Sigma Kappa

Sigma Kappa (ΣΚ) is a sorority founded in 1874 at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Sigma Kappa was founded by five women: Mary Caffrey Low Carver, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Mabel Fuller Pierce, Frances Elliott Mann Hall and Louise Helen Coburn. Since its founding in 1874, the sorority has initiated more than 148,000 members worldwide and has 107 collegiate chapters and 126 alumnae chapters.

The sorority's official philanthropies are gerontology (with a focus on Alzheimer's disease research), Inherit the Earth, and the Maine Sea Coast Mission Research grants are made each year to universities and other institutions actively engaged in the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.

Colby College in Waterville, Maine, was the first college in New England to admit women on an equal basis with men. In 1871, Mary Caffrey Low Carver became the first female student at Colby. For two years, she was the only woman at the school. But in 1873, four more young women from Maine, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Mabel Fuller Pierce, Frances Elliott Mann Hall and Louise Helen Coburn were admitted to Colby. Being the only women in the college, the five of them found themselves together frequently. In 1873-74, the five young women decided to form a literary and social society. They were instructed by the college administration that they would need to present a constitution and bylaws with a petition requesting permission to form Sigma Kappa Sorority. They began work during that year and on November 9, 1874, the five received a letter from the faculty approving their petition. They sought for and received permission to form a sorority with the intent for the organization to become national.

Since that time, Sigma Kappa annually celebrates November 9 as its Founders' Day.

Mary Caffrey Low was the first woman to appear on the rolls of Sigma Kappa and the first to preside over an initiation. The first Sigma Kappa emblem was designed by Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, who died shortly thereafter of tuberculosis. A large portion of the initiation ceremony was written by Louise Helen Coburn. Much of the original initiation music was written by Hoag's cousin, Emily Peace Meader, who was inducted shortly before Hoag's death in 1875. Frances Mann Hall was the first Sigma Kappa to get married, to a fellow Colby student.

In the first constitution, chapter membership was limited to 25. The original group was known as Alpha chapter and as the sorority grew, Beta chapter and Gamma chapter were also established at Colby College. Early records indicate that the groups met together; but in 1893, the Sigma Kappa members decided that intramural expansion was not desirable. They voted to fill Alpha chapter to the limit of 25 and to initiate no more into Beta and Gamma chapters. Eventually, the second and third chapters would vanish from Colby campus. Finally, Sigma Kappas realized if the organization was going to continue to grow, it had to expand beyond the walls of Colby College.

The Delta Chapter of Boston University is now the oldest existing chapter. In 1984, Colby College banned fraternities and sororities, ensuring that Sigma Kappa's Alpha, Beta, and Gamma chapters will probably never be resurrected.


Membership badge

The current badge is a one-inch jeweled triangle. On the front of the badge are the Greek letters Σ and Κ. The badge is worn strictly as an emblem of membership and only by initiated members. The earliest badge design was what is now used as the new member pin. In 1894, the triangle badge was chosen. Jeweled badges were approved at the 1915 convention when the pearl was adopted as the national jewel. Unjeweled badges have a scroll edge.

New member pin

New members of Sigma Kappa wear a different badge. The new member pin is only worn during the new member period. It is a snake in the form of the Greek "Σ" (Sigma) intertwined on a Greek "Κ" (Kappa). This design was adopted as the new member pin in 1920. Just prior to initiation, it is returned to the chapter.


The symbols and insignia of Sigma Kappa are outward signs of the special feeling the members have for each other that comes from within themselves. Members of Sigma Kappa are obligated to uphold her high standards and ideals, remembering that Sigma Kappas all over the country are bound by the same tenets.


Louise Helen Coburn's early reminiscences give us her memory of white as the color favored in the early days of Sigma Kappa. She said that lavender and maroon, as our colors, occur in the minutes of June 1891. They were being used then and apparently had been approved earlier. A note in the minutes of 1904 speaks of a committee appointed to "write down the true significance" of our colors which is revealed in the ceremony of initiation.


Violets were loved by all Sigma Kappas from the beginning. The delicate flowers grew wild along the banks of the Messalonskee River where the founders sat and dreamed of Sigma Kappa. In June 1892, the violet was adopted as our official flower. In 2008, the official flower became the Wild Purple Violet to distinguish it from other varieties of violets. The flower was thought to belong to the days of promise as is Sigma Kappa.


The dove was accepted as an official symbol of Sigma Kappa at the 1984 convention and the heart was adopted at the 1988 convention. Both symbols signify the love felt by members and alumnae across the continents.


The Sigma Kappa coat-of-arms reflects the familiar symbols of the sorority - the dove, the violet, the Greek letters, and maroon and lavender. Adopted in 1911, the coat-of-arms consists of a maroon shield with a diagonal bar of gold, bearing five lavender stars; the lower portion a coiled serpent. Above is a wreath of alternate maroon and gold, surmounted by a dove in silver, with outspread wings, all beneath an arch of gold rays. Below is a scroll of silver, bearing in black the open motto and the date 1874. The significance of the coat-of-arms is revealed only during the ceremony of Initiation.


Sigma Kappa's philanthropical missions include:

Alzheimer's research

In 1954 Sigma Kappa became the first sorority to recognize the need for continued comprehensive work on the study of aging and the needs of the elderly population. In 1984 Sigma Kappa responded to an increasingly critical problem facing older Americans by adding an emphasis on Alzheimer's disease to its gerontology program. Sigma Kappa has become one of the nation's leading contributors to Alzheimer's disease prevention, research, and treatment efforts.

Since the inception of the Foundation's Alzheimer's Disease and Research Grant Program in 1988, the Sigma Kappa Foundation has granted over $1 million in research and psychosocial grants to investigators and practitioners who are on the front lines in the fight against this debilitating disease.

In 2000 the Foundation entered into an agreement with the national Alzheimer's Association whereby the Association selects scientific research proposals for sponsorship by the Foundation, ensuring that gifts are utilized most effectively. In 2003, the Sigma Kappa Foundation pledged $240,000 for a four-year period. In addition to gifts from members and friends, the research grant is primarily funded through the annual lollipop campaign. Thanks to the efforts of Sigma Kappa's collegiate chapters, the Foundation is doing its part to create a world without Alzheimer's disease.

Awarding research grants is only one aspect of the Foundation's commitment to eliminate Alzheimer's disease. Educating Sigma Kappa members and creating awareness is also a priority. All chapters have access to educational materials and programs about Alzheimer's disease and the impact Sigma Kappas have had in the continuing struggle to find a cure.

Maine Sea Coast Mission

Since 1918 Sigma Kappa has paid homage to its Maine roots by supporting the activities of the Maine Sea Coast Mission. The Mission delivers critical services to people in need while striving to redress the root causes of those needs. With the help of the 75-foot mission vessel, Sunbeam V, direct programs and services include church and pastoral work, assistance to those in sickness and poverty, financial aid, food banks, recycled clothing shops, crisis intervention, youth programs, and ministries in the field. The Mission serves the islands from mid-coast to Downeast Maine, as well as mainland Hancock and Washington counties.

Inherit the Earth

This program ties Sigma Kappa's interest in older citizens with its interest in the environment. Through Inherit the Earth, collegians, alumnae and older citizens work together to improve local environments.

Notable Sigma Kappas



See also

External links

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