Connecting Pieces in the Archives: Founders Day in Philadelphia

Category: Heritage

Noraleen DuVall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

One of things that makes an archivist happy is finding connections between separate pieces in the collection, each item great on its own but telling a more complete story together. It is almost as if there is a visible line connecting disparate parts. I had that happen to me the other day.

In prepping for my latest session of “Live from the Theta Archives” on Snapchat (join us on Thursdays!), I decided to focus on how Theta has celebrated Founders Day in the past. I first reviewed several resources already on the heritage site, including this article from the Winter 1999-2000 issue of the Theta magazine. As I re-read the article, I realized that I had an artifact related to a photograph in the article of the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter from their January 29, 1930, Founders Day Celebration.

Among the wonderful artifacts received in the “Bettie Collection” last year was a Theta coat of arms plaque with a label on the reverse reading, “Presented to Bettie Locke Hamilton, our founder, at the Sixtieth Anniversary Banquet, by the Kappa Alpha Theta Alumnae Club of Philadelphia, January 29, 1930.” It’s the same group name and date listed on a photograph that we have had in the collection for years, probably decades. 


Taking a closer look at the whole photograph, there she was, Bettie Locke Hamilton, sitting at the head of the table!

I then pulled out the volume of the Theta magazine from 1930 and found a lovely write-up about the Philadelphia event. “Philadelphia Thetas enjoyed a unique and memorable Founders Day celebration…. The alumnae chapter invited Mrs. Hamilton, our sole living Founder, to be the honored guest and speaker at the annual banquet…. And she did! To those of us who were privileged to see and hear this active, sprightly, humorous, and quick-witted octogenarian, it seemed impossible to believe that she had reached her seventy-ninth birthday, as she confidentially and gleefully told us…. After the banquet, Mrs. Hamilton arose, and in her inimitable manner, described the courage of ‘the four, bold girls’ who had founded Theta, their trials and encouragements, and their final triumph when Kappa Alpha Theta became an established fact.”

Unfortunately, we were not there to experience first-hand Founders Day 1930 with the Philadelphia Thetas, but these three items—the photograph, the plaque, and the magazine article—now pulled together, help us be present in that past place and time. It gives me goosebumps.