8 Oldest Sororities in America

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Around the early 1800s, a few colleges and universities began admitting women to study and earn degrees. As the number of women attending higher education grew, their desire to form groups similar to male fraternities grew. The earliest women’s college organizations were either literary societies or secret societies that emulated male fraternities. The first of these organizations were founded in the mid-1800s and they were initially called female/women’s fraternities. In fact, the term sorority was not coined until 1882. Due to this, several older sororities still use women’s fraternity in their official names. All of these sororities are still around today and have several thousand active members and alumae.

8. Gamma Phi Beta

Year Established: November 11, 1874
Founding College/University: Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Brown and Mode
Chapters:  187

Gamma Phi Beta photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Gamma Phi Beta was founded on November 11, 1874 at Syracuse University by Helen M. Dodge, Frances E. Haven, E. Adeline Curtis and Mary A. Bingham. It is notable for being the first women’s organization to be called a sorority in 1882. The term sorority was coined by the group’s advisor, Dr. Frank Smalley, a Latin professor at Syracuse University. Prior to this, early sororities were called female/women’s fraternities.

Gamma Phi Beta is a member of the Syracuse Triad, the name given to the three sororities (the other two are Alpha Phi and Alpha Gamma Delta) founded at Syracuse University. Today, Syracuse Triad ceremonies or events are held on campuses with chapters from all three sororities. Some of Gamma Phi Beta’s notable alumnae include Kristen Chenoweth, Cloris Leachman, Laurel Clark, and Lynn Morley Martin.


7. Delta Gamma

Year Established: December 25, 1873
Founding College/University: Lewis School for Girls (Oxford, Mississippi)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Bronze, Pink, and Blue
Chapters:  150

Delta Gamma photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Delta Gamma was founded on December 25, 1873 at the Lewis School for Girls in Oxford, Mississippi near the University of Mississippi. The sorority’s founding members – Mary Comfort Leonard, Eva Webb Dodd, and Anna Boyd Ellington – wanted to encourage the intellectual growth and a dedication to service for college women in order to be their best selves.

Delta Gamma’s early chapters were primarily located in colleges in the southern United States, but it eventually expanded to the northern and eastern parts of the country. It is one of the seven founding members of the National Panhellenic Conference, which is the governing body of sororities in America. As an early sorority, Delta Gamma achieved several firsts, including: being the first sorority to have its own in-house printing press; the first to establish an independent philanthropic foundation; and the first to build an international headquarters specifically for that purpose.


6. Alpha Phi

Year Established: September 18, 1872
Founding College/University: Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Bordeaux and Silver
Chapters:  170

Alpha Phi photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Alpha Phi was founded on September 18, 1872 at Syracuse University. At the time the sorority was founded, there were only twenty women attending the university. Ten of them joined together to start Alpha Phi as an organization that promoted growth in character, unity of feeling, sisterly affection, and social communion. Although Alpha Phi was founded on September 18th, the sorority celebrates its Founder’s Day on October 10th because the first Founder’s Day was celebrated on October 10, 1902. During this time period, most universities weren’t open for classes in mid-September.

In recent years, several chapters and members of Alpha Phi have come under fire for racial insensitivity as well as dangerous rituals. For example, the chapter at the University of Rhode Island had its charter revoked for five years in 2016 for endangering the health and safety of new members and violating the university’s alcohol policy. Also, in early 2018 the George Washington University Student Association Senate voted unanimously to expel the Alpha Phi from campus after racially insensitive Snapchat photos from its members went viral.


5. Kappa Kappa Gamma

Year Established: October 13, 1870
Founding College/University: Monmouth College (Monmouth, Illinois)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Dark Blue and Light Blue
Chapters:  140

Kappa Kappa Gamma photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The idea for Kappa Kappa Gamma emerged in 1869 when Mary Louise Bennett and Hannah Jeannette Boyd felt that it was unfair that men enjoyed membership in fraternities, but there were few equivalent organizations for women, beside literary societies. Bennett and Boyd began looking for “the choicest spirits among the girls, not only for literary work, but also for social development.” They recruited four more girls – Mary Moore Stewart, Anna Elizabeth Willits, Martha Louisa Stevenson, and Susan Burley Walker – and officially declared their intention to organize as a women’s fraternity on October 13, 1870. Today, October 13th marks the sorority’s Founder’s Day.

