Beta Beta Chapter was founded at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York on September 26, 1881. The chapter closed in 1903 after the Fraternity chose to withdraw charters from small universities. The chapter was then recognized as Zeta Phi, a local fraternity. It was reinstalled as Beta Beta Deuteron in 1915. Initially, the fraternity custom was to name a new chapter after a closed one, so that all 24 letters of the Greek alphabet were always in use. Because of this custom, the Chapter is called simply Beta in early records. This practice ended in 1890 when Convention delegates voted to affix Beta to the name of a chapter to indicate it was the second and to affix Gamma on the second round, then Delta, and so on. The chapter at St. Lawrence was the second chapter to be known as Beta and, after 1890, it became known as Beta Beta.
139 initiates (as of 1903 closure)
“Between the hours of twelve and one on Monday, September 20, 1875, Misses Weeks, Weaver, Jones, Church, Stickles, and Bacheller met in Room 11, second floor College Hall and became the founders of the Browning Society.” Thus read the minutes of the first organized meeting of the first women’s society at St. Lawrence University. The society took its name from the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and took for its aims self-improvement and demonstration of women’s equal capacity and fitness for intellectual advancement. No men were allowed to take part in any strictly society enterprise.
The society first met at members’ homes but soon felt the need for a permanent meeting place and applied for a room at a college building. When the request was not immediately granted, a small room was rented in one of the business blocks in town on March 4, 1876. It was not until 1880 that the society moved into a college building, so it was here that traditions and customs originated. Here the members formulated the earliest St. Lawrence University “honor code” embodied in a series of resolutions against cheating and started the custom of the May Breakfast, now called Strawberry Breakfast.
In 1891, at the unsolicited invitation of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, the Browning Society became Beta Chapter of the Fraternity (given the name of the defunct Beta – St. Mary’s School, Knoxville, Illinois), and Kappa soon found that it had added to its ranks a flourishing, original, and energetic chapter, rich in ritual, insignia, and songs. Athena, the goddess of the Brownings, with her owl, became the watchful guardian of the whole Fraternity. The Fraternity call, the heraldic shield, much of the ritual, and many songs were also adopted. The seventh Convention of the Fraternity is of special interest. It was held in Canton, New York, during August, 1884. Beta, already known for its original songs as “the singing chapter,” was chosen to publish the first Kappa Kappa Gamma songbook.
Beta was again honored at the Convention of 1890, in Bloomington, Illinois, when Lucy Evelyn Wight (Allan) was elected grand President while still a senior at St. Lawrence University. At this time, Beta was renamed Beta Beta.
In 1898 the Fraternity, feeling that chapters of Kappa Kappa Gamma should be confined to large colleges and universities began to put this policy into effect by voting to withdraw the Beta Beta charter. The members of the chapter objected, and, unable to convince the Grand Council of their right to continue operating under their charter, referred the matter to the courts. Much feeling resulted from the controversy, and in 1903, Beta Beta ceased to be known as an active chapter and was reorganized as Zeta Phi, a local fraternity.