Agency History/Biographical note:
While the first women were elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa in 1875 at the University of Vermont, the first women's college to be granted a charter was Vassar College in 1898. Six years later, charters were granted to four more colleges for women, including Wellesley College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the Women's College of Baltimore (now Goucher College). The history of the Mount Holyoke College Theta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is closely tied to the presidency of Mary E. Woolley. Elected herself to membership in 1900 as an alumna of Brown University, Mary E. Woolley was installed as President of Mount Holyoke College in 1901. Shortly after her inauguration, Mr. E. B. Parsons, Secretary of the Williams College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, suggested to Woolley that a chapter be established at Mount Holyoke. On February 8, 1901, a formal application for a charter was forwarded to the Secretary of the United Council. By 1904, the application had been endorsed by the chapters of Phi Beta Kappa at Brown and Princeton Universities and at Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, and Hobart Colleges. In the same year, the application was presented to the Senate and was approved. The Senate then recommended that a charter be granted to Mount Holyoke, and in September of 1904, the recommenation was passed by the United Chapters. Mount Holyoke's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was organized on January 30, 1905, thirty years after the first women were admitted membership to Phi Beta Kappa. The Theta Chapter of Massachusetts of the Phi Beta Kappa Society was installed at Mount Holyoke College on February 24, 1905. In May of that year, four members of the junior class were elected to membership. In following years, a group of juniors and seniors were elected to membership each Spring and were initiated each May. Also in May the annual Phi Beta Kappa lecture was held. This lecture was always open to the public and this tradition continued for many years. Lecturers included such prominent figures as May Sarton, Santha Rama Rau, Tamara Talbot Rice, and Cyril Ponnamperuma. In more recent years, the Theta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Mount Holyoke has brought visiting scholars to the College each year. These scholars spend two days at Mount Holyoke, giving a public lecture and meeting with students in classes or in other ways.
Scope and Content:
The Mount Holyoke College Phi Beta Kappa Theta Chapter of Massachusetts Records contain correspondence; addresses; memoranda; newspaper clippings; constitutions; by-laws; reports; minutes; agenda; notes; publications; press releases; order books; a guest book; memorabilia; brochures; booklets; announcements; articles; newsletters; handbooks; lists; surveys; papers; applications; manuals; schedules; outlines; and photographs. Information pertaining to the charter, constitution, and by-laws of the Theta Chapter of Massachusetts at Mount Holyoke, annual activities, committee meetings, alumnae/retroactive elections, and election criteria can be found in the records. Additionally, the organization's financial records, faculty and student membership lists, addresses made at chapter meetings, and photographs of student members are included in the records. The records also contain information regarding meetings of the Phi Beta Kappa New England District, Mount Holyoke's participation in the Phi Beta Kappa sesquicentennial endowment fund, the Veteran's Project, initiation ceremonies and alumnae breakfasts, visiting lecturers and scholars, Mount Holyoke's Phi Beta Kappa fiftieth anniversary celebration, and the founding and history of the Mount Holyoke Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Memorabilia pertaining to the Mount Holyoke Chapter and the United Chapter can be found in the records in addition to information about the organization's special events and daily activities. Various committee records are contained in the records. Committees represented include the Committee to Encourage Scholarship, the Committee on Liberal Arts, and the Committee on Chapter Activities. Records about the Committee to Encourage Scholarship include information and student applications for the annual Phi Beta Kappa Prize. The annual reports of the organization and the annual treasurer's reports are also held in the records. Correspondence is chiefly between members of the Theta Chapter (faculty), members of the United Chapter, committee members, alumnae members, and student members.
Cite as: Phi Beta Kappa Records, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.
Access Restrictions: Records restricted to use by office/department of origin for 25 years from date of record creation. Access to student records restricted.