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HistoryIT | We Give History A Future

Story #017: The Alpha Phi Badge

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 17 of 150.

The Alpha Phi Badge

 Our badge has evolved, and much discussion steered the direction toward the Alpha Phi badges we know and love today. Shortly after establishing themselves as a society of women, the Original Ten discussed the need to design a special pin for Alpha Phis to wear and signify their membership. In the early years, members were given the opportunity to design and select their own badge. Some opted for jeweled designs, but many of the Founders selected more simple designs.

In October 1872, the Alpha chapter placed an order with Mr. Ball of Stone and Ball Jewelers for one dozen pins. The cost at the time was five dollars in total. Preserving a unique group identity continued to be important to Alpha Phis and so they were distressed when they heard a rumor that their jeweler may have sold their special pins to nonmembers. It turned out there had been nothing to worry about, as Mr. Ball assured them, he had not sold any member pins to anyone else and would never do so.

When the Beta chapter was founded and their fraternal pins had arrived, they wore a pin and small knot of silver and bordeaux ribbon around campus. After Mr. William Baird, the author of an authoritative guide to Greek-letter societies later known as Baird’s Manual, learned of Alpha Phi and included the group in his publication, he remarked how pretty the badge was.

Until Alpha Phi’s 20th anniversary and 12th Convention, there had been no record of a formal discussion around badge uniformity. Chapters were permitted to have special badge designs that were unique to them, and, in the spirit of developing greater unity, discussions eventually turned to the development of a uniform badge for all members. At the Convention of 1892, delegates talked of a badge that would be “uniform in design of fancy letter.”

At the 13th convention in 1894, there was much discussion about sacrifice of personal taste if we were to move forward with a unified badge. Despite this, the consensus was that a uniform badge would be best. Florence L. Hayes (Eta-Boston) noted, “a badge is to be cherished for its meaning and association, not for its intrinsic worth.”  There was no decision made on the topic that year or in the few years that followed, but around 1904 the conversation began again with renewed commitment.

The badge, it was said, is an outward symbol of our sacred pledge and loyalty to Alpha Phi. There was discussion in The Quarterly about the college customs that varied from chapter to chapter, but the idea of having a singular badge that would represent members as Alpha Phis seemed another way to connect members across the miles. Some sisters desired a jeweled badge, but most were in favor of a plain and modest badge. Florence Nottingham (Alpha-Syracuse) noted that our Founders all wore plain pins. She continued, “Our Fraternity is democratic. Rich and poor alike are admitted. How much more should our badge, the outward symbol of our united hearts, be one which can be purchased without embarrassment to any. We love our badge, not for gold and jewels, but for the Fraternity which it represents.” The badge expressed our shared ideals and further strengthened Alpha Phi’s “golden chain.”

 The official badge would be uniform, plain and bare a secret insignia, and it was decided that several potential designs would be routed to each chapter. After one design was selected as the official badge, an official jeweler would also be chosen. The monogram pin of Αφ with the φ in the upright position, and three small letters in black enamel, bearing meaning only for initiated members, was planned at the 1906 Convention and the design approved at the 1908 Convention. Members had the opportunity to purchase a jeweled dress pin, as well, from one of three official jewelers.

Today, members wear our badge with pride, an outward demonstration of Union Hand-in-Hand and our loyalty to our sisters in Alpha Phi. Designed today by Herff Jones Jewelers, the badge is worn during formal meetings, at Alpha Phi events and during special celebrations.


PHOTO: The beloved Alpha Phi badge, this specific one belonged to Elizabeth White Jackson (Beta-Northwestern) from her initiation in 1940.