In 1867, Bettie Locke was one of the first women to enroll at what was then Indiana Asbury College, now DePauw University. Despite being the daughter of a professor, Locke was like most women on campus in the 1860s and 1870s and were excluded from many campus organizations.
During her sophomore year, a member of a men’s fraternity asked Locke to wear his badge. This tradition, which still continues today with many men’s fraternities, symbolizes a committed relationship between a fraternity member and his, or possibly her, significant other. The significant other does not have to be a member of a fraternity or sorority, but they must be in a committed, long-term relationship with the owner of the badge.
When Locke learned that she would not gain membership in the organization by wearing the badge, she refused the man’s proposal. Instead, after consulting with her father, she decided to form her own organization for women.
History of Kappa Alpha Theta
After consulting her father, Locke recruited Alice Allen, a fellow student, to help organize the group. They worked on designing a badge, developing a constitution and bylaws, and deciding on other important parts of the organization.
That fall, Locke and Allen recruited two more women to help with the organization of Kappa Alpha Theta. After everything had been established, the first meeting of Kappa Alpha Theta occured on January 27, 1870. In the 1870s, Kappa Alpha Theta established ten collegiate chapters throughout the midwestern United States, and in the 1880s established the first international chapter in Toronto.
Kappa Alpha Theta continued to expand throughout the last half of the nineteenth century. In 1891, representatives from Kappa Alpha Theta met with members from seven other sororities and women’s fraternities. From this meeting, the National Panhellenic Conference, comprised of Kappa Alpha Theta, Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, Gamma Phi Beta, and Delta Delta Delta, was formed in 1902.
Throughout its continued expansion, Kappa Alpha Theta became known as the first sorority to establish chapters at four Ivy League institutions in the United States: Cornell University, Princeton University, Yale University, and Harvard University.
In 1989, Kappa Alpha Theta chose Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) as its national philanthropic cause. CASA provides trained volunteers as spokespeople for children in court cases and legal matters.
Kappa Alpha Theta Today
Kappa Alpha Theta, as with all other national sororities, can be identified by several symbols and colors that have been adopted throughout the organization’s history.
- Colors: black and gold
- Symbol: kite
- Flower: black and gold pansy
- Philanthropy: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
- Motto: True Promise
Kappa Alpha Theta, founded in 1870 as the first Greek letter, secret organization for college women, was one of the early fraternal organizations for women in the college environment, one that was usually dominated by men. The organization continues to grow and thrive today, providing college women the same bond of friendship that its founders looked to establish in the early days of the organization.