Service to the Fraternity: The Kappa Alpha Theta Service Bureau, 1913-1924

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Duvall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

Kappa Alpha Theta has always been proud of the volunteers who serve the Fraternity in a multitude of ways. Over a hundred years ago, the Fraternity sought to provide an organized way for alumnae to serve Theta beyond clubs and chapters. According to Sixty Years in Kappa Alpha Theta, “many alumnae, particularly those distant from college chapters, would like to do some definite fraternity work that was not money raising.”

Authorized by the 1913 Grand Convention, the Kappa Alpha Theta Service Bureau, chaired by Clara Lynn Fitch, Kappa/Kansas, and with a representative from each alumnae chapter and others who wished to join, established committees on a variety of topics to research, advise, and assist fellow members. In a report to the 1917 Grand Convention, Fitch reported that the bureau was studying conditions of college and fraternity life to “work wisely with American educators in the changing condition of feminine education.” The foreign lands committee reconnected with alumnae abroad. The publicity committee worked to respond to the anti-fraternity sentiment. The vocational committee helped provide information on career opportunities and established a group of Theta alumnae representing specific career fields to act as advisors. A housing committee had representatives in 16 large cites to help newly arrived Thetas connect with fellow Thetas and help find suitable housing.

The advent of World War I influenced the areas of interest of the Service Bureau. They included advice for undergraduates on the best courses to take up with war duties. The Bureau created new committees focused on recruitment, scholarship, retention in college, and writing a history of Kappa Alpha Theta. An information bureau was also established. The vocational committee found that members had begun to contact the committee solely for positions, so the bureau took up the issue of a Theta employment service. Rather than duplicate other organizations’ work, they cooperated with the Association of College Alumnae (later known as the American Association of University Women, or AAUW). Thetas worked with ACA vocational committees in 26 American cities, and Theta established its own in six locations where ACA vocational committees did not exist. The Bureau committee on chapter housing and financing of chapter housing shared their findings at Grand Convention and within the pages of the Magazine.

A position of alumnae secretary to oversee alumnae had been established in 1915, and by 1924, it was decided that the work of the Bureau was best suited to be under the alumnae secretary’s umbrella and so the Bureau itself was phased out.

Today, as in the past, Theta volunteers provide countless hours of service to the Fraternity at all levels from chapter to national work. We thank those who have contributed in the past and continue to support Theta through their volunteer service to the Fraternity!