Born in New Albany, Ind., on October 19, 1850, Bettie spent her early years moving around the Midwest. Her father, Dr. John Locke, was president of Brookville College in Brookville, Ind., at the time of her birth. He later became president of Baker University in Baldwin, Kan., and then returned to Greencastle, Ind., and Indiana Asbury College (later to be called DePauw University) to assume a mathematics professorship. Bettie's grandmother was also an educator, establishing one of the first girls’ schools in the Terre Haute, Ind., area in the 1830s.
Indiana Asbury admitted female students for the first time in the fall of 1867, and Bettie was among the first five women to enter the college. Their presence was not without some controversy. The local paper wrote editorials questioning the advisability of women in higher education, and a contingent of male students protested their admittance. A member of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity asked Bettie to wear his badge, not as a mark of engagement but to show her support of the group. (Her brother was a Phi Gamma Delta.) She said that only if she could be a fully initiated member would she wear it. The Phi Gams declined, and upon the suggestion of her father, she created a fraternity of her own.
Bettie graduated from Indiana Asbury in 1871, and considered studying medicine. Instead, she became a teacher at the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, now known as the Lincoln Developmental Center. In 1876, she married Edward A. Hamilton, a graduate of Lawrence University, and lived in Jerseyville, Ill., where he was in business. They moved to Greencastle in the 1890s in time for their daughters, Edna and Eulalia (later members of Alpha/DePauw), to attend the university. When Edna was initiated, Bettie also went through initiation, as she had initiated herself at the founding of the fraternity.
Bettie became a fixture in Greencastle and on the DePauw campus, visiting Alpha Chapter on a regular basis. She attended the 1899, 1907, 1924, and 1932 Grand Conventions. Prior to the 1932 Convention, held in Estes Park, Colo., she spent a week at the Beta Iota/Colorado chapter house. Another trip took her to the east coast, where she had been invited to a Founders Day celebration; the weekend trip extended to three weeks, and she visited chapters in New York and saw the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
When she died on September 21, 1939, she was DePauw’s oldest living graduate. She is buried in Greencastle.
A Look Through Bettie Locke's Life
Elizabeth “Bettie” McReynolds Locke is born in New Albany, Indiana. She is pictured at age 3.
Bettie lives with her family in Brookville, Indiana, where her father is the president of Brookville College. Pictured are Bettie and her brother.
Bettie, along with four other women, enters Indiana Asbury University. These women are the first to be admitted to Indiana Asbury.
Indiana Asbury requires upperclassmen to make a public recitation at the end of each term. Bettie presents her paper, “The Fate of the Girondists.” (A political group during the French Revolution.)
Bettie, Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton, and Hannah Fitch, found Kappa Alpha Theta.
Bettie, Alice, Bettie, and Hannah wear their badges for the first time to chapel.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leader of the U.S. women’s suffrage movement, lectures in Greencastle, sponsored by the Young Ladies Literary Society, of which Bettie is a member.
Bettie graduates from Indiana Asbury.
Bettie teaches at the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Deaf in Jacksonville, Illinois from 1871-1875.
Bettie marries Edward A. Hamilton in Jerseyville, Illinois. He owns a specialty grocery store.
Bettie’s daughter, Edna, is born. Edna is later initiated at the Alpha Chapter at DePauw.
Bettie’s daughter, Eulalia, is born. Eulalia, too, is later initiated at the Alpha Chapter at DePauw.
Edward buys a grocery store in Independence, Kansas, and moves the family to their new home.
Bettie becomes fully involved in the community, participating in the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, serving as secretary for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and being active in other local organizations.
Bettie and her husband host a Thanksgiving dinner to all outsiders who “… so cheerily complied to the committee’s invitation in the last two entertainments of the M.E. Church.”
Bettie and her family move to Greencastle, Indiana, where Edward buys a specialty grocery store on the southwest corner of the courthouse square.
Bettie attends Grand Convention in Chicago, Illinois, held in concurrence with the Chicago World’s Fair, as a delegate of the Greencastle Alumnae Chapter. Ninety-seven Thetas—representing 21 chapters—are in attendance.
Bettie entertains the Alpha Chapter members at her home.
Bettie, along with Hannah Fitch Shaw, attends Grand Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Twenty-five chapters are represented.
Bettie, along with her daughters, attends Grand Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
The U.S. Census lists Bettie and her family living in Greencastle, Indiana.
A newspaper story reports on the surprise birthday party that the Alpha Chapter held for Bettie at her home.
Bettie, along with Hannah Fitch Shaw, attends the 50th Anniversary Founders Day luncheon at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis. The Fraternity presents Bettie and Hannah with special pins for the occasion.
The Bettie Locke Hamilton Fellowship is awarded to Elizabeth Brownell Collier, Lambda/Vermont. Collier from Vermont to Vassar where she received her B.A.; she earned her MA from Columbia, and studied at Oxford. During World War I, she drove ambulances in Italy and worked in war camp community service. After the war, she organized the Brooklyn, New York Women’s League of Voters and taught at Hunter’s College. Her fellowship will fund her further research into the League of Nations (now the United Nations).
Bettie attends the Grand Convention in West Baden, Indiana. Almost 500 Thetas attend, representing 55 chapters.
Bettie, sponsored by several alumnae chapters, visits Philadelphia for Founders Day. She also visits New York City, Atlantic City, and Alpha Beta at Swarthmore.
Bettie attends Grand Convention in Estes Park, Colorado. After Convention, she stays at the Beta Gamma/Colorado Chapter to recuperate and meets Thetas living in the house for the summer.
Bettie is recognized as the oldest living alumna of DePauw University.
Bettie attends initiation ceremonies at the Alpha Chapter house which include her granddaughter, Genevieve Hartley.
Bettie Locke Hamilton passes away in Greencastle, Indiana.
Bettie’s portrait, which now hangs at Theta headquarters in Indianapolis, is unveiled at the Grand Convention on Mackinac Island, Michigan with her daughters Enda and Eulalia in attendance. Virginia Cuthbert, Chi/Syracuse, a regionally known artist, paints Bettie’s portrait from photographs and her daughter’s input. It is hung at Alpha Chapter at DePauw.
The first Bettie Locke Founders Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Rene Anderson, Gamma Nu/North Dakota State.
Theta celebrates the Year of Leadership, recognizing Bettie’s leadership in founding Kappa Alpha Theta.
A message from Bettie Locke Hamilton’s great-granddaughter:
“I think Thetas should keep in mind what these women had to do and what they had to go through to do it.”