One of the oldest and largest women’s fraternities in North America, Phi was founded by ten students at Syracuse University in 1872. At the time, many people questioned the propriety of higher education for women, and the founders established their secret society as a means of supporting each other as they undertook their rigorous course of studies. The fraternity would soon make a connection with Evanston, when Frances Willard, who was a mentor to the young women, was initiated into the fraternity in 1875. This connection proved fruitful, and after one of Alpha Phi’s early members, Dr. Jane Bancroft Robinson, was appointed Dean of Women at Northwestern University, Alpha Phi’s second chapter, “Beta,” was established at Northwestern in 1881. A total of four Alpha Phi members would serve as Dean of Women at Northwestern, and several of Evanston’s most prominent citizens, including May Bennett Dyche and Ethel Grey Scott, were Alpha Phi members. In the 1950s, the Fraternity established its headquarters in Evanston, where it remains today, located at 1930 Sherman Avenue.
Founders: Dr. Jane Bancroft Robinson