Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Centennial Celebration and Tourch Tour
7/3/2013, 7:50 p.m.
Nation’s Largest African American Female Organization Scheduled to Light Up Dallas!
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority - Centennial Celebration
On the campus of Howard University, in the fall of 1912, twenty-two young women united and chose to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence; provide scholarships and support to the underserved; educate and stimulate participation in the establishment of positive public policy; and to highlight issues and provide solutions for problems in their communities.
Academic scholars, each of these 22 held leadership roles in various organizations, though Howard in the early days was a male-driven campus where only the best and brightest were accepted and enrolled. Education and the ministry were the highest professional callings at the time for the university and the students had one main purpose, “communal uplift.”
The country and Howard University were undergoing dynamic changes in 1912 and 1913. Women across America were continuing to insist on their place in society as their voices grew louder. And, the women at Howard, including these 22 strong African American women, were demanding the school hire a female dean of women.
These 22 young women were: Osceola McCarthy Adams, Pauline Oberdorfer Minor, ZephryChisom Carter, Edith Motte Young, Edna Brown Coleman, Bertha Pitts Campbell, Frederica Chase Dodd, Myra Davis Hemmings, Ethel Cuff Black, Winona Cargile Alexander, Marguerite Young Alexander, Ethel Carr Watson, Florence Letcher Toms, Jimmie Bugg Middleton, Jessie McGuire Dent, Madree Penn White, Wertie Blackwell Weaver, Olive Jones, Naomi Sewell Richardson, Vashti Turley Murphy, Eliza Pearl Shippen and Mamie Reddy Rose. The founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., on January 13, 1913 at Howard University created a sisterhood that has flourished for 100 years. These pearls were the stones upon which Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has grown to over 940 chapters of college-educated women who are committed to public service, with a focus on sustaining the growth and development of the African American community.
Less than two months after the sorority’s founding, on March 3, 1913 the founders began their political activism by participating in the historic 1913 Women’s Suffrage March on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The founders marched with honorary member Mary Church Terrell under the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority banner on the day prior to Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Delta Sigma Theta was the only African American women’s organization to walk in the march.
The founders believed that African American women needed the right to vote and to be protected against sexual exploitation. They strived to promote quality education, assist in the work force, and empower their race. These college students were filled with fortitude. They were powerful, driven women with a purpose, who answered their call to lead.
Although the young founders were criticized for their participation in the suffrage march, none found regret. Founder Florence Letcher Toms commented, “We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. The right to vote would give them that privilege.”