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Story #005: Electa B. Whipple, M.D.

In celebration of Alpha Phi’s 150th Anniversary in 2022, we proudly share stories and moments that have created the legacy of sisterhood originally launched by our ten founders and which we still hold dear today.

This is story 5 of 150.

Electa B. Whipple, M.D.

Electa Whipple (Alpha-Syracuse) became the first Alpha Phi to serve as a physician, an accomplishment tremendous in any regard and especially so as the majority of medical schools would not admit women at that time.

In 1874, she graduated with her sisters Rena Michaels and Mary Cary. Their commencement ceremony was held at Syracuse’s lavish Wieting Opera House. During the ceremony, Electa shared a reading titled, “At Evening Time There Shall be Light.” Alpha Phis respected and admired Electa’s intellect. As she continued on at Syracuse and earned her master’s degree, she also served as national president of Alpha Ph in 1876.

At the Alpha Phi celebration of the Fraternity’s silver jubilee, Electa, as president, accompanied the first alumnae initiate, Frances E. Willard, who had received much praise for the lecture she gave as part of that commencement weekend, into the chapel at Syracuse. Electa also gave one of the toasts at the 25th anniversary grand banquet. Each toast shared commented on a particular aspect of Alpha Phi. Electa’s toast was titled, “Her Symmetry.”

In 1884, with her medical degree in hand, she took on the world. As a physician, Electa set up her practice in Attica, New York and later relocated to Buffalo. At the time, an estimated four percent of physicians were female and this ratio did not really begin to improve until the 1960s. In 1901, Electa wrote in the Quarterly about the unfortunate lack of women in medical schools. She urged her sisters to consider medicine as a career. When she wrote that encouragement, Alpha Phi had gained four more women physicians among members, including Dr. Florence Hays Ditto (Gamma-DePauw), Dr. Anne M. Tremaine (Delta-Cornell), Dr. Anna Gloss (Beta-Northwestern) and Dr. Elizabeth Newman (Eta-Boston).

Electa passed away on September 13, 1907. Founder Ida Gilbert Houghton wrote of her after her death, “I am filled with admiration for the brave spirit that surmounted every obstacle with undaunted courage until the victor’s crown was hers.”

PHOTO – Electa B. Whipple, M.D.