115 - Convention Memories

Every two years, Chi Omegas from across the country travel to celebrate the transformative fraternal experiences in Chi Omega. During these celebratory gatherings, several moments have captured the attention of our Chi Omega historians and their stories have been passed down from one Sister to the next. As we near our 125th anniversary, we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of Chi Omega Conventions.

A 1906 Reception at White House

On June 26, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt hosted the Chi Omega Convention delegates at the White House where he greeted each of them with his famous “de-lighted!” and a compliment about each woman’s state.

Mattie Craighill Nicholas, Sigma/Randolph – Macon, Editor of The Eleusis recorded, “Mrs. Ida Pace Purdue stood by him (Roosevelt) and called our names and states as we circled the room for the presidential handshake, his broad smile, and the ‘de-lighted’ that we hoped he would say. Mrs. Purdue looked diminutive beside the big President… Mrs. Purdue wore a dress typical of the period, lavender… with ruffles edged with narrow lace and a white hat trimmed with flowers.”

1906 Washington D.C. Convention delegates in front of the Army and Navy Building after their White House reception

In a 1906 issue of The Eleusis, a Convention delegate wrote, “It was on Wednesday afternoon of that long-to-be remembered week that we left The Shoreham all determined to get at least a word with President Roosevelt… There were about seventy of us, and upon reaching the entrance of the White House we followed, two by two, a uniformed man who ushered us into the East Room, which is the largest and perhaps the most beautiful of all the rooms. Here two men met us. They must have been private secretaries or something of the kind and told us to form into a kind of circle so that we could, in turn, walk by the President. This we did, and there waited for a few minutes, while the two men were seemingly amused at our enthusiasm and eagerness, for each one of us was wondering what the President would have to say and how he would act. Would he stand in our midst and make a speech, or talk to each girl in an informal way. Suddenly, a large door opened and he appeared, looking very much like other men – in a light-colored linen suit… He greeted Mrs. Purdue with the cordiality that we had heard so much about. After a few words with her, each girl in her turn came forward, giving her name and state.”

The 1912 Canadian Convention

In 1912, the first and only international location was chosen for a Chi Omega Convention. Delegates traveled to Niagara Falls, Canada for a three-day Convention that would consist of reports from collegiate chapters, alumnae chapters, and committees.

1912 delegates in Canada, the only Convention to ever be held outside of the United States.

When describing the location choice in the 1912 issue of The Eleusis, it was explained that, “Our Council and Convention bodies have been extremely fortunate in their selections of our meeting places, for environment influences so deeply the attitude of our minds and the value of our deeds. On former occasions such as this, it has been towns, buildings, and the wonderful rush of business that has been brought before us. This time it is nature, more marvelous and more powerful, that stirs our finer feelings. Niagara, the beautiful, the useful, reflects our aim for Chi Omega, inwardly beautiful and strong in every detail, outwardly pleasing and serving the purposes of humanity.”

The 1918 Convention Canceled due to World War I

In 1918, the difficult but necessary decision to cancel the Chi Omega Convention was made due to World War I and the ongoing effects of the war.

Letter from S.H. Mary Love Collins, Delta/Dickinson, and S.K.A. Annie Whiteside, Sigma/Randolph – Macon, announcing the cancellation of the 1918 Convention

In a letter featured in The Eleusis from the Washington City Alumnae Chapter, the strains of the war were outlined clearly.

“We were disappointed at not having Convention… Everybody in Washington that can work is occupied. So many teachers resigned last winter that the school authorities appealed to the teachers who had married in the last few years to return. Several of our girls answered the call. Quite a number are also employed in the various government war activities. Those alumnae who are not doing war work of some kind outside the home are having troubles of their own with the labor shortage… Our plans for the fall and winter are not made. With everybody at work already it doesn’t look as though we can have any day meetings. We hope any and all Chi Omegas coming to Washington will let us know of their arrival. We will endeavor to make them welcome and I’m sure they will be glad to meet the other girls who have come here from all over the country. The Washington City alumnae send best wishes for the success of each Chi Omega who may be doing her ‘bit,’ however small it may be.”

