Sorority Women: A History of Feminist Sisterhood

Sorority Women: A History of Feminist Sisterhood

In 1874, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received the first patent for blue jeans with copper rivets. Robert Frost, Winston Churchill, Harry Houdini, and Gertrude Stein were babies. And the power of the sorority woman was yet to be known.

When five young women came together on this day in 1874, I doubt they envisioned me, a woman of similar age, interests, and goals, typing away on my MacBook Pro about the impact of their legacy. Those five women – Mary Caffrey Low Carver, Louise Helen Coburn, Francis Elliott Mann Hall, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, and Ida Mabel Fuller Pierce – created Sigma Kappa Sorority not out of a desire to set themselves apart from their peers, but out of a deeper need to support one another. It’s almost impossible to understand what life must have been like for those women. They weren’t just five women enrolled at Colby College – they were the only women. Period. They were looked down upon by their male counterparts and excluded from some of the most basic privileges college students enjoy today. They faced many obstacles as students and as women and decided that they needed to stick together. At our Founders’ Day celebration on Sunday, our keynote speaker and National Vice President for Collegiate Chapters (who is also an Alpha Theta alumna, Go Cards!), Malana Salyer reminded all of us of that very fact. Sigma Kappa wasn’t created out of want. It was created out of necessity.

sorority women: a history of feminist sisterhood

I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about sororities and the women who comprise their membership. Most of us do not join because we want a group of people with whom we can go out on the weekends or take cute pictures. Those things can happen without being in a sorority, and trust me it would certainly be a lot cheaper. We join because we have a deeper need – one that could only be satisfied by the commitment we make every day to our founders, our philanthropies, our values, and to one another. As cliche as it might sound, being a sorority woman means being a part of a organization that is so, so much bigger than yourself.

sorority women: a history of feminist sisterhood

While I am tremendously grateful for the people Sigma Kappa has brought into my life and the friendships that will last well beyond my four years in college, I think I am even more grateful for how much Sigma Kappa has transformed me. I mentioned this in my last post about our Ultraviolet Gala, but I would not be even close to the same person I am today if I hadn’t joined a sorority. My sorority sisters have shown me that failing a class doesn’t mean you’re stupid and that not getting something you really wanted doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. They’ve shown me that getting dressed up and having a good time is just as important as working hard and getting shit done. That the wild and crazy moments are just as meaningful as the quiet, sentimental ones. That you can have lipstick on fleek and still kick ass at something about which you’re passionate. That one, two, or three (or seven) bad decisions don’t define who you are. That how you look is not nearly as important as how you treat people. That it’s okay to cry and not smile when you’re not happy. That loving ourselves and each other in spite of our flaws and differences is what true friendship is all about.

sorority women: a history of feminist sisterhood

What better place for women to come together in support of one another than a social organization exclusively for women? I think that is what has attracted so many political leaders, social activists, educators, business professionals, doctors, and other powerful influencers to the sorority community for almost 200 years. Behind a chapter’s doors are memories to be made, lessons to be learned, connections to be established, opportunities to be seized, and friendships to be gained. In a time when we are on the cusp of gender equality on so many different fronts, I have a feeling sororities will be the biggest producers of women who get us there. When women come together with common values, interests, and goals, that is when we begin to feel empowered. We recognize each others strengths. We shed light on attributes we might not have realized otherwise. And we support one another as we each pursue our own dreams. Just like those five women did in 1874. (Only with pantsuits and iPhones instead of petticoats and telegrams.)

Are you in a sorority? If so, which one? What was your founding like? Were your founders facing similar obstacles? Leave a comment and let me know!

Share:

Leave a Reply