Since the 1980s, the United States has recognized the month of March as Women’s History Month, which corresponds with the recognition of International Woman’s Day on March 8 every year. In honor of this celebration of women’s progress, I would like to highlight Sigma Kappa’s contributions to women’s history and what it means to me. The sorority experience and the members it develops has made significant contributions to the advancement of women’s equality and deserves recognition.
When I went through sorority recruitment, I knew very little about sororities in general. My only goal was to find some supportive friends at a school where I knew no one. Luckily, I found Sigma Kappa and not only did I find my support network, but I found so much more. As I learned more about Sigma Kappa, I fell more in love with its history. Sigma Kappa was founded at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, in 1874. Colby College was the first college in New England to admit women on an equal basis with men. While that was certainly an important stride in women’s history, being admitted did not mean that the women were actually respected once they got there; they were insulted and boycotted, making the establishment of this organization all the more critical. Sigma Kappa’s founders became friends and created the organization to make the most of their college experience and to support each other in a journey most women had not yet undertaken, a journey that many did not yet support.
It constantly amazes me to think about these women braving a hostile environment where they were the only women at their school, being the first five to get that opportunity and just wanting to overcome the ridicule and learn. It’s even crazier to me that all of this happened before women even had the right to vote. Knowing that Sigma Kappa’s founders were truly trailblazers in women’s fight for education and equality makes me proud every day and even more determined to make their legacy worthwhile.
Thankfully, a woman’s right to participate in higher education is generally no longer contested in the United States, but Sigma Kappa’s members continue to be trailblazers for women’s equality in many other capacities. Margaret Chase Smith, Alpha Chapter, is one of the earliest notable alumnae; she is the first woman to serve in both the United States House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the first woman from Maine to hold either of these seats. Sarah Weddington, Zeta Nu Chapter, at age 26 became the youngest to person to successfully argue a case before the Supreme Court. Dr. Margaret Rhea Seddon, Lambda Chapter, was selected as one of the first six women to enter the astronaut program and is a veteran of three space shuttle flights. You can read about other significant Sigma Kappa women here, including authors, athletes, and more.
Women’s History Month offers a lot to celebrate, considering the huge strides towards equality that women have made. As sorority women, it is important for us to acknowledge the alumnae that came before us, that brought our organization into existence, and fought for the opportunities that we now have. Take the time this month to reflect on Sigma Kappa’s history and women’s history and express gratitude for where they’ve brought us today. I’m grateful for all of the amazing women I’ve met across the country this year as a leadership consultant, especially my support network of other leadership consultants, and I’m incredibly excited to see how they continue to make a positive impact. Maybe even spend some time considering your role in building a better future – what’s next?