If we asked you the longest continuously open Chi Omega Chapter would you know the answer? You probably think you do… but what if we told you it was Rho Chapter at Tulane University?
Rho Chapter takes the title of the oldest, continuously open chapter of Chi Omega, due to the early 1900s state legislature that forced fraternity closings for a period of time in two states where Chi Omega chapters were chartered. In Arkansas, affecting Psi Chapter 1902-1904, and Mississippi, affecting Tau Chapter 1911-1926, fraternity life was shut down, and during this time, alumnae held the chapters’ charters.
Rho Chapter was never affected by this type of state legislature, thus giving them the title of longest, continuously open chapter.
120 Continuous Years of Rho Chapter
In 1898, a group of students at what was then known as Sophie Newcomb College formed a society called Sigma Delta. When the organization was chartered as a Chi Omega chapter on March 23, 1900, 16 women joined the bonds of the Fraternity.
In a 1900 issue of The Eleusis it said, “… a society known as the P.K.E.C. was established in 1897, and in 1898 formed itself into a local fraternity known as the Sigma Delta. This local fraternity flourished ‘like a green bay tree,’ and finally on Friday, March 30, 1900, the members formally announced to the College that (on March 23, 1900) they had joined the national fraternity of Chi Omega and would be known as the Rho Chapter of that Fraternity… we will bring this lengthy epistle to a close, assuring our beloved Sisters that the ‘Cardinal and Straw’ will ever wave over a very loyal body of girls known as Rho Chapter of Chi Omega.”
Just as many of our early chapters, chartering in the early 1900s did not include branded marketing materials, a large team from the Executive Headquarters, or charter classes of 100 women. More humble beginnings tell the story of these early chapters.
According to a 1900 issue of The Eleusis, “The first meeting place of the chapter was a room, a quaint old rambling place in the basement of “Old Newcomb” which was the scene of all struggles and successes of the early history of Rho. This room was very dear to the hearts of the older members, and it was with no little regret that it was given up in 1918 when Newcomb was moved to its new, most spacious and beautiful home adjacent to the Tulane campuses.”
During the first 15 years of Rho’s existence, the charter members attended many functions and assisted the chapter in its planning and recruitment.
Four of those original charter members were biological sisters! Florence, Lillian, Maud, and Corrine Loeber were all charter members and would later have their fifth sister Pauline join Rho Chapter alongside them. Of these five women, one became a doctor, one an attorney, and Corinne became the second S.H. of Chi Omega!
As recorded in a 1903 issue of The Eleusis, Dr. Richardson visited the Loeber family while was in New Orleans. He described the visit as as, “Soon after my arrival in New Orleans, to attend the Kappa Sigma conclave, I met Dr. Loeber, a Kappa Sigma and a man whom anyone would delight to call ‘friend and brother.’ He rejoices in the fact that five of his sisters are Chi Omegas, and so I told him that I should like to meet as many Chi Omegas as possible.”
“On Wednesday evening I was invited to dinner at the beautiful Loeber home… I shall not attempt to describe the pleasure the evening afforded me; all, from Mrs. Loeber…”
“On Friday, November twenty-eighth, I was invited to Chi Omega hall, where I had the opportunity to meet all the members of Rho who were in the city, both active and alumnae. Their rooms are situated in the main building, and are large and beautifully furnished, making ideal chapter rooms; while no finer young women could be found on earth than the splendid girls who compose Rho. I only wish that I could express the gratification the visit afforded me. Had I, indeed and in truth, been their ‘big brother’ (as they much to my delight called me), they could not have been more cordial or glad to see me, My only regret was the shortness of stay which circumstances compelled. After delightful refreshments were served and a reluctant good-bye had been said, I went away with a feeling of great elation and joy that it is my good fortune to be a member of the Chi Omega fraternity.”
Several other chapters were chartered before Rho, but have closed since. Chi at Jessamine Institute (name later reused at Transylvania), Phi at Hellmuth Woman’s College, Upsilon at Belmont College (name later reused at Union University), and Sigma at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College were all chartered before Rho Chapter but have closed since.