In 1867 at Asbury College (now known as DePauw University) in Greencastle, Indiana, the monumental decision was made to admit female students. Though some in the academic world believed women were just as intellectually capable as men, many felt that the acceptance of female students would diminish the school’s reputation. It was against this disheartening opposition that Bettie Locke Hamilton enrolled at Asbury in the Fall of 1870. The daughter of an Asbury professor, Bettie sought not only to achieve academic excellence, but to participate in all aspects of student life including Greek letter organizations. During her sophomore year, one of the male fraternities asked Bettie to wear their badge, but when she learned that it was only as a courtesy and that she would not be counted as a member, she set out with three friends – Alice Allen Brant, Bettie Tipton Lindsey, and Hannah Fitch Shaw – to found their own organization that would encourage and support other women at coeducational colleges. After much planning and guidance from Bettie’s father, who was himself a member of Beta Theta Pi, their hard work paid off on January 27, 1870 with the founding of the women’s Fraternity Kappa Alpha Theta (Theta).
Since its founding over 140 years ago, Kappa Alpha Theta has grown into an international sisterhood with more than 12,900 undergraduate members and 128 active chapters in the United States and Canada. The intelligence and determination of Theta’s founders are traits that have been passed down throughout generations of members, many of whom have gone on to lead exemplary lives, such as Ann-Margret (actress), Sheryl Crow (singer, Grammy Award winner), Tory Burch (fashion designer), Kerri Strug (Olympic gymnast), and Laura Bush, Jenna Bush, & Barbara Pierce Bush (wife and daughters of President George W. Bush). With Sisters like these, no wonder so many women want to wear the Theta Black and Gold.
Supporting female students was an issue near and dear to the founders’ hearts and it is still of great importance to Theta today, as evidenced by the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Fraternity. Founded in 1960, the Theta Foundation works to award annual undergraduate and graduate scholarships to its members, awarding more than $500,000 per year. In addition to scholarships, Theta Foundation also supports the Fraternity's educational programs as well as its international philanthropy, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA are community volunteers who serve as the voice for abused and neglected children in court, their purpose is to ensure all legal actions made are in the child's best interest.
The women’s Fraternity of Kappa Alpha Theta is an organization of firsts; its founders were some of the first women to attend college, the first women admitted to the Phi Beta Kappa Society were Thetas, it was the first women’s organization to use Greek letters in its name, and Sister Nancy Kassebaum was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who had not succeeded her husband or first been appointed to fill an unexpired term. These feats may seem daunting to some, but not for the members of Kappa Alpha Theta, who know that no dream is too big and no task insurmountable with the support of your Sisters.