Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Like a rose in the cold, will I rise?"...Yes.

Stain glass honoring the founders of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority at Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana

91 years ago today, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was founded on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis by seven dynamic women.  While meditating on the anniversary of this organization your humble blogger has been blessed to be a member of for 5 years, a song lyric came to mind.  That lyric is the quote in the title.  Like the yellow tea rose, which is Sigma Gamma Rho's flower, the Sorority has risen "to heights of great attainment"; and, if grace allows, continue to rise.

It seems no accident that the yellow tea rose was chosen Sigma Gamma Rho's flower. The flower is noted for its foliage during the autumn months, when the chill in the air begins to be felt.  In addition, the "tea" part of the name comes from the unique tea scent it gives off.  Like it's flower, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. has risen in the midst of the cold climate that marked the era in which it began to become a 85,000 plus strong blooming sisterhood emanating its' unique "scent" of enhancing the quality of life within the community.

In 1922, Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, Cubena McClure, and Bessie Mae Downey Rhoades Martin were students persuing teaching degrees at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.  According to Michael Washington and Cheryl Nunez, Indiana's colleges graduated black students at one every three years between 1861 and 1900. As Sigma Gamma Rho's founders were African-American, one could imagine the hurdles they had to face.  In addition, Sigma formed during the time in which the Ku Klux Klan was reaching apex in Indiana.  Joseph White notes:
" The Klan was at the height of its strenght in Indiana in the summer of 1923. The number of members probably reached its peak by late 1923"
Not even a year into its inception did the founders of Sigma Gamma Rho have to deal with forming their organization in such a climate. Add to that the inequality in the education of black students at the time, one would have to have the heartiness of a yellow tea rose in late autmn to rise.

Rise, however, Sigma Gamma Rho did. With members worldwide, and initiatives such as its partnership with the Centers for Disease Control to fight AIDS and Project Reassurance to address teenage pregnancy, she continues with her "aims soaring upward" towards its mission to "enhance the quality of life within the community".

91 years strong and beautiful as ever.  Like the yellow tea rose, you rise, bloom, and emit your unique scent. Here's to more years of "Greater Service, Greater Progress" my dearest Sigma Gamma Rho.

Works Cited

Washington, Michael H. S. & Nunez, Cheryl L. The Rise of The Greek-Letter Tradition. African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision 149.


 THE INDIANA CATHOLIC AND RECORD" (1974). Graduate Thesis Collection. Paper 24.