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Nation's First Greek-Letter Sorority Founded in Greencastle

Nation's First Greek-Letter Sorority Founded in Greencastle

January 27, 1870

January 27, 1870, Greencastle, Ind. - Kappa Alpha Theta was founded at Indiana Asbury University (now known as DePauw University) on this date, thus becoming the nation's first Greek-letter fraternity for women (the word "sorority" had not yet been coined). Bettie Locke (seen at left) was one of the first women admitted to Indiana Asbury in 1867, and she believed that uniting with other female students in pursuit of similar goals would greatly enrich their college experience.

Locke was friends with several Phi Gamma Deltas, and when one of them asked her to wear his pin as a symbol of friendship with the fraternity, she said that she would not unless she could be initiated into the fraternity. Since that was not possible as she was female, she decided that she would start her own fraternity instead. She shared her idea with classmates Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton, and Hannah Fitch, and the four of them together wrote a constitution, planned ceremonies, designed a badge, and sought other women on campus worthy of membership. These four pioneering women initiated themselves on January 27, 1870, becoming the first Greek-letter fraternity known among women.

In his history of DePauw, William Warren Sweet writes, "March 14, 1870, the four young ladies who formed the first chapter marched into chapel wearing their new black and gold kites, the badge which they had agreed upon after much cutting of paper in the kitchen of the [Professor John Clark] Ridpath home."

Later that same year, Kappa Alpha Theta established its second chapter at Indiana University. In the more than 130 years since, Kappa Alpha Theta has grown to more than 120 chapters across the United States and Canada.