The five founding members established a sisterhood that valued academics, sisterly love, and a "noble notion of better femininity." Let's take a look at some of the well-known zetas that have been associated with this organization.
Zeta Meriae Benedicta: Mary (Meriae) was born in March of 1915 in El Paso, Texas. She was the daughter of Joseph Patrick Hannon and Lillian (née Ryan) Hannon. Her father was a police officer for the city of El Paso while her mother was a homemaker. The family lived on Callahan Street in one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods. Mary had two siblings: a brother named John Patrick and an older sister named Angela.
When Mary was only nine years old, she witnessed the murder of her parents by gun-wielding bandits on their way to steal their car. The incident caused such a profound impact on her that she decided to devote her life to helping other people. She graduated from high school when she was 16 years old and then went on to attend the College of Saint Thomas in Minnesota. However, due to financial difficulties, she had to quit college after only one year there.
After leaving college, Mary worked as a secretary for the Lutheran Church for about a year.
Zeta originated as a concept imagined by five coeds at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 16, 1920. "The objective of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is to nurture the concepts of service, philanthropy, scholarship, civil and cultural activities, sisterhood, and better femininity," according to the official website.
Zeta Phi Beta has since expanded with chapters on every continent except for Antarctica. There are currently more than 7,000 sisters in over 90 countries around the world.
The organization focuses on community service, social responsibility, and leadership development. Each year, new members are elected to various offices that include president, vice president, executive director, program directors, and faculty advisors.
In addition to its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Zeta operates multiple programs designed to help women achieve personal goals and make positive changes in their lives. Some of these programs include: Phoebe (a program for young women), Alpha Kappa Alpha (for black women), and Panhellenion (for international women).
Phoebe was founded in 1992 by former member Carolyn Cooper who wanted to create a safe haven for young women to develop themselves spiritually and intellectually. The program offers seminars on topics such as self-esteem, business, fitness, and nutrition. Participants are also given the opportunity to attend local events such as concerts and sports games.
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority was founded. Zeta Phi Beta was chosen by the five founders. Both Sigma and Zeta have identical names on purpose, since the ladies used the Greek letters "Phi" and "Beta" to "seal and denote the tie between the two organizations." As a result, both sororities are often called "Phi Beta Sisters".
The five founding members were Katherine McBride, Mary Elizabeth Jones, Lillian Thomas, Annie Murray, and Emma Schofield. They were all friends at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. All but one of the sisters came from wealthy families; the exception being Emma, who had no father in the household. The five founders met while attending a summer school for young women seeking employment as teachers. The director of this school was a prominent member of the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, which at that time was only open to black women. This woman encouraged the girls to form their own club and offered financial support if they did so. She also provided the names of several well-known universities across the country where there were sororities with openings. These were Harvard University, Radcliffe College, Smith College, and Wellesley College.
After hearing about these clubs and thinking them very interesting, the five founders decided to create one themselves. They chose the name "Zeta Phi Beta" because each sister would have her own special talent or skill that would help the fraternity/sorority function properly.