Alpha Sigma Tau, a sorority originally founded for women studying teacher education, was founded on November 4, 1899, at what is now Eastern Michigan University.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, more and more women were gaining admittance to colleges and universities across the United States. Teacher education was becoming a popular course of study, along with the humanities and music. However, regardless of a woman’s course of study, the fact that female students were taking advantage of higher education had still not been accepted as a societal norm.
At this time, the rise of educational or pedagogical sororities began due to the increased number of women studying teacher education. The first, Sigma Sigma Sigma, has evolved away from being strictly an organization for future educators. Subsequent organizations, such as Alpha Sigma Alpha and Delta Sigma Epsilon, also followed this trend in order to ensure the survival of their respective organizations.
History of Alpha Sigma Tau
Alpha Sigma Tau was founded at Michigan State Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University, on November 4, 1899. For the first ten years, the members of Alpha Sigma Tau took time to adopt a constitution, bylaws, ritual, and other essential aspects necessary to develop an organization of a national scope.
In 1905, a group of women from Central Michigan State Normal School, now known as Central Michigan University, joined Alpha Sigma Tau as the beta, or second, chapter of the organization. By 1926, Alpha Sigma Tau had become a national organization and had met the criteria for membership in the Association of Education Sororities.
The Association of Education Sororities (AES) was founded in 1916 due to Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority forming a panhellenic agreement. In 1917, the two organizations invited Pi Kappa Sigma and Delta Sigma Epsilon to join the agreement. Between 1925 and 1931, three additional similar women’s organizations would join the AES. Alpha Sigma Tau joined in 1926.
Competition between AES organizations and members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) was stiff. The AES and NPC often had member organizations coexisting on campuses across the country, and as the competition increased, women held membership in both an AES sorority and a NPC sorority or women’s fraternity. Finally, in 1926, representatives from the AES and NPC met to lay out guidlines as to how the two umbrella organizations would function in relation to one another when both were present on a college campus.
The activity of AES was short-lived. In 1947, while holding its regular convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the AES recieved news that its petition to be accepted into the NPC had been partially approved. The members of the AES had been accepted as associate members with reservations and would recieve full member status after complying with NPC requirements for membership.
In order to recieve full member NPC status, Alpha Sigma Tau and other former AES organization had to close chapters on campuses that were not accredited by an outside organization. This led to a loss of a large number of members and a diminished presence in certain parts of the United States. In addition, those who held membership in AES and NPC organizations had to relinquish one membership. This is because the National Panhellenic Conference prohibits holding membership in more than one sorority or women’s fraternity in a woman’s lifetime.
Alpha Sigma Tau was granted full membership in the NPC in 1951. Today, only four of the former AES organizations (Sigma Sigma Sigma, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Alpha Sigma Tau, and Delta Sigma Epsilon) are still in existence.
Alpha Sigma Tau Today
Alpha Sigma Tau celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1999. Collegiate and alumnae members from across the United States gathered to celebrate a century of accomplishments and fellowships.
Today, Alpha Sigma Tau boasts over 80 active collegiate chapters and many alumnae organizations across the United States.
Alpha Sigma Tau has two philanthropic projects that its members regularly support: the Pine Mountain Settlement School and Habitat for Humanity.
Alpha Sigma Tau, like all other fraternal organizations, can be identified through various insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: emerald green and gold
- Symbol: anchor
- Flower: yellow rose
- Philanthropies: Pine Mountain Settlement School and Habitat for Humanity
- Motto: Active, Self-reliant, Trustworthy
Founded on November 4, 1899, Alpha Sigma Tau continues to evolve as it begins its second century of existence. Unlike similar organizations that may have faded into the background, Alpha Sigma Tau continues to evolve to meet the needs of current college women today.