Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day: Our Global Community and Founding Purpose

Happy International Women's Day!

How fitting that International Women's Day, fall in the midsts of National Ritual Celebration Week! While we are celebrating the meaning of our individual chapter's Ritual, and the values our affiliation holds us to - it is also so important that we remember the purpose for our association and the power that such association can bring.

Association is a powerful tool that women have used throughout history to make positive change - from the role women played in the emancipation movement to women's suffrage, association and a common purpose have driven women forward to the positions of power and community we are able to pursue today.

Excuse me while I flex my academic muscles... the parallel of the American Feminist Movement and the Fraternal Movement is one that fascinates me:

While fraternal organizations have been an active source of association in the United States since 1778, many still do not understand their purpose or their role on college campuses across the country. Contemporary depictions of sorority life are centralized around images straight from television; blonde upper- class women wearing Greek letters, drinking alcohol, and looking for the most handsome and eligible fraternity brother. Not only are these images grossly misguided, but the collegiate acceptance or imitation of such are far from the goals and developments of today’s sorority women as well as those of the earliest Greek women, who’s origins date back as early as 1851 (cough cough, that's us). The grounds for development of these original associations directly sought the academic, social, and political advancement of women. Women in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries found themselves in the midst of a society that was extreme in gender polarization and allowed for little advancement for women in society. Women used the secret society and later the sorority as a tool to overcome the vindictive acceptance of these women as students by their male counterparts, both students and teachers. The earliest of these organizations and those that would follow under their model were formed to support female students at various colleges and universities across the United States. The founders of each of these groups developed a baseline of fundamental behaviors that would be incorporated to their academic, social and extracurricular undertakings. The primitive use for these associations acted greatly in opposition to those of men’s organizations, many of which acted with great animosity towards the few female students on their campuses.
In exploration of these organizations, the history and initial development is two-pronged. The first secret society for women began in 1851, then resurfaced with the first Greek letter organization for women in 1870 (shout out to our Panhellenic sisters!). Wesleyan Female College, the first degree-granting institute in the world for women, was home of the two first secret societies for women. In May of 1851 the Adelphean Society was founded by a young Eugenia Tucker and five of her classmates; at first this society was bound together by nothing more than a large ribbon adorning each of their dresses inscribed with their endeavor.  Unknowingly to their first members, this institution would come to touch the lives of millions of women throughout history. Their initial purpose, as regarded by founder Octavia Andrew Rush, was to “[found] the society for mutual improvement." The vocation for this “mutual improvement” was centralized on academic advancement and improvement. 
Eugenia Tucker found that many of the women attending Wesleyan were not as focused on academics as she felt they should have been. Their discourse was that of academic, religious, and political debate, committing themselves to a rigorous course of study. In the following year, 1852, the Philomathean Society, now known at Phi Mu Women’s Fraternity, would join the Adelphean Society at Wesleyan Female College, similar in their purpose and practice. While these two societies pre-dated the term “sorority,” their ritual traditions and academic ambitions would standardize the practices of such women’s organizations in the future (those Macon Magnolias will get you every time!). 
            While the foundations were being laid for collegiate associations, women had already begun to organize in similar means in the fight for women’s advancement and the advocating of gender equality. Three years prior to the founding of the Adelphean Society, nearly three hundred women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York for the Seneca Falls Convention. This two-day convention led to the drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, a controversial drafting written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This document set forth, as former slave, statesman, and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass the "grand basis for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women."
            Shortly after these Sentiments were signed, the first Women’s Rights Convention would take place in Worcester, Massachusetts. The first of many conventions, and a distinctive and momentous event in the history of women’s liberation, called to order the demands and details for a standardized plan of action to address the grievances against the legal and social limitations placed on females. Speakers at the convention addressed and spoke in defense of the legal limitations of women set forth by the Bible. Others spoke of the limited access of women to areas of higher education. Argued for sociopolitical changes in regard to the women’s movement, Lucy Stone argued for sociopolitical changes in regard to the women’s movement, and that women as persons had the right to vote and to own property, Abby Price spoke on the necessity to grant more open and equal access of women to employment and trade.  In addition to the recognition of the social distortion of gender roles, Sojourner Truth spoke at the convention regarding the need to recognize the disconnect of race in society and called for the equality distribution of rights for women of color that other members of the convention were working to obtain. [Passage from "Women's Development in Organizational Leadership: A Study of Women's Fraternities and their Role in the American Feminist Movement" Mary Simeoli, 2011, all rights reserved]  
          The issues faced by the early members of the Women's Convention body and by our founders are still very present and still very relevant in our lives today. While we must always strive to fulfill our Ritual promise and organizational obligations - we can also never forget the strife and oppression our founders faced as young women with a common purpose. 

Today, let us not only remember our Ritual and it's meaning, but also the importance of using our association to fulfill common goals, making this world better for generations of women to come! 

Love and Loyally

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Secret I Can Not Tell You, But....

This is my very own Ritual Book, for those that know me, you know this is my favorite thing.

I am a member of a secret society. From our founding as the Adelphean Society to our current status as Alpha Delta Pi, the practices and ceremonies I share with sisters are secret, and remain guarded by her members.

I love that I get to carry a secret... Maybe someday I will be able to pass it along to my own daughter, or niece, or even my own mom - but until then, the key is thrown away.

I can not tell you our secrets. I can not tell you our Ritual. The habitual ceremonies that take place every week, every semester, or every year. The knowledge passed from one generation to the next, the sacred seen and heard.... my lips are sealed.

Now, I have not told you our secrets, but maybe you know them? (No, I don't mean you've googled our way through Panhellenic secrets, or attempted to find out our grip or symbols)

In Alpha Delta Pi Rituals, sisters are given standards and guidelines, we make a promise of excellence like all of our fraternal brothers and sisters do in their respective ceremonies.

