22 - Correspondence from the Archives

In today’s world we know communicating with each other is easier than ever. With email, social media, FaceTime, and texting we are never far from being able to contact our friends, family, and Sisters.

But how did Chi Omegas communicate in the early days of our Sisterhood and how has it evolved? How did the Executive Headquarters send national updates before email systems and digital databases were put into place? How did chapters across the country communicate with each other before Instagram made it easy to tell our stories online?

The first and most prominent form of communication within Chi Omega was the publishing of The Eleusis. Psi Sisters Ida Pace Purdue and Jobelle Holcombe originated the idea of The Eleusis, and the first issue was published in June 1899. It’s distinctive design and concepts were worked on by Ida and were what laid the foundation for The Eleusis today.

The publication was issued quarterly and contained national updates as well as chapter-submitted updates about specific collegiate chapters and alumnae groups. Much of what was received by the Executive Headquarters was compiled in the quarterly issues of The Eleusis and held for distribution to members until the next issue was scheduled. Imagine having to wait months before receiving regular updates for the Executive Headquarters!

The first issue of The Eleusis

Chi Omega was planning for the 1916 Convention with a focus on efficiency.

An update in The Eleusis that the 1918 Chi Omega Convention was postponed, due to World War I.

Bunny Hyatt is credited with changing the format of The Eleusis from a book-like publication to a magazine style. This is her Letter from the Editor in The Eleusis regarding feedback on the new format of the magazine

Convention posters were used as promotional communication for the national events. They were published in The Eleusis as well as sent directly to chapters.

Convention Posters

Many years of correspondence is recorded regarding The National Woman of Achievement Award, but some of our most prized pieces were with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Communication between Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Dyer, and Mary Love Collins

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Mary Love Collins

Newsletters were common in earlier years of Chi Omega before social media became our version of the instant newsletter today. Summer newsletters from collegiate chapters were distributed by many chapters. Each Sister who wanted an update included would communicate it with the chapter correspondent and that chapter correspondent would compile and send it off.

The Owl was a Convention newsletter that was distributed at the beginning of each Convention day outlining updates and the schedule. Today we use event apps for all of our updates, but The Owl was used even into the 2000s. The Inquirer was a newsletter put together by National Leadership Consultants at the time. They were not able to follow each other’s travels through Instagram stories, do group Facetimes, or have groups texts. Each consultant would submit their updates to one Sister who would compile the updates and send them out for all women on the team.

Chapter newsletter from Psi Gamma/Mercer, 1980

Chapter newsletter from Psi Gamma/Mercer, 1982

The Owl, 1936

The Owl, 1990

The Owl, 1990

The Owl, 2000

Official correspondence from the Executive Headquarters would feature the Chi Omega seal.

Large Chi Omega seal machine

Telegrams were commonly used as a quicker means of communication over letters sent through the mail.

A congratulatory telegram referring to Initiation in 1951, Nu Gamma/Penn State

Firesides began in 1935 and sessions were held in June in nine locations across the country. Three chapter houses hosted delegates: Epsilon Alpha/Oklahoma, Mu Alpha/New Hampshire, and Beta Beta/Washington State. Here is a telegram from Mary Love Collins to Catherine Burton who was a “counselor” for the Tennessee Firesides.

Telegram from Mary Love Collins to Catherine Burton

Lexi Merritt, Psi Mu/Central Florida, had the privilege of looking through the scrapbook of her grandmother Elizabeth Harrington Merritt, Sigma/Randolph-Macon. She found a few different forms of communication within it’s pages and said,  “The telegram is my favorite part. My great-grandmother was a Chi Omega as well.”

Telegram from Elizabeth’s family in 1952 congratulating her on her membership in Chi Omega. Elizabeth’s mother was also a Chi Omega.

Left, Elizabeth’s bid in 1952, right, Lexi’s bid in 2014

Our archives are overflowing with signs of sisterly support during tough times like Rho/Tulane University’s letter sent after the 1906 Earthquake to their affected Mu/University of California Berkeley Chi Omega Sisters with sympathy and support.

Telegram from Rho to Mu following the 1906 earthquake

Letter recounting the 1906 earthquake

Today it is much easier to connect with Sisters across the country and the world, but these pieces of history remind us that authentic connections have been a pinnacle of Chi Omega since our Founding. These messages are just small insights into the abundance of archived communication we have from over the years. Even when it was difficult to communicate, our Sisters found a way. Chi Omega is centered around connecting with one another, whether it be on Fraternity business or catching up on life with a Sister we haven’t seen in awhile. Sincere communication has transcended time over the past 125 years, and it will continue to be a hallmark of Chi Omega for years to come.