48 - Our ADPi, Emmie Lela

May 14, 1851, is a day that all Alpha Delta Pi women know, love, and celebrate each year. It’s one that is also notable when talking about our beloved Chi Omega Sister Emmie Lela Gramling, as Alpha Delta Pi was the Sisterhood she first called home!

Emmie Lela Gramling on her wedding day in 1910 wearing her Chi Omega badge.

On February 4, 1902, Emmie Lela Gramling, a 1900 transfer to Randolph Macon Woman’s College, was initiated into Sigma chapter of Chi Omega. Just a few years earlier she was attending Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, near her hometown of Atlanta. It was there, on October 22, 1897, that she was initiated into the Adelphian Society, which would come to be known as our Panhellenic sisters, Alpha Delta Pi.

Front of Emmie Lela Gramling’s Alpha Delta Pi badge
Photo courtesy of Alpha Delta Pi Headquarters

Back of Emmie Lela Gramling’s Alpha Delta Pi badge
Photo courtesy of Alpha Delta Pi Headquarters

But how is it possible that a woman is initiated into two separate National Panhellenic Council sororities? In the same year that Emmie was initiated into Chi Omega, NPC was founded. It was then that the foundation and rules of NPC membership that we know today began to be put into place and practiced, one of the most notable being that women can only be initiated into one NPC organization. Needless to say, today’s collegian would not be able to be initiated into two different groups!

Emmie’s time at Randolph Macon was well spent and well noticed. The 1904 issue of The Eleusis featured an entry from Sigma chapter about Emmie stating, “She was her class president, and she was an imposing one, you may be sure. Someone said of her that she was a typical senior. Emmie, you must know, is our beauty. She was voted the most beautiful girl in college by the student body.”

Emmie Lela Gramling pictured second from the left with her Sigma Chapter

Emmie had a larger than life personality that served her well. As a collegian, she practiced her love for Chi Omega as H., G.M., and G.H. of her Sigma chapter. Graduation was no deterrent to her involvement, as she would go on to serve nationally as an early council member. Emmie helped to foster the Fraternity during its youngest years in the roles of S.T.B. from 1904-1906, National Alumnae Officer, and S.M. from 1912-1914.

Emmie Lela Gramling pictured as S.M. of the 1912-1914 Governing Council

In the 1906 issue of The Eleusis Tau’s remarks stated, “The visit made to us by Emmie Lela Gramling, S. T. B., was decidedly the most delightful feature of the whole term for us. We all fell in love with her as soon as she came, and could hardly give her up when the time came for her to go. She agreed to come back at the end of the week to be with us and attend the Field Day Sports, and this she did, much to our delight. We enjoyed her visit more than we can ever tell and are eagerly hoping for another. We know that we derived a great deal of benefit, too, by having her with us. “

Emmie Lela had a son in 1913, as noted in The Eleusis, and her daughter, who we lovingly know today as Perk, was born on January 5, 1920.

Howard “Perk” Perkinson

Howard “Perk” Perkinson Lawrence, followed in her mother’s footsteps by pledging Sigma chapter at Randolph Macon Woman’s College, initiating in 1937. She did not, however, follow suit in pledging another sorority. National Panhellenic, which was established the same year Perk’s mother pledged Chi Omega as her second sorority, was now more established and had rules in place to keep women from being a part of multiple organizations.

In a 1940 issue of The Eleusis Perk was featured as a standout Chi Omega naming her, “an all-round college girl!”

She was known for excelling in athletics, as she was a tennis champion, an all-star guard on the college basketball teams, and captain of the baseball team for three years. She was a member of Humbug, an athletic society, and Blazers’ Club, a notable athletic honorary club. She also took an active part in dramatic organizations and had a role in the Junior Play. She appeared in productions of the German Club and two of the Greek plays for which Randolph-Macon was so well known.

Perk was a member of Junior Scholastic Honorary, but perhaps most notably, she held the presidency of Student Government at Randolph-Macon and also of the Southern Intercollegiate Student Government Association. She also represented her college at the National Student Federation of America.

Perk was listed in the Collegiate Who’s Who and elected Randolph Macon Woman’s College’s 1940 May Queen, proving to be both loveable and popular among her peers. Of her eighteen attendants at the event, eight were Chi Omegas.

Perk as May Queen 1940

Emmie had the opportunity to attend Convention with Perk in 1938. It was here that Emmie gave the Memorial Address. She said, “Life is like a beautiful tapestry – some threads are drab and some are bright. There runs through this tapestry the rose-hued thread of happiness; there is the blue thread of loyalty and there is the red thread of courage; there is the gleaming white thread of purity; the dark thread of sorrow and the gleaming shining silver thread of dreams. But when this tapestry of life is illumined and glorified by the resplendent gold of love and friendship and Sisterly affection it ‘Shineth unto the perfect day.'”

” The Sigmas” at 1938 Convention
Left, Perk, right, Emmie pictured together at the 1938 Convention
Former Governing Council members at 1938 Convention

Perk and her daughter, Gayle Fitzsimons Gragg, an initiate of Alpha Beta/Auburn attended an Atlanta Alumnae gathering in 2012. Emmie’s major involvement in the Atlanta Alumnae chapter is noted thoroughly throughout issues of The Eleusis. The legacy of Emmie, our beloved and one-of-kind Alpha Delta Pi and Chi Omega Sister, continues to live on through her family today.

Howard Perk Perkinson Lawrence, left, and Gayle Fitzsimons Gragg, right, at 2012 Atlanta Alumnae event
Howard Perk Perkinson Lawrence with National Archivist Lyn Harris, 2017