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University of Wisconsin

Oct 19th, 1896

Founding Date

The Wisconsin Iota chapter was founded by five women who lived on the same floor of Chadbourne Hall in 1896. In the spring of 1896, a Phi Gamma Delta friend of one of these students reported upon his return from an eastern trip that he had met some very fine young women who belonged to the best women's fraternity in the country, and that he had told them that there were some wonderful students who might form a chapter of Alpha Phi for them at Wisconsin. 


The small group of students had come together in the fall of 1895 while living in Chadbourne Hall. They decided to establish their own secret society, calling themselves the “Ireps”—for being  irresponsible, irrepressible, and irresistible. A male colleague suggested that they seek a charter from Alpha Phi, but it was not until a cousin of one of the women, Bertha Howell (Delta-Cornell), made a visit to the campus and regaled the group with stories of her wonderful Fraternity, that they seriously considered the possibility. Under Bertha’s direction, the group carefully assembled a petition for a charter, complete with letters from faculty, clergy and others, and, having carefully handwritten eight copies, they sent them to the Alpha Phi Board and each chapter.


The Board’s response soon came in the news that a Beta chapter sister, Frances Staver Twining, was to enroll at Wisconsin in the fall of 1896, and the Board would wait to decide the matter until Frances provided a full report. Unfortunately, Frances was not interested in helping establish a new chapter. She was, she wrote to the students, coming to school to study and rest only; she intended to eschew all social ties. Undaunted, the students found themselves rooming near Frances and politely attempting to forge a friendship. It was not long before Frances was handily won over by the gracious, smart, and enthusiastic Wisconsin students. She wrote to the Board by mail and telegraph asking them to grant the charter immediately. A brief return telegram from the President of Alpha Phi announced "Charter granted". On October 19, 1896, the charter of Iota Chapter was placed in the hands of ten initiates.