.

Four members—Elizabeth Phillips Ludlow, Abbie Humphrey North, Kate Ward Young, and Martha Sparks—held a reunion at Grand Convention 1924 in West Baden, IN. Martha, writing in the November 1924 Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine, said, “We were unusually impressed by the remarkable growth of the organization in numbers and scope of work, charitable, educational, literary and social.”

Reunion held at Grand Convention 1924 in West Baden, IN.

For such a short-lived chapter, we are lucky to have images and artifacts such as this badge to document its role in Theta’s history.