In 1871, Colby College in Waterville, Maine, became the first college in New England to admit women, though at first, many women were reluctant to enroll. Facing taunts and outright discrimination, Mary Caffrey Low was the first woman to be admitted at Colby, and she spent those first two, lonely years as the only female student. In 1873, she was joined by four more young women – Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Fuller, Frances Mann, and Louise Helen Coburn – and together the five of them decided to form a literary and social society, much like the existing campus organizations enjoyed by the male students. They eagerly began to work towards drafting a constitution and bylaws, a necessary step in gaining permission from the Colby faculty in order to form their society. On November 9, 1874, the five young women received a letter from the faculty approving their petition, marking the official founding of Sigma Kappa Sorority (Sigma Kappa).
Since its founding back in 1874, Sigma Kappa has evolved into a national organization for women comprised of more than 156,000 undergraduate members and 112 active chapters. The tenacity of the five founding Sisters helped see them through somewhat trying times as the first female students at their college, and this tenacity can still be found in Sigma Kappa's members today, helping many women lead lives of excellence, such as Judith Guest (author, Ordinary People), Angela Stanford (professional golfer, LPGA), Susan D. Johns (Kentucky State Senator), Lauren Vizza (miss Louisiana 2012), and Jessica Casebolt (Miss Kentucky 2012). With Sisters like these, it is not surprising that many women want to wear the Sigma Kappa Maroon and Lavender.
Sigma Kappa knows how important it is to give back to the community, and for this reason, the organization provides numerous opportunities for its members to get involved in community service and support philanthropic projects. The first, and oldest, of these projects is the Maine Sea Coast Mission. Chosen in 1918 to honor the Sorority's Maine heritage, the Maine Sea Coast Mission provides church and pastoral work, emergency food and shelter, medical needs, financial assistance, and scholarships to benefit needy familes in the greater Maine Sea Coast area. The second of Sigma Kappa's philanthropies, adopted in 1954, is Alzheimer's disease awareness and support of gerontology research. The Sorority was the first to recognize the need for further study and understanding of the aging process and the needs of our nation's elderly citizens. Desiring to be good stewards of our natural resources, Sigma Kappa also supports a third service program called Inherit the Earth. This national service project provides the opportunity for both undergraduate members and alumnae to work towards improving the well-being of their local environments.
The Sorority of Sigma Kappa strives to fulfill its purpose of providing women with lifelong opportunities and support for social, intellectual, and spiritual development by bringing women together to positively impact their communities. This goal is easily reached by the honorable Sisters of Sigma Kappa, who know that through the personal growth, friendship, service, and loyalty afforded to them through memberhip, they are able to accomplish seemingly insurmountable tasks wherever their lives make take them, on campus and in their communities.