Alpha Chapter was founded at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois on October 13, 1870. The chapter closed in 1884 after college authorities prohibited Greek-letter fraternities. It was reinstalled as Alpha Deuteron Chapter in 1934.
44 total initiates (as of 1884 closure)
“Anna Willits, Minnie Stewart, Jennie Boyd and Louise Bennett! Founders ye of Kappa Gamma … Would that you had left more record of your life in Alpha Chapter …”
(from the report of Florence Burton Roth, Beta Delta--Michigan, Historian at the 1916 General Convention, Ithaca, New York)
“Forty years is a long time to remember what did not seem too very important at the time …” (Martha Louisa Stevenson Miller, Monmouth)
“We were just a happy, harmonious group of lively girls with a keen sense of loyalty to Kappa and to each other, with strict regard to the quality of membership and sacredness of our badge … there seemed little to record … as so many of us lived in Monmouth, we clung together and held our meetings for some years after fraternities were banished … the chapter finally became only a memory.” (Alice Pillsbury Shelley Resor, A-Monmouth, The Key, October 1929)
In September 1856, Monmouth, a three-year-old academy, opened as a coeducational college with the blessing of the Associate Reformed, later the United Presbyterian Church. Chapters of men’s fraternities Beta Theta Pi and Delta Tau Delta appeared in 1865, and Phi Gamma Delta in 1866. The I.C. Sorosis, founded for women in 1867, had not yet become Pi Beta Phi when Kappa Kappa Gamma was created. M. Louise Bennet (Boyd) and her future sister-in-law, H. Jeannette Boyd, thought of organizing; considered first limiting membership to girls taking the classical course; but realized how much their choice of members would be narrowed; and “gave up that exclusive idea.”
In January 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta had been founded in Greencastle, Indiana, at Asbury (later DePauw) University. Baird’s American College Fraternities, 1883, has it that “a proposition to establish a chapter of another fraternity suggested the idea of creating this new one.” But Louise Bennett insisted, “We had not heard of any other Greek-letter fraternity for girls at that time and always considered ourselves the first. … If any girl came from Greencastle … to invite our girls to join Kappa Alpha Theta … I never heard of it.”
This ignorance is reasonable. Between the time “two college girls … held a schoolgirls’ conversation out of which grew the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity” on that little wooden bridge made famous by a Monmouth College president, and the day when six girls walked into a chapel wearing their new keys, and announced themselves to a college population, which already knew about them, a matter of months have passed. If they had known of any competition they would have been eager to be on with the game—but no, they waited until their badges had been made up by the jeweler. Then they were ready.
The Monmouth College Courier waited too, and in October 1870, wrote, “The long expected ship hove into sight some days ago … When the crew came ashore … the dignified mien and grace … evinced the residence of authority … they wear a little gold key, sometimes on their foreheads, sometimes on their little blue or red jackets … we have been able to count only six of them .. they are on a voyage of discovery.”
The fact that both Thetas and Kappas announced themselves by marching proudly into chapel means only that chapel was the one sure place to catch the collective eye of the student body. It is recorded that “the Greek-letter boys cheered and stamped … (it was) quite a while before Dr. Wallace (the college president) got them quieted down.”
“We were so excited and proud,” said Jennie Boyd of the day when the girls appeared wearing their keys. “Everything seemed different!” Even the people, the buildings, the classrooms seemed changed. We had started something all by ourselves!” Alpha struck the keynote and planned the theme … chose the badge and the name … it seems quite certain that no attempt was made toward anything ritualistic.” (Historian’s report, 1933)
About 1873 the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church decided that no college under its jurisdiction should have Greek-letter fraternities.
“Do you think this is going to finfish us?” wrote a fiery Alice Pillsbury. “Do you think we are going to subside? Not by any means! It only puts us to the trouble of putting in our members before they enter college.” Alice Pillsbury was initiated in September 1871; served as Secretary 1874-75; she graduated in 1873. She signed the charters of Delta, Epsilon, Eta, Iota and Theta. She had to copy over the constitution for the new chapters, and she exchanged letters with their corresponding secretaries (“… our correspondence became … quite personal with exchange of photographs …”). Her letters were full of facts and liveliness and in some cases those letters are all that remain to give life to a lost chapter. Her “ … subside? Not by any means!” kept Alpha alive, albeit in rascally fashion, for a few extra years.
Until 1879 or 1880, when fraternities at Monmouth were ordered to disband entirely, pins were concealed, to be “flashed” for trusted friends.
In 1882, Minnie Stewart Nelson Field (then Mrs. Nelson) was Alpha delegate to Convention and gave a talk. “It was the desire of the Fraternity and the intention of Mrs. Nelson to have prepared a complete history … but owing to the death of a sister Kappa who had in her possession the earlier chronicles, she was unable to procure the necessary information. (The Golden Key, Volume 1, Number 2)
In 1884, a letter from the chapter asked release, and the request was granted. There seemed to be no charter to surrender, and Alpha died. A February 15, 1885, letter from Mrs. Nelson repeated the story of the secretary who took the record book to Kansas and died there. This must have been Mittie Merridith Love who died in Kansas in the spring of 1882 … and with her the Alpha minutes.
Kappa Historian May Whiting Westermann, Sigma-Nebraksa, searching for signs of Alpha members as real people made a pilgrimage to Monmouth, (The Key, April 1931) and, while reading names in the cemetery was greeted by a student who said, “My grandmother, Margaret Pogue, was a member of Alpha Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma here.” Margaret Pogue Ford died November 29, 1915, in Monmouth. Her daughter, Mary Jane, was married to Arthur G. Smith in 1907. Their daughter, Margaret Smith, who spoke to Mrs. Westermann that day, became a member of Alpha Deuteron, and her daughter, Mary Hutchinson, (later Mrs. Federick A. Tucker) is a member of Upsilon Chapter.
“How rich we are in daughters!” (Jeanette Boyd)
Excerpts from The Golden Key, Volume III, Number 3, March 1886:
“The earliest records show that the chief business of our Alpha was to send its characteristic idea into every suitable place, and to make use of every advantageous method that it could originate or find. When faculty opposition to fraternities in general crushed that chapter, Epsilon had grown up in the practice of the same faith. Under it and under Delta the work went on.” (Page 8)
“Do you believe that KKG occupies all places that are suitable to her? Get a list of the colleges in the United States … study them point by point and see if there is not some Kappa material left, which is likely to come our way and should be provided for as a probable contingency.” (Page 10)
“We are in the vanguard of a live idea—the new woman movement …
“These Monmouth girls, our Founders, saw which way the second great procession of the age was tending, and they fell into an efficient place in line … when that to, the great labor question—shall have reached its destination and broken up, then we can quit hearing, telling and planning new things and give ourselves up to plant hedges, dig grottoes, and exchange lotus-eating reminiscences of the time when we were alive; in short, to be highly conservative.
“When we try to think what would be suitable for (the conservative fraternities) to do, the only thing that ever occurs to us is: Buy an elegant monument and go and be a hic jacet …” (Page 11) --Minetta Taylor, Iota-DePauw, Editor