Alpha Chi Omega, founded at DePauw University in 1885, has grown to become one of America’s largest sororities or women’s fraternities.
As the history of sororities and women’s fraternities in the United States unfolded, DePauw University, then known at the time as Indiana Asbury College, emerged as one educational institution that would play a pivotal role in the development of these organizations.
In 1870, the now DePauw University witnessed the founding of Kappa Alpha Theta, the first organization for women to be known by Greek letters. Throughout the early years of this organization and of the college, the Greek community grew rapidly as more and more organizations decided to call the school home.
History of Alpha Chi Omega
In 1885, music professor James Hamilton Howe invited seven of his female students at the school to form a society for women. No specifics were provided about the structure or purpose of the society by Howe, so the women were left to their own devices to decide what kind of organization was going to come out of this proposal.
Instead of just forming a women’s society, the seven women formed Alpha Chi Omega, a women’s fraternity that would become the sixth of its kind in the United States and the tenth oldest secret organization for women in the country.
When the founding of Alpha Chi Omega was announced in the campus’s monthly newspaper, a reporter wrote that the organization had launched out with “brilliant prospects.”
In the first two years of the organization’s existence, its members developed a constitution and set of bylaws, wrote an initiation service and an opening service for meetings, and established a second chapter at Albion College in Michigan.
In 1895, the Alpha Chi Omega chapter at Albion College became the first chapter of the organization to move into its own house.
Thirteen years after the founding of Alpha Chi Omega, in 1898, a national convention was held and representatives determined that a convention of members should be held every two years.
In 1902, seven national sororities and women’s fraternities met to discuss matters relating to the issues that these organizations faced. Unfortunately, Alpha Chi Omega representatives were unable to attend the meeting and missed the opportunity to become a founding member of the National Panhellenic Conference. Alpha Chi Omega later joined the organization in 1903.
Throughout the twentieth century, Alpha Chi Omega became the first organization to publish a daily newspaper during its conventions and adopted various causes as philanthropic pursuits. In 1976, DePauw University named the campus bell tower in honor of Alpha Chi Omega.
Alpha Chi Omega Today
Today, Alpha Chi Omega is one of the largest sororities and women’s fraternities in the United States, boasting over 200,000 members. The organizations also has over 130 active collegiate chapters and over 200 alumnae organizations.
Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropic cause is support for domestic violence victims through the Jessie Bliss McGrew Freedom Fund. The Jessie Bliss McGrew Freedom Fund was established by the son of an Alpha Chi Omega alumna who was a victim of domestic violence and was adopted as the organization’s philanthropic cause in 1992.
Alpha Chi Omega can be recognized throughout the world of sororities and women’s fraternities through distinct insignia that has been adopted throughout the organization’s history and has significant meaning to the organization’s members.
- Colors: scarlet and olive green
- Symbol: Grecian lyre
- Philanthropy: support for domestic violence victims / Jessie Bliss McGrew Freedom Fund
- Flower: red carnation
- Motto: Together Let Us Seek the Heights
Alpha Chi Omega, founded by seven women at DePauw University in 1885, has grown to become one of America’s largest sororities and women’s fraternities. Through the organization’s continued development and support of its members, Alpha Chi Omega will continue to grow and evolve as the needs of college women change.