The First Convention at The Greenbrier in 1924

Among the mountains of West Virginia, The Greenbrier is a National Historic Landmark that has welcomed world-class guests since 1778. With a guest list that includes 27 of the country’s 45 Presidents, The Greenbrier has been a favorite destination of royalty, celebrities, business leaders, and of course Chi Omegas.

In 1924, Chi Omega’s first Greenbrier Convention took place. In the 1920s the cost of Convention was just nine dollars a day, and that covered the delegates’ meals and room! What served as the beginning of a 21-year Chi Omega tradition of hosting Convention at this location, although not all continuous, also marked the end of another. Dr. Charles Richardson attended the 1924 Convention and died just a few months later due to a brief illness. The first Greenbrier Convention was his last Chi Omega event.

Iota Alpha/SMU delegates with their car at The Greenbrier
The Greenbrier today, photo courtesy of greenbrier.com

“Only a few hours at The Greenbrier and we were thinking of Chi Omega in the larger sense, realizing her bigness and getting a more accurate conception of our Fraternity as a national organization. We appreciate much more keenly than before the obligation of each of us as individuals to all Chi Omegas everywhere and our responsibility in upholding Chi Omega ideals seems greater, ” Columbus Alumnae Chapter, The Eleusis, 1924.

The Radio Broadcast of the 1930 Convention

In the same year that the Chi Omega Greek Theatre was dedicated to the University of Arkansas, former S.H. Mary Love Collins, Delta/Dickinson, gave a speech that would go on to be broadcast on the radio! This was an exciting development, as this meant countless Chi Omegas unable to attend the Convention were able to be a part of the experience from afar.

Arlington Hotel where the 1930 Chi Omega Convention was hosted
From a 1930 issue of The Eleusis

In addition to Mary Love’s speech, songs, sung by Rho/Tulane delegates, and other speeches were also broadcast by radio station KTHS (Kome to Hot Springs) from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

A Visit from Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1936 Convention

At the 1936 Convention, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady, attended as a special guest and speaker. Former S.H. Mary Love Collins, Delta/Dickinson, had the honor of introducing Mrs. Roosevelt, who had been chosen to serve on the National Woman of Achievement Award Committee because of her own accomplishments and her willingness to give her time and thought to the selection of the recipient.

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presents the National Achievement Award to Dr. Alice Hamilton. Mrs. Roosevelt, center, Dr. Hamilton, right, and Miss Frances Grimes, who designed the medal, left, at the 1936 Chi Omega Convention

Seeing Eleanor Roosevelt was described by a delegation in The Eleusis as, “The charm of Mrs. Roosevelt’s personality is realized at the first brief glance into her eyes… they are sympathetic, understanding eyes. It was my privilege to sit at the Speakers’ Table, and it made me happy to look over that brilliant hall full of beautiful young things in their pretty frocks, their faces alight with eager expectancy… At the close of the dinner, Chi Omega’s President arose, presenting Mrs. Roosevelt, not as the wife of the President of the United States but in her own right. It was fully as thrilling as we thought it would be to see Mrs. Roosevelt award the National Achievement medal to Dr. Alice Hamilton and to hear her express her pleasure in acknowledging a great woman’s achievement. After the dinner, we adjourned to the spacious Greenbrier parlors, where there was opportunity for informal talk with Mrs. Roosevelt, Dr. Hamilton, and Miss Grimes (the designer of the Woman of Achievement medal) until the hour grew late… Many of us left Convention with delightful photographs of this great occasion… It is a happy reminder of the joy and inspiration of the 1936 Convention. From the Friday of my arrival until the Wednesday of my departure, it was a Chi Omega Symphony in which there was no discordant note…”

Currently, Convention 2020 is still scheduled to take place June 25-28 in Memphis, Tennessee. We will continue to monitor this situation and should plans change, we will provide updates accordingly.