The Girl Behind It All

Gather 'round, girls.

Today, we're shining a spotlight on the girl behind the secret handshakes, coveted rituals, and life-long friendships. She's the reason for our beloved Greek letters, fun chants, and strong sisterhoods. 

Take a little time today to thank the one and only Miss Bettie Locke.

Bettie Hamilton T640

Back in 1867, Bettie was one of the first five women admitted to Indiana Asbury, a college now known as DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Her admission to the previously all-male school was certainly controversial, and Bettie would be the first to admit it.

In the 1860's, women were excluded from any social clubs or societies that had already been established. But, during her sophomore year, Bettie received an invitation from one of her friends to wear his Phi Delta Theta badge. She desired to be a part of an organization but learned that the invitation only meant she would be a mascot of Phi Delta Theta. She would not be promised the full rights and responsibilities that the men under full membership had. With that realization, she politely declined and said “If you won't initiate me into your fraternity, then I’ll start my own.” 

Bettie was determined to live up to her word. She had a vision to unite girls with similar ideas and interests, just as the men were united. She did not want to be in just any fraternity; she wanted to be in a female fraternity. With a strong suggestion from her father and support from her Phi Delt brother, Bettie decided to start her own. She shared her idea with fellow classmates Alice Allen, Bettie Tipton, and Hannah Fitch and with mutual agreement the four brave pioneers wrote a constitution.

The girls also planned ceremonies, created a badge and by-laws, and sought out potential members. These members were described as women of outstanding character who were determined to excel academically and socially.

On January 27, 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was born. Three years after admission into the once all-male university, the four girls initiated themselves into the first Greek-letter female fraternity. In remembrance, William Warren Sweet writes "On March 14, 1870, the four young ladies who formed the first chapter marched into chapel wearing their new black and gold kites, the badge which they had agreed upon after much cutting of paper in the kitchen of the [Professor John Clark] Ridpath home."

And there you have it, ladies. It all started with a girl named Bettie Locke and the tight bond of four girls.

So, the next time you see a sister, maybe slip her a little extra grip or throw what you know because Bettie didn't do what she did for nothin'. She even reflects on her actions with one last quote, “We were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren’t going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us – if we could just win out.”

You go, Bettie!


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