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HistoryIT | We Give History A Future


University of Washington

Mar 21st, 1914

Founding Date

The majestic campus of the University of Washington lay in “the midst of the primeval forest of ‘whispering pines and the hemlocks’ on the shores of beautiful little Lake Washington.” It was there, on May 21, 1914, that fourteen Alpha Phi alumnae gathered at the Seattle home of Kappa’s Gertrude Macintosh to install Alpha Phi’s eighteenth chapter, its third chapter on the West Coast. The banquet table, Beatrice Carpenter (Sigma-Washington) reported with delight, looked “like a garden in May with its yellow daffodils and its corsage bouquets of lilies of the valley and forget-me-nots.”


Sigma chapter had come into existence so quietly, and with so little fanfare, that to “the outside world it was all a mystery, like a drama played in the wings of the scenery.” The drama had its first act in 1910, when Olive Finley Singleton had recommended establishing a chapter at the university. Two years later, in September 1912, an opportunity presented itself when one of the drama’s chief players, Beta’s Norma Mae Wells, transferred to the University of Washington. Two other Alpha Phi transfer students, Kappa members Olive Smith and Anne Buren, soon joined her on the Seattle campus. Through “quiet home gatherings and frequent luncheons at the Tea Tavern,” these three formed the “nucleus” of a new chapter, and quietly went about identifying potential members. They were ably assisted by Seattle area alumnae, who “organized themselves into a working body for the purpose of forming a chapter at the University of Washington.” 


With Alpha Phi set upon a course of westward expansion, the group was granted a petition in 1914, and soon it was revealed to the outside world that Alpha Phi was now present on the Washington campus, this was indeed a dramatic surprise - particularly for the eleven sororities already established there. And so it was that Alpha Phi’s first efforts at establishment were successful. “We must make our opportunity if we would go in there,” visiting delegate Frances Perkins had told Convention delegates two years earlier about the University of Washington, “and we should be there. [Establishment of new chapters] is the only feasible method.” No existing group of students had offered the Fraternity its traditional means for establishing a chapter on the campus, but Alpha Phi members bonded together and built a new chapter from the ground up. Upon Sigma chapter’s installation, many congratulations were received, and the Quarterly extended a warm and thoughtful welcome. “It has taken our great union over a hundred years to expand from the thirteen original states to its present glorious strength of forty-eight states. It has taken us over forty years to grow to our present proportions of eighteen chapters . . . Each new star added to the field of blue in our flag instead of dimming its brilliancy, makes it still more glorious, so with Alpha Phi, each new group of girls is a star added to her banner, making it larger, more splendid.”