107 - Chi Omega’s Leading Ladies

Since Jobelle, Jean, Ina May, and Allie came together in 1895, strong leadership has been a hallmark of Chi Omega. The Fraternity flourishes today because of decades of untiring effort and the outpouring of wisdom from Governing Council members over the past century.

The First Governing Council

When the first Governing Council of Chi Omega was established in 1898, it consisted of six officers, not five as we know it today. These officers’ lettered titles varied slightly to include the H. on the Council.

G.S.H. Jeanne Marie Vincenheller, S.G.T.B. Lucy Bird Mock, S.K.A. Mary Eleanor Duncan, S.N.V. Charlotte Martin Gallaway, S.M. Ruth Anne Dickinson, and S.H. Mary Trueheart Noland created the first blueprint of how a Governing Council would lead Chi Omega.

The first six Governing Council members

In the first issue of The Eleusis in 1899 it stated, “The direction of the Fraternity’s affairs is in the hands of a Governing Council of six. These are elected by the biennial Convention which is composed of delegates from the different chapters. The Governing Council has final authority in all matters pertaining to the Fraternity’s government. The present Council is composed of enthusiastic, painstaking, and energetic young women and will soon make Chi Omega an important factor in the Fraternity world. Her spirit and purpose peculiarly fit her for the career…”

Early Changes

At the first Convention in 1900, the sixth officer was removed, and the lettered titles changed slightly.

Delegates at the 1900 Convention in Memphis, Tennessee

The 1900 issue of The Eleusis included a letter from S.H., formerly G.S.H., Jean Vincenheller announcing the change that read, “When the local Chi Omega was organized, the general Constitution provided a Supreme Governing Council, in which was vested the power to issue and withdraw charters. Not until the mother plant threw out tendrils, and a healthy chapter sprang into existence, did we feel the need of a Council. The first Council was composed of six members, but as the titles S.H. and H. rather conflicted, and the H. had no duties of special importance, the committee on Constitution at the Convention recommended the abolishment of the latter office; the amendment was accepted. As S.H. of the first Council, I am writing this letter.”

Following 1900, the titles became S.H., S.T.B., S.N.V., S.K.A., and S.M. as we know them today. The next year, the editor of The Eleusis was added as the only non-lettered officer of the Governing Council and remained there until 1974.

Until the fourth Council, terms varied from one to three years. In 1904, with Ida Pace Purdue as S.H., Councils began following a loose structure of two-year terms to align with Convention years. Although the idea of two-year terms began in 1904, term limits did not exist for decades. Mary Love Collins, Chi Omega’s longest-serving S.H., held the position for 42 years. Today, a term limit of three two-year terms is in place for each Governing Council office.

Governing Council 1906-1908, S.H. Ida Pace Purdue, front right, and Founder and S.T.B. Jobelle Holcombe, front center, are pictured with S.K.A Jessie Anna Parker, S.N.V. May Gullette Miller, S.M. Mary Wright Bain, and Eleusis Editor Mattie Craighill.

In 1905, the Council held its first meeting outside of a Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, and in the 1909 Manual, this decision to meet between Conventions was said to be “the beginning of a great good for the Fraternity.” If only they knew how closely today’s Council members work as they meet quarterly and are in communication daily!

Governing Council Jewelry

The official ring of Chi Omega, designed by Founder Ina May Boles, is only to be worn by Founders and members of the Governing Council. Each member of the Governing Council is gifted her ring and gets to keep it as a memento of her time devoted to the Fraternity.

Governing Council rings housed in the Archives at Chi Omega Executive Headquarters

Each member of the Governing Council is also lent a badge. This specifically-designed badge must be returned at the end of her term to be passed on to her successor.

The S.H. badge was the first of the Governing Council badges and was originally given to S.H. Elizabeth Orman in the mid-1970s by the Alumnae of Mississippi. More about Governing Council jewelry can be found here.

Governing Council Badges

The Governing Council Today

Today the Governing Council consists of five dedicated volunteers who work day-to-day with the Executive Headquarters staff, National Leadership Consultants, national teams and committees, National Panhellenic Conference delegates, Chi Omega Foundation Board of Trustees, Chi O Creations Board of Trustees, and other Chi Omega volunteers.

They are directly responsible for policy-making and the governance of Fraternity business – all while keeping Chi Omega’s ‘welfare ever at heart.’

These Sisters truly do it all!

From left, S.M. Missy Pask, S.N.V. Anna Buckner, S.H. Shelley Potter, S.T.B. Laura Miller, S.K.A. Gena Runnion

This summer at the 2020 Convention in Memphis, a new Governing Council will be elected to serve as our leading Sisters as we embark on the next 125 years of Chi Omega!