Published April 25, 2017

Pi Beta Phi turns 150

Nation’s first women’s fraternity to celebrate its sesquicentennial April 28-29
  • Pi Beta Phi was founded by Monmouth College students 150 years ago at Holt House, just blocks from the college campus. In this photo from the fraternity’s 1967 centennial, two Pi Phis visiting from the national convention in Chicago pose in front of the historic landmark.
Monmouth College’s Alpha Chapter of Pi Beta Phi annually celebrates its April 28, 1867, founding with a variety of activities on campus, but this year’s celebration will take on added significance, as the nation’s first women’s fraternity observes its sesquicentennial.

Founded at Monmouth as I.C. Sorosis, Pi Beta Phi was the first national secret college society of women to be modeled after the men’s Greek-letter fraternity. The 12 founders had the vision to form the fraternity for women at a time when only five state universities admitted women.

“It’s amazing to think that 150 years ago, women in the U.S. did not have the right to vote, and yet our founders felt empowered enough to create an organization that was the first of its kind,” said Annie Axup ’18 of Rock Island, Ill., one of the members of the celebration committee. “The empowerment didn’t stop there. Over the years, Pi Phi has continued to empower its members and, through its philanthropy, children with the power of being able to read. That’s one of the many reasons why I love Pi Phi.”

A year ago on its Founders Day, the Alpha Chapter held two special celebrations: the formal dedication of a new $2 million chapter house, and a 75th anniversary celebration at Monmouth’s historic Holt House, where two of the founders roomed and planned the organization. The house was purchased in 1939 by the national organization and dedicated two years later.

Both the new Pi Beta House and Holt House will be available for tours during the sesquicentennial celebration. The new chapter house will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. April 28, while Holt House will be open at 1 p.m. April 29.

Inside the new chapter house, there are displays which chronicle the rich history of Pi Phi, which led the way as one of the first of seven founding members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). Pi Phi was also the first to organize a national philanthropic project, form an alumnae department and establish an Alumnae Advisory Committee (AAC) for each collegiate chapter.

A cemetery tour of the graves of five of the 12 founders will be held at 10 a.m. April 29 at Monmouth Cemetery, and tours of the Monmouth College campus will begin at 3 p.m. that day.

At 5 p.m. at the chapter house, a BBQ will be held on the outdoor patio. Reservations are required for that event and can be made online.
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