Topeka Alumnae Chapter
Early Chapter History 1942-1964
By Soror Orvetta Scott, Charter Member
Gamma Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta was established as a memorial for Martha Douglas of Topeka, an initiate of Psi Chapter, Lawrence, Kansas.
She was an outstanding art student at Washburn who had an intense desire to bring D.S.T. to Washburn College. So she organized college graduate Deltas living in Topeka into a Delta Aid Club. Three months after her graduation from Washburn, Soror Douglas was returning home from the initiation of Edna Ware into Psi Chapter, another Washburn graduate, when she was fatally injured in an auto accident.
So, as a memorial to Soror Douglas the Delta Aid Club, under the leadership of Alyce Monroe, plus information and encouragement of Psi Chapter and Regional Director Ruth Watson of Kansas City, began plans to bring Delta Sigma Theta to the Washburn campus. A definite attack was waged by the T.I.D.’s (Those Interested in Delta) to get the necessary papers signed.
Dean Hanson, dean of women called in members of the existing minority sorority (AKA’s) for a conference with the Delta Aid Group and on the evening of February 28, 1942, the smoldering embers of Gamma Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta burst into flame. And the black women of Washburn University had a choice of Greek letter organizations with which to affiliate. Thus in a spirit of friendly competition, many consultations with the other sorority and Dean Hanson, a social sorority and a civic sorority became a part of the campus life for the black girl.
Gamma Beta Chapter was established by Central Regional Director Mary E. S. Buford of Oklahoma at St. Augustine Hall, Topeka. The first business was the election of officers. There were six charter members and each held an office: Alyce Monroe, President, Ruth Scott, Vice President, Alyce Clark, Secretary, Orvetta M. Scott, assistant Secretary, Edna Ware Treasurer, and Journalist Lucretia Smith.
An elaborate formal banquet was held to celebrate the chartering of Gamma Beta. Out of town guests were Ms. Beatrice Penman, Grand Treasurer, Naomi Cherot, Grand Chairman of the Scholarship Board, Ruth Watson, Regional Secretary, Eva Dixon, Glee Wiloughy and Therortora Stewart, all of Alpha Alpha Chapter of Kansas City, Mrs. Jobie Holderness, Mrs. Corrion Remsey and Mrs. Mary Buford, Omicron Sigma, Tulsa, OK, Ms. Opal Lindsay, Beta Zeta, Pittsburg, KS and Ms. Lillian French, President of Psi Chapter.
The first major projects were a reception for the great singer Soror Dorothy Manor at the home of Soror Ruth Scott, and the Baby Contest Talent Extravaganza, a huge success at Shiloh Baptist Church. Truly Gamma Beta was on its way.
During the following years the black Greek letter organizations were treated as minority organizations, not members of the Pan Hellenic Council nor governed by the same rules or regulations as the other societies. So in 1964 Gamma Beta felt that its Scholastic requirements and contributions to Washburn equaled that of any other Sorority on the campus. This was reported to our national Headquarters who in turn sent a National officer to confer with the Pan Hellenic Council and Dean of Women to express their displeasure with the situation. That person was Soror Executive Director Patricia Harris, who would become the first Negro woman to be a US Ambassador, and Chairwoman of the 1972 Democratic Convention.
The results of her conference at Washburn, among other things, were:
1. Gamma Beta must have a Sorority house within a certain area of the campus within 30 days. At that time it was impossible for blacks to obtain a house within the designated area even if they could have purchased a house.
2. Neither of the Sororities had the required number of members on the campus.
So deciding that we could continue our aims and projects within the community of Topeka, we withdrew from the Washburn campus rather than continue as a second rate organization.
However we continued to give scholarships to black students attending Washburn. We are also continuing our community projects. Yes, with pride we are carrying on.
(Note: This history was written by Soror Scott before her passing in 1998. Soror Scott was initiated into Psi chapter in 1923. She was our last surviving charter member.)
From Gamma Beta to Topeka Alumnae
1964 – Present
As the chapter moved from the 60’s into the 70’s and beyond, we continued in our Public Service programs. The Sorors were involved in volunteer work at the Veteran’s hospital and Forbes Air Force Base. In addition the chapter took on such projects as Crossroads to Africa, Winter Wonderland and Teen Lift.
In 1979 Grand Chapter deleted from its structure of mixed chapters, chapters with both undergraduate and graduate members – which is what Gamma Beta had been for 39 years. In 1981 Gamma Beta became Topeka Alumnae as Grand Chapter renamed and identified graduate chapters by the city or area they were located in.
Topeka Alumnae continued to excel in their public service programs. We started the Essay Contest, which became the Wilberta Williams Essay Contest in memory of our beloved Soror, and instituted Project Read, which provides books to the students of Lafayette Elementary and later Williams Science Magnet school. We have had a Jabberwock, numerous fashion shows for fund raisers and joined the Black Pan Hellenic Council in such projects as Las Vegas Night, Toy Dance and Talent shows. We participated in National initiatives such as Delta Days at the State and Nations Capitols, Adopt-a-Black Business, voter registration, and several members have served on regional and national committees.
The chapter over the past 66 years has had outstanding leadership and is continuing to look toward the future years with enthusiasm and “we will not shrink what seems wise and good because handicaps or obstacles of any kind confront me…”