Lind: Members of defunct sorority continue to gather each month
For many young women who are college students, a campus sorority is a big part of their lives. For this one particular group of women, their sorority still plays a major role in their lives, even though they are younger at heart than they are of age.
For many young women who are college students, a campus sorority is a big part of their lives.
For this one particular group of women, their sorority still plays a major role in their lives, even though they are younger at heart than they are of age.
They are the women of Beta Chi, a sorority established in 1932 at what was then Moorhead State Teachers College and now is called Minnesota State University Moorhead.
The Beta Chi chapter as such no longer exists. But a group of its former members still meet monthly for lunch.
Their ages range from a kid of 70 to a senior sorority sister of 97.
Among the things going for them: There are no dues, no officers, and they try to talk about anything but politics.
Here comes the Army
The first meetings of Beta Chi 78 years ago were held in its members' dorm rooms, or in the homes of professors who were the sorority's advisers and the homes of college/sorority grads.
Later it, and other sororities, too, met in the basement of McLean Hall, until the Army moved in.
When World War II broke out, the 364th detachment of the Army Air Corps turned McLean into its headquarters and took over the sororities' rooms.
Dorothy Powers of Moorhead, a Beta Chi member, remembers soldiers marching with wooden guns. "My late sister Bernice (later Mrs. Howard Binford) knew one of those guys," Dorothy says, "and he gave her a wooden gun before leaving. I still have it."
Beta Chi expected its members to look and act properly; its constitution said proper appearance was important for learning "personal charm and ideal womanhood." So one of the advisers' responsibilities was to teach the members about manners, such as how to act properly and how to place their legs when wearing a dress.
The sorority had a tea twice a year to which women were invited to become members.
The hand-made invitations always had a theme; the tea was served in decorative teapots; and the members dressed formally, usually wearing hats and white gloves.
Betty Frisch of Moorhead, remembers "how much fun it was to deliver rose bowls to girls who were to become new members." But of course she didn't own a car to make deliveries to off-campus students, so she had to borrow her folks' car to do so.
The group had many parties throughout the school year, such as marshmallow roasts. "It was a good way for girl students to get to know other girl students and to also be reminded of how to act with good manners," according to Margaret Sillers, 94, of Moorhead.
It was Cynthia Sillers of Moorhead, the daughter of Margaret, who compiled this information about her mother's sorority.
"The Beta Chi alumni women are absolutely lovely," Cynthia writes. "Mom looks forward to going to the gatherings each month, and I can tell that getting together, white gloves or no white gloves, is also a highlight for many of the other members of this unique group."
The sorority went national in the late 1950s. This meant, Cynthia was told, that the policies changed and that membership became less personal, and many members of the local group discontinued paying their dues.
But it didn't mean the local group's members would quit meeting, and when doing so, they'd sometimes wear those gorgeous white gloves and hats.
"In fact," Margaret says, "this is exactly what we did when many of us attended the 90th birthday party for Millie in 2003. It was a fun thing to do for her, especially since she was, and continues to be (at age 97) the oldest member of the group who still attends our gatherings."
The Beta Chi gals meet at 11 a.m. the second Saturday of each month at the Fargo Country Club.
The sorority's stated ideals when it was formed were "friendship, democracy, service, personal charm and ideal womanhood."
It's clear this group of women, years later, is still upholding those ideals.
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