Each initiation ceremony may be different - while I can't tell you for sure - I'd guess they are more similar than they are different. The changes or differences between them rooted in our culture or history, our founding purpose and the development of our organizations. Our values, while we share many of our ideologies and have common community values, vary slightly from organization to organization.

Ritual is a secret I can not tell you, but it is one that I can show you.

Ritual is something I know, it is a secret I carry with me all the time. It is a promise that I made, and one that I asked my sisters to hold me accountable for.

So... am I keeping my promise? Am I living my life the way that I promised to do so? Am I valuing the relationships and cultivating the skills I said that I would?

Ritual is a secret I can not tell you, but if I am living my life the way I said I would, if I am treating others the way I said I would, if I am acting in a way that reflects the values that were shared with me... then you should be able to guess.

You should be able to guess what I was told. You should be able to guess what my promise was. You should be able to guess the meaning of the secrets I carry.

If as sorority women and fraternity men, we are truly showing others what our Ritual is, then when our new members arrive at our initiation ceremonies they should be able to say - "Oh, I should have known" or "Oh, I could have guessed."

Each and everyday we have the opportunity to show those around us our Ritual. No, you will not see inside our Ritual Book, or listen to the traditions shared only through word of mouth, but you should see it everyday. You should see it in me. Here's to trying.

Happy National Ritual Celebration Week
<3 Love and Loyally

I Love the Pin You Let Me Wear: Happy International Badge Day 2013

Having not written here since August, my poor blog is probably feeling neglected, and I find myself disappointed for not have better recorded this amazing experience. In thinking again and again about my experience (and lack of blog entries), I made a connection on this very special day. 

Yesterday, Panhellenic women around the world celebrated International Badge Day 2013. This celebration is a part of National Ritual Celebration Week, a program sponsored by our Panhellenic sisters of Phi Mu Fraternity. 

Yesterday, collegiate and alumnae sisters of all Panhellenic groups were asked to wear their sorority pins - to school, to work, to the bank, and the grocery store. We were asked to literally wear our hearts on our sleeves or as this year's theme asks "Wear your Letters on Your Heart." Established in 1997 by the National Panhellenic Conference, International Badge Day's purpose is to celebrate the Panhellenic sisterhood we share, and to show pride in our affiliation. 

Alpha Delta Pi sisters across the country sing "I Love the Pin," with great regularity, a song that our sisterhood cherish, and uses to celebrate the literal and physical symbol of our purpose and organization. And I have to say... I do love the pin. My Alpha Delta Pi badge has changed almost as much as I have during my ADPi membership experience, and tells the story of the places I have gone and the sisters I have met and shared experiences with.

"What are all those things on your pin?" I am oh, so often asked. "They are dangles," I reply with great enthusiasm. A "dangle" is a charm, and each one has a different meaning. For me, they show my involvement, my trips, my lessons learned. At first what was just a black diamond has since become my  timeline: 

October 31, 2009 - I am pinned for the first time with the black diamond badge of Alpha Delta Pi during my initiation ceremony. As a founding member of my chapter, I was pinned with a "generic" badge, simple and plain, but special none-the-less. That night at our Installation Ceremony I receive my charter member dangle, and my first officer dangle for Formal Recruitment Chair.

March 20, 2010 - I pin my Diamond Sister during her initiation ceremony using my very own Alpha Delta Pi badge. My sweet sister would give me a Diamond Sister dangle later for my birthday. 

April 25, 2010 - I was elected Chapter President, and again my badge would change... (elections happened in April since our Founding President was a senior >> Shout out to you, Kelly!!<<

June 24, 2010 - My first international meeting, I was able to attend Leadership Seminar in Atlanta, GA with Sister Hannah. It was the first time our chapter would participate in a summer meeting. A dangle would come with too! 

Now, dangles are all good and fun, but I will save you the recollection of my additions. This timeline would continue, and so too would the changes to my pin. As these additions came along so did my understanding and appreciation for the membership experience the black diamond represented. Each experience, each new interaction brought new friends, and ideas. My pin had been present at job interviews, at Panhellenic events, and even at my college graduation. Now my pin serves as a piece and symbol of my job. Working as a Leadership Consultant for Alpha Delta Pi I have the honor of a second guard on my badge; a symbol that for the rest of my life, will remind me of my membership in the sisterhood of the suitcase, and the culmination of everything I had worked for while in school. 

Our pin is a symbol - a beautiful piece of jewelry, but a symbol of so much more. Our pin symbolizes the promise we made to one another during our initiation and the secrets we value as sisters of this organization. It symbolizes the challenges our membership presents - and how everyday we must strive to do and be our best. Our pin as a part of our brand - a physical reminder of the way we have chosen to live our lives and the affiliation we share with women across time and space. 

Far too often, because of media, or the poor decisions of others, Greek affiliation can be something we hide. We don't want people around us to know we're Greek - it's easier than trying to explain the reality of our experience. What International Badge Day is all about is bringing us together, to those we had no idea we shared a common bond with, to express pride, and to dismantle the preconceived notions of others. So in celebration of National Ritual Celebration Week, "wear your letters on your heart" and show the world what membership in a Panhellenic organization means. 

When I wear my pin, I feel connected to those women around me, and to the women back home. When I wear my pin, I feel proud and accomplished - I know that the skills and confidence I have gained while in college and beyond and deeply rooted in what that piece of jewelry represents. When I wear my pin, I am reminded of the eight wonderful women who have been brought into my life, the International Officers, Executive Staff members, and chapter members who have blessed me far greater than I can express. 

What does your badge mean to you? 
Cheers to the pin we all know and love, and to the sisters we have and those yet to come! 

<3 Love and Loyally