Elle Benak

Gamma deuteron, Ohio Wesleyan

The Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine's "Chapter Letters"

As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I often sit and theorize about the past and what it was like. During my time at Theta headquarters, I often find myself wondering what other women experienced during their time in Theta. Back in 1870, they didn’t have Instagram or Facebook to document these chapters’ activities or for Bettie to make status updates about her life.

As I was looking through the copies of The Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine in the archives, I came across a section of the publication dedicated to “Chapter Letters.” Each letter was written by a member of a chapter and submitted to the magazine as an update on what the chapter had experienced that past semester.

The letters addressed a wide range of topics, focusing on things like dances and events, as well as different activities the members were involved in.

While reading the letters, I was amazed how relatable they are to my own college experience with Theta.

In a letter from the Winter 1906 edition, a Lambda/Vermont member recounts bid night, which was full of eating a hearty dinner, singing songs, reading fortunes, and bonding with new sisters. I was able to connect with these girls by thinking about my own bid night: sitting around painting pictures with new sisters. I was also reminded of school spirit while reading the January 1946 issue when a member of the Upsilon/Minnesota chapter writes about homecoming weekend. The fraternity and sorority houses were in competition for the best decorated house, and this story made me think of the banner-painting competition that my own chapter takes part in during homecoming.

Not only were chapter letters a great way for chapters to stay updated on one another’s activities and connect with sisters, but they are also a wonderful source for historians because they give us a glimpse into the lives of young women in college in different time periods.

For example, in the November 1919 edition, a member from Alpha Sigma/Washington State mentions that the college had returned to “pre-war basis” after going through the First World War. In the May 1933 magazine, an Alpha Tau/Cincinnati writer mentions that chapter members thought it would be best to sell their Fraternity apartment in order to save money during the Great Depression. Throughout these letters, there are references to world events and how they had affected members’ time in college.

By looking through these letters, I have learned about some amazing sisters, made connections, and discovered how history impacted these girls in college. While these letters stopped around 1971, I am reminded of how important it is to remember that Theta is an international organization and how large our network of women really is.