Women in the Beginning When Monmouth College was founded in 1853, it was decided that women would be admitted on equal standing with men and were therefore given equal academic privileges (Davenport, 93). The first class at Monmouth College consisted of twenty-six women and seventy-three men (“Greek Life,” Box 5, hereafter GL). This may not seem very equal at all, but in reality, this was a huge leap forward in women’s rights because Monmouth College was in fact one of the first colleges in the nation to operate as a coeducational institution (GL, Box 2).
Women Faculty Many women faculty members shaped Monmouth College in spite of being within an era in which women suffered greatly in the workplace in comparison to men. Some of the more commonly known women faculty members that helped shape Monmouth College are Eva Cleland, Grace Gawthrop Peterson, and Alice Winbigler. The names of these women are recognizable to the average student due to the fact that these women have all been honored with having a dorm named after them (Urban, 35).
Monmouth College Sororities The American sorority movement began at Monmouth College in 1867 with the founding of the nation’s first ever women’s fraternity by the name of I.C. Sorosis, now known as Pi Beta Phi. Founding members, Ada Bruen and Libbie Brook, were renting a room in a house near campus owned by a Major Holt. It was within that room that ten women met and formed their secret society (GL, Box 5). A few years later, Kappa Kappa Gamma, another sorority currently on campus, was in fact the second ever women’s fraternity to be formed and that was done so in nearby Galesburg, IL (GL, Box 4).
The success of sororities was relatively short lived when in 1874, Monmouth College declared any membership in a national fraternity to be unlawful due to church pressures. This backlash was due to a national revulsion of any sort of secret society within the country. The Greek organizations on campus fought back and had short periods of triumph, none of which really held until when in 1922, the Monmouth College Senate rescinded the fifty-two year ban (GL, Box 2).
Currently there are three sororities on campus, the first two being Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma. The third sorority is Alpha Xi Delta. Alpha Xi Delta came to Monmouth College in 1932 when a group of Phi Delta Sigmas that were already organized as a group on campus, decided that they wanted to affiliate with a nearby chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. The Phi Delts were turned down by the other nearby college’s chapters, but lost no ambitions and decided to form their very own chapter of Alpha Xi Delta on Monmouth College’s campus (GL, Box 2).
Women’s Organizations Throughout time there has been other women’s organizations on campus that have highlighted the many attributes of women at Monmouth College. The Independent Women’s Association, commonly referred to as the “Indies,”organized parties and other events for the faculty, community members, and The Independent Men’s Association. The women created a lovely scrapbook detailing their many creative events including themes such as “The Last Day of Pompeii”, “Ivory Castle”, and “Sleigh Bell Serenade” (“Student Organizations,” Box 2, hereafter SO).
Another organization, the Association of Women Students, was very prominent in 1967 when they sent two students, Elaine Bear and Sally Kanzlarich to the National Associated Women Students Convention at West Virginia University (SO, Box 1).
Women have also been highly involved in the speech and debate program at Monmouth College. In 1922, the Women’s Triangular Debate was held at Monmouth College. The question to be debated was: “Should the Philippine Islands be given their immediate independence?” Monmouth College students competing at this event included: Velma McCreery, Mary Graham, and Elizabeth Farrell. Each of these students were given twelve minutes to form a constructive speech and then five minutes for a rebuttal (“Speech”, Box 2). Also within the world of forensics, was Monmouth College student Elsie Cory. Miss Cory wrote and performed a speech in 1947 entitled, “Faster, Faster, We Must Run Faster,” in which she criticized society's rush to modernize science. This speech was very successful in its time and was published in the book entitled Interstate Oratorical Association Winning Orations—1947 (“Speech,” Box 1).
Davenport, F. Garvin. Monmouth College; the First Hundred Years, 1853-1953. Page 35. Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch, 1953. Print.
“Greek Life Organizations.” N.d. Archival material; Box(es): 2,4,5. Monmouth College Hewes Library, Monmouth, IL. Call numbers: AR201 & FF005.