Hannah Fitch was born in Lawrenceburg, Ind., on October 6, 1851. Several male members of her family had attended Indiana Asbury College (later called DePauw University), and she grew up hearing stories about the college. Her parents felt strongly about the importance of education for young women. She began her college days in January 1869; while ranking first in her class, she was disappointed in her experience and did not return in the fall. One of her new friends, Bettie Locke, wrote her, urging her to return, which she did.
With Bettie Locke and Alice Allen graduating in 1871, and Bettie Tipton transferring to another school, Hannah was the last remaining founder on the campus, and it became her responsibility to continue Kappa Alpha Theta. Not only did she help grow the fraternity, but she was also active on campus, including being on the editorial staff for of the college paper, Asbury Review, the first woman to hold such a position.
Hannah met her future husband, Archibald Shaw, at DePauw, and married him after she graduated in 1873. They had eight children, including a daughter, Ella, who also attended DePauw and was a member of Alpha Chapter. During her lifetime, she obtained a U.S. Patent for an improved dustpan.
Hannah attended four conventions, including the first one in 1872 and then in 1899, 1907, and 1919. She traveled a good amount, and in one particular trip to the west coast, she visited Theta chapters along the way. She attended the installation of Alpha Tau Chapter at the University of Cincinnati in 1913. She continued to hold strong views about the importance of higher education for women.
Hannah died in 1924, and is buried in Lawrenceburg, Ind.
A Look into Hannah Fitch Shaw's Life
Hannah Virginia Fitch Born
Born in Lawrenceburg, Ind., "Jennie" was the daughter of Dewitt C. Fitch and Leah Tebow Hayes.
Listed as living with her parents in Lawrenceburg, Ind. Her family were early residents of the area and had numerous businesses.
Enrolled in Indiana Asbury College
Hannah was a boarder at the Allen house. These Allens were not related to founder Alice O. Allen but had family who become Thetas.
Left Indiana Asbury
Hannah was not happy and felt lonely on campus, so she did not return for the Fall 1869 semester. Bettie Locke wrote to her, encouraging her to come back because she had a idea.
Returned to Greencastle, Ind.
Listed as a boarder.
Kappa Alpha Theta Founded
On January 27, 1870, Bettie Locke, Alice Allen, and Bettie Tipton joined Hannah in her boarding room to establish Kappa Alpha Theta.
Wore Theta Badge for First Time
Nearly a century later, her badge was given to the Fraternity in the lead-up to the Centennial Celebration in 1970.
Gave Speech: "Choosing an Occupation"
Indianapolis Journal (March 29, 1871) quoted Hannah as saying: "Every one should have something to do. Having nothing to do is not contentment. We must improve our natural abilities, and work always with zeal; otherwise we can expect but moderate results."
Newspaper Review of Her Presentation at the Junior Exhibition of the Class of 1873
"The first speaker was Miss Jennie Fitch; subject 'Music Analogous to Literature.' Miss Fitch's voice is not very well adapted to public speaking, it being rather weak. She had her manuscript in her hand, but did not refer to it all. She held the attention of the audience unbroken to the last."
Attended the First Grand Convention of Kappa Alpha Theta
Held in Bloomington, Ind., on November 15, there were twelve attendees representing two chapters. Hannah and Mary Stevenson Buchtel were the Alpha Chapter delegates. Mary wrote, "We had a grand time socially, I remember I was entertained at the home of the Misses Hughes, where we were in a continuous reception while in the house. We gave one morning to business. The evening was given to a party, much like any other party of fine young folk. The weather was cold and we got home late. I shall not forget the warm iron the motherly Mrs. Hughes had placed in the foot of my bed."
Presentation at the Philomathean Literary Society on "Individual Culture"
Literary groups were a major activity on the Indiana Asbury campus.
Married Archibald Shaw
Archibald Shaw was a fellow student at Indiana Asbury, and it was said that he was the among the first to acknowledge her wearing her Theta badge.
The Shaws lived in Lawrenceburg, Ind., their entire lives.
Received U.S. Patent for "Improved Dishpan"
Attended Alpha Chapter Reunion
Kappa Alpha Theta Grand Convention
Bettie Locke Hamilton also attended the Convention. Together, they gave a short speech at the closing session. Hannah stayed with her brother, Walther H. Fitch, who lived in Indianapolis.
Kappa Alpha Theta Grand Convention
Hannah attended the 19th Grand Convention was held in Chicago.
Attended Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter Founders Day
Traveled to the U.S. West Coast
While visiting various locations, she stopped at chapter facilities and met with alumnae.
Attended the installation of Alpha Tau/Cincinnati
Kappa Alpha Theta Convention
Attended the Jubilee Grand Convention in St. Louis to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fraternity.
Attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration
A special luncheon was held in January 1920 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kappa Alpha Theta. Hannah and Bettie Locke were the special guests.
Celebrated 50th wedding anniversary
Died at age 73
After a long illness, Hannah passed away. This photo accompanied an obituary in the Theta magazine.
Hannah Fitch Shaw Fellowship Awarded to Mary Tom Osborne, Beta Beta/Randolph-Macon
Osborne helped organize the first San Antonio alumnae club. An English professor, she was able to spend 1937-1938 teaching at Oxford University and in Europe because of the fellowship. She earned her PhD in 1940 from the University of Texas.
Hannah Fitch Shaw Founders Memorial Scholarship First Awarded
Rebecca Laws, Beta Lambda/William & Mary, was the first recipient.
Year of Sisterhood
2018 was celebrated as the Year of Sisterhood in honor of Hannah Fitch Shaw.
A message from Hannah Fitch Shaw's great-niece:
“Hannah was a deep-thinking individual. I think she would be interested that women have changed their role in society to the extent they have.”
Ann Wells Bowers