Beta Eta Chapter was founded at Leland Stanford Jr. University (Stanford University) in Palo Alto, California on June 10, 1892. The chapter closed in 1944 after the Dean of women prohibited women's fraternities and sororities. It was reinstalled as Beta Eta Deuteron in 1978.
471 initiates (as of 1944 closure)
Beta Eta Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, survived an earthquake; the chapter house was twice ravaged by fire; and members adjusted to the changes of two World Wars.
But suddenly, in 1944, Beta Eta Chapter was gone, removed with all other women’s fraternities from the Stanford campus.
By a special act of the California Legislature, the act of endowment embodying the charter of the institution, and a gift, 80,000 acres of land was made public in November, 1885. The Leland Stanford Jr. University, endowed by Senator and Mrs. Stanford as a memorial to their only son, was formally opened October 1, 1891. It was the opinion of many persons that California already had its university so why have another? But attracted by its possibilities, 465 students, many older than the average, arrived that first year from all over the world.
Beta Eta was established June 10, 1892, six months after a chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. The two fraternities, in an agreement about bidding procedures, set the stage for the Panhellenic organization.
Lou Henry (Hoover) was a sophomore and not yet a Kappa when Lucy Evelyn Wight (Allan), BB—St. Lawrence, grand president in 1890-1892, went to Stanford for graduate study. The two women became close friends. Evelyn Wight became Stanford’s first dean of women, and Lou Henry was initiated in 1896 when the chapter was four years old.
Initiations had taken place in the music room of Roble hall, and the chapter met in member’s rooms. Later a second-floor apartment was rented, and then a house on campus. By the spring of 1899, business arrangements had been made for building on the west side of Lasuen Street where the only other structure was the Phi Delta Theta house.
Kappas made daily trips to watch the progress of construction, and the move was made in January, 1900.
Beta Eta was the first Kappa chapter to build its own house and the first to own a house. The beloved house was described in the July, 1900 issue of The Key as having “sloping moss green roofs, pointed gables, dormer windows. The wrought iron lattice over the door bears the letters KKΓ and the art glass windows with the fleur-de-lis embedded in the cardinal, form an artistic entrance… the third floor, the abode of the freshmen, and familiarly known as ‘the attic’ is one large room… the most delightful place for initiation and informal spreads, while from its many windows one gains the best view of the surrounding hills covered with oak trees and, in the spring, ablaze with the glorious California poppies… From its setting of green foothills, (the house) looks across the level fields, over the treetops of the Arboretum to the narrow line of bay and the hazy blue mountains beyond.”
The earthquake of April 18, 1906, brought normal college life to a halt. There was great damage on the Stanford campus. When the chapter returned to school in September, member found that the house had remained untouched during the summer, rather than repaired, since labor and materials were so scarce. A luncheon for freshmen had been scheduled for registration day. Because their dishes were broken and the plaster down, the resourceful Kappas partied on the porch.
Early in September, 1918, the house was badly damaged by fire; and again during summer quarter of 1927 there was a fire and chapter members returned to find the roof gone. By January, 1928, aware of the difficulties of separation, the chapter was able to get back together. The alumnae corporation and the Fraternity had made it possible to repair the damages, and the Mother’s Club had raised a considerable fund to help refurnish the house. In 1934 the house association constructed a much-needed wing to provide additional bedrooms, a chapter room, and a lounge.
Field Secretary Helen Snyder (Andres), BΠ—Washington, wrote in the February, 1933, issue of The Key, after her first visit to Stanford, “… my fondest expectations realized in its fine students, beautiful buildings with arcades, quadrangles, magnificent memorial chapel, palm trees, and landscaped grounds… long a fine chapter… scholastic and activity honors are many… a congenial chapter.” Her first official act as grand president in June, 1935, was to call for ratification of the appointment of Beta Eta’s Emily Caskey Johnson as director of standards.
Emily’s ability, energy, and a frequently changing address made her the best-known Kappa in the northwest. The Palo Alto alumnae loved to have an excuse to bring Emily into the conversation. The relationship between Beta Eta, Π—California, and the alumnae was good, with a common meeting ground in the annual fashion show in which the actives modeled. Although proceeds of the fashion show were usually marked for scholarships, in 1942 they were earmarked for national defense. The show was given in the daytime because of rules against off-campus night parties, and the possibility of blackouts.
During World War II several rooms in the chapter house were blacked out so the girls could study, and there were changes in their living habits. The girls squeezed their own orange juice for breakfast, when oranges were available; did their own house cleaning; and skipped an occasional meal “to humor the cook.” And they understood “It is a very little part of war’s reality… These changes show that life on a college campus need not be as carefree as ‘the good old days’ in order to be one of the most wonderful times in our lives.”
During World War II, social affairs and volunteer work were often combines, taking the form of benefits. The chapter was interested in Belgian War Relief, and the plans of the food administration. The chairman of the Stanford Women’s Red Cross Unit was a Kappa, and there were regular Red Cross hours and much knitting. Three actives left for service in France.
Lou Henry Hoover, wife of the ex-president of the United States, herself a scholar and adventurer as well as the devoted patron of the Girl Scouts of America, died suddenly January 7, 1944, in New York. Four days later Ann Claire Brokaw, daughter of Claire Booth Luce, a senior majoring in political science, was killed in an automobile accident.
Although Beta Eta had acquired new pledges early in 1944, and initiation was conducted that spring, by the term’s end, Beta Eta too was gone, removed with all the other women’s houses from the Stanford campus. The administration and the dean of women, a fraternity woman herself, had shown a consistent disapproval for the fraternity system and for 20 years sororities and their alumnae fought a losing battle against the final outcome. (In 1923 a vote had been taken to discover the feeling of sororities concerning “the justification of their existence,” and from 1925 Panhellenic, with Beta Eta taking a leading part, had tried to prove to the university that sororities had a definite place in the life of a university women.)
By fall of 1944 the chapter house had become a university residence, and the December, 1944, letter from the Palo Alto alumnae mentions that three of the no-longer-active chapter members had been guests at an alumnae meeting and “the alumnae regretted losing the inspiration of the actives.”
The chapter was known for its interesting, active women. Among them were Barbara Griffith Dolfini, whose miniature rooms were displayed at the Golden Gate Fair; Dr. Florence Mable Holsclaw, directing head of Babies Aid, San Francisco; Bertha L. Chapman Cady, Ph.D., botanist and author; Ethel Wallace Bryant, dean of the Castilleja School; Harriet Ford Griswold, civic worker for rehabilitation of cripples; and Jean Henry Large, author of Girl Scout books. Anna Henrietta Martin was a writer, an associate of Jane Adams in the International League for Peace, and chairman of the National Women’s Party. Before the turn of the century she had been chairman of the Beta Eta committee that compiled the Fraternity Catalogue, giving the name and record of each of the 3000 members. “Edited by Beta Eta” is on the title page of that 1898 volume. And of course there was Mrs. Hoover, Beta Eta’s “proudest possession,” even though she refused to have a Kappa key placed on her effigy’s bosom in the Smithsonian.
In the last chapter picture of Beta Eta members ever taken, all but two are smiling, because smiling is what is done for pictures. It might almost be thought that 1944 had been another good year in the history of “an alive and stimulating chapter.”
The previous information was excerpted from The History of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity, 1870-1976. The information that follows has been gleaned from available resources including Chapter History Reports, chapter meeting minutes, letters and comments from chapter members and alumnae, the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity Archives, and The Key. Each chapter is expected to update its history record annually. Contact Fraternity Headquarters at [email protected] with questions.