57 - Unburying the Badge

It was 1906 when delegates of the D.C. Convention, including Founder Jean Vincenheller, gathered around a small beech tree to bury a time capsule full of mementos from the special occasion. Among those mementos was a program from the Convention, a list of National officers, and more. Most surprisingly to Sisters today, the final inclusion in that buried time capsule was one of our most treasured symbols of Chi Omega… the original badge!

1906 Convention delegates around the beech tree where the original badge was buried at Mount Vernon

Today the original badge, one of the purest symbols of Chi Omega’s Founding almost 125 years ago, is housed and protected in the archives at the Executive Headquarters in a beautiful, sealed display case, as one would expect. But, in 1906 delegates thought it most important to place it in a time capsule and bury it beneath a beech tree planted the year prior by members of Phi Alpha chapter of George Washington University. The Phi Alpha Sisters cared so deeply for this burial they wrote a poem about the tree and the time capsule.

Poem written by Phi Alpha about the beech tree and time capsule
The Governing Council and the beech tree where the original badge was buried at Mount Vernon

Eventually, the meager tree died and once that marker of the time capusule was gone Mary Love Collins, S.H., wisely sent an alumna and her husband on to retrieve the badge. Luckily, they were successful in their pursuit and returned the original badge to the Executive Headquarters safely and in all its glory.

The Original Badge

Eleven years prior, upon the Founding, Jobelle, Jean, Ina May, Allie, and Dr. Richardson envisioned this monogrammed badge, Chi & Omega superimposed. Aligning with their desire for Chi Omega to be vastly different from other organizations, they decided on a strong and recognizable design instead of a symbol badge like most other women’s Fraternities had chosen.

Dr. Richardson, a dentist in Fayetteville, Arkansas, used scraps of dental gold from his office and hammered a single badge for the women. Although this badge may look simple to us today, the dreams and unity it held were insurmountable for these women.

When Dr. Richardson presented the badge to the Founders, they were fixated on it. Jobelle Holcombe saw the badge for the first time and stated, “…when we looked upon that pin, our hearts then opened up to Chi Omega.”

The original badge made of dental gold by Dr. Richardson
Katherine Mendieta Photography

The Founders would take turns wearing the badge, sharing it with each other when a Sister had a big test or a presentation. The badge was so important to the women that they believed they performed better when they wore it.

When Jan Blackwell became the National Archivist in 1984, she found the original badge was displayed at the Executive Headquarters in a dime store paperweight. Although several steps above being buried in the ground, she knew the original badge deserved a more elegant and honorable display. She took the badge to Albuquerque, New Mexico, her hometown, where she had it properly mounted on red cloth in a gold-colored metal frame.

The original badge was recently reframed in Memphis, Tennesse, and is now displayed on black velvet in a gold wooden frame. It is a highlight for all who visit the Executive Headquarters to see such a symbol of our Founders’ dream.

The original badge is displayed at the Executive Headquarters in the archives today for viewing

The Badge Today

Today’s badge has more detail, symbolism, and nods to Ritual than the original, but remains true to the Founders’ exemplar for this unmatched symbol of Chi Omega. Featured at the top of the badge are the Greek letters Rho, Beta, Upsilon, Eta, and Sigma. The badge always contains 14 stones, either pearls or diamonds, and it features on each side the skull and crossbones and the owl.

Donning this sacred badge is a privilege that Initiated Sisters do not take lightly. Many Sisters still remember the first time she wore this metallic jewel with fondness, noting the elevated expectation and commitment she then undertook. Only to be worn with professional, badge attire this symbol of Chi Omega is one held to the highest esteem. This badge, like all of our Ritual and symbolism, ties Sisters around the world together, as no matter what chapter, state, or decade she calls hers, we all hold this relic of Sisterhood ever at heart.