Kappa Kappa Gamma, along with Pi Beta Phi, are often called the Monmouth Duo because both sororities were founded at Monmouth College within a few years of one another. On campuses with Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma chapters, the groups often hold joint social and philanthropic events.


4. Kappa Alpha Theta

Year Established: January 27, 1870
Founding College/University: DePauw University (formerly Indiana Asbury in Greencastle, Indiana)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Black and Gold
Chapters:  212

Kappa Alpha Theta photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Kappa Alpha Theta was founded in 1870 at DePauw University (formerly Indiana Asbury). It was the first sorority founded with Greek letters. The sorority was created as a support group for women at the then mostly male college; the university had only started to admit women in 1867.

In 1887, Kappa Alpha Theta established the Sigma Chapter at The University of Toronto, which was the first women’s fraternity in Canada. In addition to being the first sorority to use Greek letters, Kappa Alpha Theta is associated with other firsts. The first women ever admitted to the Phi Beta Kappa Society – the oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the United States – were members of Kappa Alpha Theta. Additionally, an alumna of the sorority, Nancy Kassebaum, was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who had not succeeded her husband or first been appointed to fill an unexpired term.


3. Pi Beta Phi

Year Established: April 28, 1867
Founding College/University: Monmouth College (Monmouth, Illinois)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Wine and Silver Blue
Chapters:  208

Pi Beta Phi photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Pi Beta Phi was founded on April 28, 1867 at Monmouth College as a secret women’s organization called I.C. Sorosis. Like other early sororities, the founders of  I.C. Sorosis wanted to enjoy the benefits of a secret society similar to those formed by collegiate men. It is considered the first sorority to begin adding other chapters at different schools. The sorority’s second chapter was founded in 1868 at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

In 1888, I.C. Sorosis adopted its Greek letters and officially changed its name to Pi Beta Phi. The sorority is one of the founding members of the National Panhellenic Conference, which was formalized in 1902 as a way for women’s fraternities and sororities to come together. Pi Beta Phi was also the first sorority to form an Alumnae Advisory Committees (AAC) to support collegiate chapters.


2. Phi Mu

Year Established: January 4, 1852
Founding College/University: Wesleyan College (Macon, Georgia)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Rose and White
Chapters:  123

Phi Mu photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Phi Mu was founded on January 4, 1852 as a literary society called The Philomathean Society by Mary Ann Dupont, Mary Elizabeth Myrick, and Martha Bibb Hardaway. The name Philomathean comes from the Greek philomath, which means a lover of learning. It was the second sorority ever created and the second from Wesleyan College, which is known as the birthplace of the collegiate sorority.

The Philomathean Society adopted its Greek letters, Phi Mu, in 1904 when it joined the National Panhellenic Conference. In 1939, a small national sorority called Alpha Delta Theta merged with Phi Mu. Like all sororities, Phi Mu is dedicated to philanthropy and it is the only sorority corporate sponsor of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Phi Mu is committed to raising more than $500,000 for Children’s Miracle Network every year and has raised several millions of dollars for the charity over the years.


1. Alpha Delta Pi

Year Established: May 15, 1851
Founding College/University: Wesleyan College (Macon, Georgia)
Type of Sorority:  Social
Colors:  Azure and White
Chapters:  155

Alpha Delta Pi photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Alpha Delta Pi is the oldest sorority in the United States. It was initially founded in 1851 by Eugenia Tucker Fitzgerald as the Aldephian Society, a secret society focused on fellowship and scholarship for girls. It was the very first secret society for women and its driving principles were and still are based on leadership, scholarship, service to others, and sisterhood.

In 1904, members of the Aldephian society became a national organization and secured a charter of incorporation from the state of Georgia. A year later, the society changed its name to Alpha Delta Pi. Later in 1905, a second chapter of the sorority was established at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Over the next decade about a dozen more chapters opened at various universities around the country. Due to its size and notability several famous people are Alpha Delta Pi alumni, including Kathy Bates, Nancy Grace, Danica McKellar, Carol Shields, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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