Chi Omega, founded by four women and a dentist at the University of Arkansas in 1895, has become the largest sorority or women’s fraternity in America and the world.
In the late nineteenth century, America was rapidly expanding and industrializing. In addition, more and more women were beginning to attend colleges and universities across the country and were gaining access to higher education.
History of Chi Omega
Chi Omega Fraternity was founded by four women and a dentist at the University of Arkansas on April 5, 1895. Together, Jobelle Holcombe, Jean Vincenheller, Ina May Boles, Alice Simonds, and Dr. Charles Richardson crafted the organization’s constitution and ritual. Dr. Richardson also created Chi Omega’s badge out of a piece of dental gold.
By the end of the academic term, the Chi Omega founders had recruited ten more women to bring their numbers to fourteen. The following September, eleven of those members returned to the University of Arkansas.
In 1902, representatives from Chi Omega and Alpha Chi Omega were invited to a meeting of sororities and women’s fraternities to discuss issues regarding membership recruitment and the challenges that these organization’s faced. Unfortunately, Chi Omega and Alpha Chi Omega’s representatives were unable to attend the meeting and missed the opportunity to help create the National Panhellenic Conference. Chi Omega later joined the organization in 1903, becoming the one of the two organizations to join the conference after its founding.
By 1904, Chi Omega, which was founded on the idea that it would become a national organization, had expanded as far west as California and as far north as Washington, D.C. Soon after, the organization would establish chapters in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Maine.
In addition to becoming America’s largest sorority or women’s fraternity, Chi Omega was also the first such organization to undertake a major fundraising campaign for a college or university. The Greek Theatre at the University of Arkansas, the result of Chi Omega’s fundraising success, still stands today.
Chi Omega Today
Since 1895, Chi Omega has initiated over 290,000 women into the organization. Today, there are about 235,000 living Chi Omega members, 171 active collegiate chapters, and 240 alumnae organizations.
Chi Omega’s philanthropic cause is the Make A Wish Foundation. Make A Wish Foundation, founded in 1980 to grant wishes and dreams to children with life-threatening illnesses, partnered with Chi Omega in 2002 as Chi Omega’s official philanthropic project.
Chi Omega can be distinguished from other Greek letter organizations by various distinct insignia adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: cardinal and straw
- Mascot: owl
- Flower: white carnation
- Philanthropy: Make A Wish Foundation
Founded in 1895, Chi Omega was created with an intent to become a national organization dedicated to the personal and social growth of women. Today, as Chi Omega has entered its second century of existence, the organization has become not only the largest sorority or women’s fraternity in America, but also the largest such organization in the world.