The Women Who Started It All


The Beginning:

In 1893, ten women came together to create a women’s fraternity at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois. Alpha Xi Delta was formed because our Founders wanted ” to form a local sorority to encourage personal friendships, promote friendlier contacts with the entire student body, and be of active service to the college.”  With help from Sigma Nu, Alpha Xi Delta was organized.

The Legacy:

“Alpha Xi Delta’s Founders taught us the value of education because it frees us to achieve our goals and gives us the power to be whatever we choose. They taught us to support one another through shared experiences and understanding, and to serve others to better the lives of those less fortunate. Because of them, Alpha Xi Delta continues to inspire countless bold and talented women to realize their potential.” –

The Women:

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Cora Bollinger Block (1869-1944): She served as Alpha Xi Delta’s first President and first Grand President. She married a Sigma Nu and had three sons.

Alice Bartlett Bruner (1878-1966): An accomplished musician, Alice Bruner taught at the Lombard Conservatory. She had two Alpha Xi Delta daughters. She was the youngest founder, at 15, of Alpha Xi Delta. She married a Sigma Nu.

Almira Lowry Cheney (1875-1946): Almira Cheney was a pioneer in religious education. She became a minister of the Universalist Church. She and her sister, Frances Elisabeth Cheney, helped found Alpha Xi Delta together.

Frances Elisabeth Cheney (1869-1901): Frances Cheney was an advocate of woman’s suffrage and freedom and a talented writer responsible for many of the Fraternity’s early songs.

Bertha Cook Evans (1874-1957): Bertha Cook Evans had three daughters, two of whom are Alpha Xi Deltas. Later in life, she served as a fraternity house director. She married a Sigma Nu.

Eliza Drake Curtis Everton (1867-1934): Entering Lombard already widowed, Eliza Curtis graduated in divinity and became a Universalist pastor, serving until her marriage to the Reverend J.L. Everton, a Sigma Nu. Eliza served as executive director of the Sampson County, North Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross during World War I.

Julia Maude Foster (1875-1948): Julia Foster devoted her entire career to teaching in the St. Paul, Minnesota, schools. She was recognized for her outstanding work in inculcating American ideals in children of foreign birth. She served Alpha Xi Delta as a member of the committee that drafted the first Constitution.

Lucy W. Gilmer (1872-1939): Alpha Xi Delta’s first Vice President was both a teacher and a nurse. She spent many years traveling from city to city, practicing nursing and learning about her country first-hand.

Harriet Luella McCollum (1874-1948): It was in the apartment Harriet McCollum shared with Cora Bollinger that the first plans were made for Alpha Xi Delta. Although married and the mother of two children, as a feminist Harriet McCollum used her maiden name and became a nationally known lecturer and author. She pioneered in adult education and applied psychology, with particular interest in psychological causes of crime. She married a Sigma Nu.

Lewie Strong Taylor (1867-1950): Lewie Strong designed the Quill badge that every Alpha Xi Delta wears today. Lewie Strong Taylor’s original stickpin badge is on display at Fraternity Headquarters and is the only Founder’s badge in the Fraternity’s possession. Of her four children, she had two daughters who are Alpha Xi Delta. Her daughter Aileen was initiated with her mother’s badge at the 1926 National Convention.