Rho Chapter was founded at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio on November 25, 1880. The Chapter closed in 1884 after the University faculty decided that no woman could belong to a secret society.
Rho's story is one of remembering, of persistence in organizing and reorganizing, and of parallel organizations which finally got together.
In 1867 a group of young ladies attending Ohio Wesleyan Female College in Delaware, Ohio, started a society called Rho Sigma. This group, the only one of its kind, was strong enough and had sufficient backing to rent a room in the old American Hotel where its meetings and dances were held. Had this group survived and founded other chapters it would have been the first Greek letter society for women, but it disappeared as two literary societies of the day grew in strength and prominence. Although not the direct forerunner of the original Rho Chapter, Rho Sigma was to play a part in the chapter's history later on.
It is not possible to accurately recount all the facts of the beginning of Rho Chapter. The accepted date of the actual establishment has long been November 25, 1880. Yet there is evidence that the chapter considered itself organized earlier than that. In the minutes of Epsilon, then Grand Chapter, it is noted that on April 23, 1880, the chapter voted to give permission "to the establishing of chapters at Oakland, California, and the Ohio Wesleyan." Also, the acceptance of an invitation to honorary membership in Rho Chapter from Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of United States President Rutherford B. Hayes, is dated December 1, 1880. Mary Lawrence Haviland's account of the story states: "When I went to Delaware they had a local chapter at Monnett Hall. Not being invited to join Delta Chi Alpha, I with the assistance of some others wrote to a chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma for information and we finally received a charter. We did not have anyone come to install the chapter, but received papers and charter - I have forgotten what chapter we wrote to. At that time my father was Comptroller of the Treasury at Washington, and I conceived the idea of asking Mrs. Hayes to become an honorary member. So we wrote, and her secretary sent us her acceptance. Anything to get ahead of the other fraternity, and we certainly created some excitement."
A page from The History of Kappa Alpha Theta also dates the advent of Kappa Kappa Gamma on the Ohio Wesleyan campus to at least fall of 1880. It reads, "All went well until the fall of 1880, when the opening of college brought an unusual number of exceptional girls. Delta Chi Alpha, having no rival, calmly deliberated before bids were given, so it was a rude awakening when one winter day the exciting news was announced that Kappa Kappa Gamma had established a chapter at Ohio Wesleyan. Forthwith the Kappa key appeared on the stylish basques of 15 of the most promising girls."
Delta Chi Alpha petitioned and became a chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, but the two nationals were short-lived on campus for they monopolized the social life. This caused other students to threaten not to return to Wesleyan if the women's fraternities continued to exist. So the school faculty decided that no woman could belong to a secret society and both Kappa and Theta were forced to surrender their charters.
During its brief existence, Rho Chapter initiated 28 members. While these girls were in school a sub-rosa operation continued, with an initiation held even after the graduation of 1884. The Kappa convention that summer voted to withdraw Rho's charter, and the records were turned in .
For a number of years not even a local sorority existed at Wesleyan. Then in 1896 a group of eight girls who had just been graduated from Delaware High School decided to form a fraternity of their own rather than risk being separated by joining one of the two existing locals on the Wesleyan campus. The mother of Sally Humphreys, on of these girls, told them of the society to which she had belonged back in 1867 at the old Female College. The girls were intrigued with the tales and so, after thirty years, Rho Sigma came back to Ohio Wesleyan.
In the interval between old Rho Sigma and new Rho Sigma many interesting changes had taken place. The old Female College had joined the college proper, forming a coeducational institution, and many new buildings had been added to the campus. In this environment Rho Sigma flourished until in 1914 all social fraternities were voted out by the girls themselves.