Gamma Chapter History
In 1913, members of Alpha Chapter wrote a letter to Sadie Alexander regarding aiding her in establishing a chapter at the University of Pennsylvania. Five years later, in 1918, Lillian Skinner of Alpha Chapter was sent to Philadelphia to establish Gamma Chapter. The charter members of Gamma chapter were: Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, Virginia Margaret Alexander, Esther Butler King, Julia Mae Polk, and Pauline Alice Young.
The chapter was the third Delta chapter and the first founded on a predominantly white campus. The sorors held their meetings at Soror Alexander’s home at 2908 Diamond Street and hosted programs at University of Pennsylvania’s Houston Hall. They brought such distinguished speakers as Dr. Du Bois, Carter Woodson and singer Marian Anderson. Gamma Chapter also inducted distinguished poet, journalist, and political activist, Alice Dunbar-Nelson as an honorary member.
The legacy of distinction and excellence is evident through the amazing accomplishments of the charter members and other prominent sorors who have graced Penn’s campus. Soror Alexander served as president of Gamma Chapter and was the sorority’s first national president from 1919 to 1923. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania College for Women with honors in three years and became the first black woman to graduate from that institution as well as the first black woman admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1927. Virginia Margaret Alexander went on to become a well respected doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, going on to found the Aspiranto Health Home and later the Well Baby Clinic. Esther Louise Butler King, who received a BS in Education in 1920 and Julia Mae Polk were amongst the group of talented women who valued their education. Sadie T. M. Alexander commented “There wasn’t one who didn’t have a ‘B’ average and three had ‘A’ averages.” Pauline Alice Young went on to enjoy a long career as a teacher and librarian.
Anna Johnson Julian, the Sorority’s 4th National President, became the first African American woman to earn a Ph D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. The accomplishments of Soror Julian and the charter members helped inspire generations of sorors to come. In the 1950s, sorors of Gamma chapter, comprised of students from Temple University, hosted various community endeavors, including a benefit dance that would help patients at the Philadelphia General Hospital. In the 1960s, sorors at the University of Pennsylvania became a part of the city-wide Epsilon Phi Chapter when there were not enough sorors on campus to conduct a chapter. During these turbulent times in our nation’s history, sorors were committed to helping Philadelphia residents become more politically active by helping them register to vote. Epsilon Phi Chapter continued this tradition of educational excellence and community involvement well into the 1990s, winning various campus awards and national honors along the way.
Gamma Chapter was reactivated in 1996 and with it came a recommitment to the ideals of the sorority. The chapter continues to receive many accolades for its commitment to service and academic excellence. With the accomplishments of past sorors as a brilliant example, Gamma Chapter continues to strive for excellence and fulfillment of the sorority’s ideals.