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Humble Beginnings


You know the story: Kappa was founded in 1870 in Monmouth, Illinois, when for the first time, six women proudly wore little golden keys, the badges of their new fraternity for women. Since you know the rest, let’s get to the good stuff: Kappa’s historian has uncovered lesser-known details about the founding of our sisterhood.

Here are the details: Most of what we know about Kappa’s founding has come from the letters exchanged by the Founders. But, at times, their accounts differ. For example, the well-told story of the conversation between two Founders on a little wooden bridge? That story was actually told by then-Monmouth President Dr. Wallace.

One thing for certain is Kappa’s first social was held at Lou Stevenson’s house and hosted by her mother! That’s right. Lou’s mom invited special guests, dressed them up as ghosts, and surprised the Kappa Founders with a Halloween party. 

Speaking of get-togethers, because the charter was signed in Minnie Stewart’s parlor, Kappas consider her home to be the birthplace of our sisterhood.

Letters show that early meetings took place in a number of locations. The first meeting to discuss the creation of the women’s group occurred in a room within the A.B.L. Hall, named for the Amateur des Belles Lettres literary society of which the women were active members. 

And while there were already men’s fraternities on campus, it seems that Monmouth’s administration was not entirely ready for a women’s equivalent. Founder Louise Bennet said Dr. Wallace was not aware they were forming a women’s Greek-letter fraternity and wrote: “He would not have allowed us to proceed, probably, had he known.”

That’s right. Kappa’s Founders took matters into their own hands when they decided to form a Greek-letter organization to match what the men had. One Founder wrote: “We determined that nothing short of a Greek-letter fraternity (we did not even speak of it as a sorority in those days) would satisfy us.” You go, girl.