Kappa Alpha Theta (ΚΑΘ) is an international women's fraternity founded on January 27, 1870 at DePauw University. Kappa Alpha Theta was the first Greek-letter women's fraternity. The organization currently has 128 chapters at colleges and universities across the United States and Canada with a total initiated membership of 210,000. Currently, it is one of the five largest sororities.
Kappa Alpha Theta was founded in 1870 and was established to give women a support group in the then mostly male college world at what is now DePauw University. It is the first women's Greek letter fraternity. Indiana Asbury, as the university was known then, officially opened its doors to women in 1867, thirty years after the college was first established. Four women, Bettie Locke (Hamilton), Alice Allen (Brant), Bettie Tipton (Lindsay) and Hannah Fitch (Shaw), sought to create an organization for women that would provide the encouragement and support that would draw women to coeducational colleges and help them attain a degree. It was with these ideals in mind that the four women founded Kappa Alpha Theta, and believed in the Fraternity's strength through its members' lasting loyalty to each other and to the Fraternity ideals.
Kappa Alpha Theta was based in part on two Fraternities with which Bettie Locke had contact; Beta Theta Pi, her father's fraternity, and Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji), her brother's fraternity. Bettie had many friends in Fiji, and when members asked her to wear their badge as a "mascot", Bettie declined. She said she could not wear it as she did not know the secrets and purposes represented by the letters. She followed her father's suggestion to begin her own fraternity for women, and so Kappa Alpha Theta was conceived. Bettie and her friend Alice Allen together wrote a constitution, planned ceremonies, designed a badge, and sought other women on campus worthy of membership. It took these women 3 years to found Kappa Alpha Theta. These four founding members initiated themselves on January 27 1870, becoming the first Greek-letter fraternity known among women.
These four women proudly wore their black and gold badges to Asbury's chapel service on March 14. The Alpha Chapter at Asbury grew to 22 sisters. Soon Kappa Alpha Theta spread to other colleges with Bettie's establishment of the Beta Chapter at Indiana University in May of the same year. After the formation of Theta the men of Phi Gamma Delta presented Bettie with a silver cake basket engraved with their letters as a token of appreciation.
Through the years, Kappa Alpha Theta has grown to its current size of 128 college chapters, 282 alumnae groups, and more than 170,000 members. In 2005, Kappa Alpha Theta celebrated its 135th anniversary.
Some symbols of Kappa Alpha Theta are twin stars, a black and gold pansy, and the kite, which all represent the fraternity ideals of sisterhood.
- Theta is an international organization with college and alumnae chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
- The Fraternity is a not-for-profit Indiana corporation, with Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- The Fraternity's philanthropic arm, the Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, supports the Fraternity's educational programs and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Theta's international philanthropy.
- The Foundation annually awards more than $300,000 in graduate and undergraduate scholarships to members and has awarded over $6,000,000 since the program's inception.
- The first women admitted to Phi Beta Kappa were Thetas.
- The first women's fraternity to establish a chapter in Canada was Kappa Alpha Theta.
- The first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right was a Theta.
The Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation, founded in 1960, is the philanthropic arm of the organization. The Foundation annually awards more than $400,000 in graduate and undergraduate scholarships to its members. Theta is among the top of the Greek community in supplying scholarship awards to collegiate members. The foundation also supports the Fraternity's educational programs as well as the Court Appointed Special Advocates
(CASA), Theta's international philanthropy, adopted in 1989. CASA advocates 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. To date, the foundation has donated over $770,000 to CASA.
- Mary Ritter Beard (Alpha, Depauw) - noted historian, Campaigner for Women's Suffrage.
- Dian Fossey (Gamma Xi, San Jose State) - zoologist, first female Primatologist, wrote 'Gorillas in the Mist'.
- Margaret Floy Washburn (Iota, Cornell) - the 1st woman to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology.
Arts and entertainment
- Ann-Margret (Tau, Northwestern) - actress, (State Fair, Viva Las Vegas, Grumpy Old Men).
- Sarah Clarke (Beta, Indiana) - actress, (24).
- Joan Ganz Cooney (Beta Delta, Arizona) - founder of the Children's Television Workshop and creator of Sesame Street.
- Sheryl Crow (Alpha Mu, Missouri) - Grammy Award winning singer.
- Agnes de Mille (Beta Xi, UCLA) - Broadway choreographer.
- Amy Grant (Alpha Eta, Vanderbilt) - singer, Grammy Award winner.
- Jennifer Jones (Tau, Northwestern) - Academy Award-winning American actress.
- Rue McClanahan (Gamma Tau, Tulsa) - actress, (The Golden Girls).
- Julie Moran (Gamma Delta, UGA) - former host of Entertainment Tonight; first female host of ABC's Wide World of Sports; current host of Insiders List on the Fine Living channel.
- Mary Kay Place (Gamma Tau, Tulsa) - actress, (Being John Malkovich, The Rainmaker).
- Marlo Thomas (Omicron, USC) - actress and spokeswoman for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
- Jenna von Oÿ (Omicron, USC) - actress.
- Kate Voegele (Gamma Upsilon, Miami of Ohio) - singer/songwriter and One Tree Hill actress.
- Liz Meyer (Beta Pi, Michigan State) - singer/songwriter
- Maurine Dallas Watkins (Gamma, Butler) - playwright, (Chicago (1926)).
- Ashley Zais (Zeta Eta, Wofford College, SC) - Miss South Carolina USA 2007.
- Koren Zailckas (Chi, Syracuse) - author of Smashed
- Barbara Pierce Bush (Epsilon Tau, Yale University) - daughter of President George W. Bush.
- Jenna Bush (Alpha Theta, University of Texas) - daughter of President George W. Bush.
- Laura Bush (Beta Sigma, Southern Methodist) - wife of President George W. Bush.
- Lynne Cheney (Beta Omega, Colorado College) - wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
- Melinda Gates (Beta Rho, Duke) - wife of Bill Gates; Co-founder of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Cindy Hensley McCain (Omicron, USC) - wife of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain.
- Julia Morgan (Omega, UC Berkeley) - architect.
- Neilia Hunter Biden (Chi, Syracuse) - first wife of US Senator Joe Biden; married Biden in 1966, killed in car accident, Dec. 18, 1972, just prior to Biden taking oath as US Senator, Delaware.