Excerpt from January 2006 Historically Speaking, by Kay Smith Larson, Washington, History Chairman 2002-2006
Did you know that the insignia most commonly referred to as the “crest” of Kappa Kappa Gamma is actually the Fraternity Coat-of-Arms?
(Coat-of-Arms at Fraternity Headquarters)
The “crest” is only one part of a coat-of-arms and always appears above the helmet. According to Webster’s, a coat-of-arms is “a shield with heraldic emblems as the insignia of some group” and a crest is “a heraldic device placed on seals, silverware, etc.” Let’s look back at the development of Kappa’s Coat-of-Arms.
It was 101 years ago when the Fraternity first discussed a coat-of-arms. At the 1905 Council meeting, the Grand Treasurer was asked to confer with the chapters about designs. A Standing Committee was appointed. They collected designs from the chapters and brought them to the 1906 and 1908 Conventions. It was not until the 1909 Council meeting that an appointed committee achieved the desired result. Chairman Margaret Brown Moore, Wooster, made it her personal responsibility to understand the rules which govern heraldry, with the help of Joanna Strange, DePauw, head of the reference department of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh and the designer of the Sigma Nu coat-of-arms.
In 1910, the Convention delegates realized that Margaret must have expert help if the Fraternity was to have a piece of work which was technically correct. She worked with Marc J. Rowe of Philadelphia, the authority on heraldry in America. He rendered her ideas in a watercolor sketch. The sketch, which was adopted by vote of the chapters in 1912 as the official Coat-of-Arms of Kappa Kappa Gamma, is the result of the work of both Margaret Moore and Marc J. Rowe.
At the 1912 Convention in Evanston, the delegates voted to have the shape of the key conform to the one-inch measurements and its corresponding proportions, rather than have the symbolic key that was on the original print. Although it does not conform strictly to the requirements of heraldry, it was voted at the Convention to allow the six Greek letters to appear on the badge in the coat-of-arms.
The description of the coat-of-arms as it appears in the present Fraternity Bylaws is the same as the original technical description, but expressed in terms which translate the other words.
- The shield shall be azure*, bearing in the honor point the golden key of the Fraternity, in the middle base a golden owl, these two charges being separated by a chevron of silver on which lie three fleur-de-lis of azure.
- The crest shall be a wreath of azure and silver resting on the helmeted head of Minerva, thereon a Sigma in Delta in azure hues.
- The motto shall be the Greek letters KKΓ (Kappa Kappa Gamma) in silver resting on a ribbon of azure.
- The mantling shall be silver and azure. (Article XXII, B, 1-4)
(click to enlarge the diagram)
The next time you look at the Fraternity Coat-of-Arms, study the various parts and you’ll understand the significance of what was used: the general outline of the mantling and ribbon is supposed to suggest the conventional fleur-de-lis; the key is in the honor point; the chevron is protection, accomplished by work of faithful service; fleur-de-lis is purity and light; owl is vigilant and of acute wit; key is guardianship and dominion; blue is truth and loyalty; silver is peace and sincerity; gold is generosity and elevation of mind.
Margaret urged the Fraternity to protect the design so that “the technically perfect coat-of-arms will not be lost to us.” She expressed a wish that there should be perfect dies for stamping in gold and silver as well as plates for printing on documents and reports. Cleora Wheeler, Minnesota, prepared such plates and dies. The College of Arms in England was consulted before Cleora cut her die in filigree and it was made after the others that were modeled in the regulation way. When these were done, Margaret Moore declared that perfect reproductions had been made.
* Azure is the term used in heraldry for blue.