In the 1860s, Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois was considered to be a progressive institution because of its coed campus, a rarity during a time when only five state universities admitted women. A diverse group of twelve female students at Monmouth wanted to not only receive a top-notch education, but also enjoy the benefits and support of a secret society similar to men’s fraternities. First known as I.C. Sorosis, the twelve women founded their new sisterhood on April 28, 1867, with the purpose of promoting friendship, developing women of intellect and integrity, cultivating leadership potential, and enriching lives through community service. The idea proved irresistible to many, with I.C. Sorosis becoming the first national, multi-chapter women’s secret society when a second chapter was established at Iowa Wesleyan College in 1868. Though the name has since changed, the ideals and integrity of its members have not, which is a testament of respect for the founding women of Phi Beta Pi (Pi Phi).
Since its founding as I.C. Sorosis over 140 years ago, Pi Phi has grown exponetially to include 130 active chapters and more than 11,000 undergraduate members. The intellect and drive of the founding women of Pi Phi are traits found among its members to this day, making it easy to understand why so many of them have gone on to lead exemplary lives, such as Marilyn Horne (opera singer), Faye Dunaway (actress, Academy Award winner), Barbara Bush (41st First Lady of the United States), Lisa Murkowski (U.S. Senator, Alaska), and Sharon Jester Turney (CEO & President of Victoria's Secret). With Sisters like these, no wonder so many women want ot wear the Pi Beta Phi Wine and Silver Blue.
The Sisters of Pi Beta Phi believe that everyone is entitled to an education, but for those among us who struggle with literacy, that goal may seem unattainable, for this reason, the Fraternity has made a committment to literacy that dates back over 100 years with the founding of a Settlement School in Gatlinburg, Tennesee. In fact, until the 1940s, Pi Phi was responsible for all the education in Gatlinburg and continued to provide educational and financial assistance until 1967. As a continuation of this tradition, members of Pi Beta Phi now support their official literacy philanthropies Read > Lead > Achieve, which inspires a lifelong love of reading that can unlock true potential, creating a more literate and productive society, and Arrow in the Arctic, their Canadian philanthropy which provides English and Inuit resources for libraries in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
When the twelve founders of Phi Beta Pi first gathered together all those years ago, they set out with the noble vision to become a premier organization for women by providing lifelong enrichment to its members and contributing to the betterment of society. This vision has undoubtedly been fulfilled by the countless generations of Sisters who have made it their mission to promote friendship, develop women of intellect and integrity, cultivate leadership potential, and enrich lives through community service, all in the name of Phi Beta Pi.