Finding the 'Widest Influence for Good' in the Archive

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Duvall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

In Theta’s archive, among the official records of the Fraternity and Theta Foundation are the archives of local alumnae groups. The official alumnae group records typically consist of the chapter’s petition, its annual reports, and sometimes newsletters and directories, but not in all cases. These documents give us the basic overview of the group’s activities, but without the depth that often helps us to connect and learn a more complete story of their experiences.

In recent months, the archive has acquired materials from two long-standing alumnae chapters, Cleveland and Dallas. These two groups, established in 1903 and 1925 respectively, share many common stories, despite being separated by many miles.

Chapter officers sent newsletters and directories, but what really gives the depth and feel of the alumnae’s activities are the scrapbooks. Filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, and programs, the scrapbooks detail the social activities of the alumnae group, but more significantly, the activities to support their local communities.

One of Cleveland’s many scrapbooks contains information about the women who served as chapter president. Short biographical sketches accompany the wonderful images and include what each of them did in her community, reflecting the widest influence for good that our members, both past and present, did and continue to do.

Among the Dallas Alumnae Chapter scrapbooks are the many contributions to the Dallas area on both behalf of the chapter and its individual members. You can see the fashions are reflected in the images, but it is the years and years of community service that these clippings ultimately represent.

While I reflect on the Cleveland and Dallas alumnae chapters, the archive also holds similar materials for Boston, Indianapolis, and other groups. Each, in its own way, tells not only the individual stories of specific communities but also the larger story of Theta’s alumnae members across the U.S. and Canada. On a wall at Theta headquarters is a quote from Adelaide McDonald Sinclair, Sigma/Toronto, Fraternity President, 1938-1942: “The world should be a better place because Kappa Alpha Theta exists.” The collections in the archive documenting our alumnae chapters definitely show how we have accomplished this in the past and give us a rich heritage to draw upon in the present and for the future.