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Northwestern University

Jun 6th, 1881

Founding Date

In the fall of 1879, there were roughly 80 women students at Northwestern University. Among the entering class of 1883 were three young women: Claire Lattin, Adella Maltbie and eighteen-year-old Minnie Rachel Moulding Goodsmith. They were, as Minnie later described them, 'timid girls, strangers to everyone in Evanston.” Soon, the trio formed a friendship. They were well aware that four men's fraternities existed at Northwestern, but, since no such organization existed for women, they decided - in secret - to create their own. They had three plain gold rings made, engraved with the motto they chose for their secret group: 'Toujours Fidele.' After they asked to borrow a Greek-English dictionary from Dean Jane Bancroft, an Alpha chapter alumna,  she suspected what they were after. She called the girls to her room and told them of her connection with the sorority of Syracuse, and suggested that instead of a small isolated circle of three, more be added to the number and a society be formed that should be allied with the one already established among college women of similar aims and interests. Jane made contact with the Alpha chapter sisters to alert them to this development, and it was not long before three delegates from Syracuse arrived in Evanston. National president Nellie George was accompanied by her sisters, Inez, and former national president, Eloise Holden. The Alpha chapter sisters informed the trio that four others must be added to their number to fill a chapter's required seven officer positions. After hearing assurances that the number would be reached, the three women returned to Syracuse. Later, when they traveled again to Evanston, this time bringing Alpha chapter sister Ida Young along, four more Northwestern students were there to greet them: Emma Meserve, Jennie Marshall, Lizzie Hill and Eva M. Lane. On June 6, 1881, as evening descended, the shades were drawn and the doors were locked at the Evanston home of Emma Meserve. The seven women were initiated into Alpha Phi, and the first women's Greek-letter organization at Northwestern University was established.