Sigma Gamma Rho Badge
Sigma Kappa (ΣΚ) is a sorority founded in 1874 at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Sigma Kappa was founded by five women: Mary Caffrey Low Carver, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Mabel Fuller Pierce, Frances Elliott Mann Hall and Louise Helen Coburn. Since its founding in 1874, the sorority has initiated more than 156,000 members worldwide and has 112 collegiate chapters in 36 states and over 120 alumnae chapters.
The sorority’s official philanthropies are gerontology (with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease research), Inherit the Earth, and the Maine Sea Coast Mission. The philanthropies can be easily remembered with the acronym SIGMA (Sigma Kappa Foundation, Inherit the Earth, Gerontology, Maine Sea Coast Mission, and Alzheimer’s research). Research grants are made each year to universities and other institutions actively engaged in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.
Colby College in Waterville, Maine, was the first college in New England to admit women on an equal basis with men; in 1871, Mary Caffrey Low Carver became the first female student at Colby. For two years, she was the only woman at the school. But in 1873, four more young women from Maine, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, Ida Mabel Fuller Pierce, Frances Elliott Mann Hall and Louise Helen Coburn were admitted to Colby. Being the only women in the college, the five of them found themselves together frequently. In 1873-74, the five young women decided to form a literary and social society. They were instructed by the college administration that they would need to present a constitution and bylaws with a petition requesting permission to form Sigma Kappa Sorority. They began work during that year and on November 9, 1874, the five received a letter from the faculty approving their petition. They sought for and received permission to form a sorority with the intent for the organization to become national.
Since that time, Sigma Kappa annually celebrates November 9 as its Founders’ Day.
Mary Caffrey Low was the first woman to appear on the rolls of Sigma Kappa and the first to preside over an initiation. The first Sigma Kappa emblem was designed by Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, who died shortly thereafter of tuberculosis. A large portion of the initiation ceremony was written by Louise Helen Coburn. Much of the original initiation music was written by Hoag’s cousin, Emily Peace Meader, who was inducted shortly before Hoag’s death in 1875. Frances Mann Hall was the first Sigma Kappa to get married, to a fellow Colby student.
In the first constitution, chapter membership was limited to 25. The original group was known as Alpha chapter and as the sorority grew, Beta chapter and Gamma chapter were also established at Colby College. Early records indicate that the groups met together; but in 1893, the Sigma Kappa members decided that intramural expansion was not desirable. They voted to fill Alpha chapter to the limit of 25 and to initiate no more into Beta and Gamma chapters. Eventually, the second and third chapters would vanish from Colby campus. Finally, Sigma Kappas realized if the organization was going to continue to grow, it had to expand beyond the walls of Colby College.
The Delta Chapter of Boston University is now the oldest existing chapter. In 1984, Colby College banned fraternities and sororities, ensuring that Sigma Kappa’s Alpha, Beta, and Gamma chapters will probably never be resurrected.
In 2005, the Sigma Kappa Mu Chapter House obtained City of Seattle Landmark status, becoming the only sorority or fraternity in Seattle to achieve Historic Landmark status both at the City of Seattle and on the National Historic Register.
The symbols and insignia of Sigma Kappa are outward signs of the special feeling the members have for each other that comes from within themselves. Members of Sigma Kappa are obligated to uphold her high standards and ideals, remembering that Sigma Kappas all over the country are bound by the same tenets.
Sigma Kappa’s colors are lavender and maroon.
Violets were loved by all Sigma Kappas from the beginning. The delicate flowers grew wild along the banks of the Messalonskee River where the founders sat and dreamed of Sigma Kappa. In June 1892, the violet was adopted as the official flower. In 2008, the official flower became the Wild Purple Violet to distinguish it from other varieties of violets. The flower was thought to belong to the days of promise as is Sigma Kappa.
The pearl is the official jewel of Sigma Kappa.
The dove was accepted as an official symbol of Sigma Kappa at the 1984 convention and the heart was adopted at the 1988 convention. Both symbols signify the love felt by members and alumnae across the continents.
The Sigma Kappa coat-of-arms reflects the familiar symbols of the sorority – the dove, the violet, the Greek letters, and maroon and lavender. Adopted in 1911, the coat-of-arms consists of a maroon shield with a diagonal bar of gold, bearing five lavender stars; the lower portion a coiled serpent. Above is a wreath of alternate maroon and gold, surmounted by a dove in silver, with outspread wings, all beneath an arch of gold rays. Below is a scroll of silver, bearing in black the open motto and the date 1874. The significance of the coat-of-arms is revealed only during the ceremony of Initiation.
The Sigma Kappa Foundation
The Sigma Kappa Foundation has been an important part of Sigma Kappa for more than 40 years. With its spirit, vision, and direction, the Foundation plays a vital role in the continuing growth and success of Sigma Kappa. The Sigma Kappa Foundation was established in 1962 as a trust and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1989. The mission of the Sigma Kappa Foundation is to lead, educate and inspire Sigma Kappa members and society through educational programming and philanthropic endeavors.
Sigma Kappa’s philanthropic missions include:
In 1954, Sigma Kappa became the first sorority to recognize the need for continued comprehensive work on the study of aging and the needs of the elderly population. In 1984 Sigma Kappa responded to an increasingly critical problem facing older Americans by adding an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease to its gerontology program. Sigma Kappa has become one of the nation’s leading contributors to Alzheimer’s disease prevention, research, and treatment efforts.
Since the inception of the Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Research Grant Program in 1988, the Sigma Kappa Foundation has granted over $1 million in research and psychosocial grants to investigators and practitioners who are on the front lines in the fight against this debilitating disease.
In 2000 the Foundation entered into an agreement with the national Alzheimer’s Association whereby the Association selects scientific research proposals for sponsorship by the Foundation, ensuring that gifts are utilized most effectively. In 2003, the Sigma Kappa Foundation pledged $240,000 for a four-year period. Thanks to the efforts of Sigma Kappa’s collegiate chapters, the Foundation is doing its part to create a world without Alzheimer’s disease.
Awarding research grants is only one aspect of the Foundation’s commitment to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease. Educating Sigma Kappa members and creating awareness is also a priority. All chapters have access to educational materials and programs about Alzheimer’s disease and the impact Sigma Kappas have had in the continuing struggle to find a cure.
In addition to Alzheimer’s Disease research, Sigma Kappa is devoted to the study of aging and the needs of the elderly. Sigma Kappas regularly participate in local gerontology projects including annual events and ongoing projects. In their efforts, the women work to enhance the lives of the elderly with their time and energy.
Maine Sea Coast Mission
Since 1918 Sigma Kappa has paid homage to its Maine roots by supporting the activities of the Maine Sea Coast Mission. The Mission delivers critical services to people in need who live and work along the seacoast while striving to redress the root causes of those needs. With the help of the 75-foot mission vessel, Sunbeam V, direct programs and services include church and pastoral work, assistance to those in sickness and poverty, financial aid, food pantries, clothing assistance, crisis intervention, youth programs, and island health. The Mission serves the islands from mid-coast to Downeast Maine, as well as mainland Hancock and Washington counties. Every year Sigma Kappa sisters send useful items to those living on the coast and Maine islands, including: shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, hairbrushes, floss, food stuffs, books, toys for children, clothing, and other essential daily items.
Inherit the Earth
This program ties Sigma Kappa’s interest in older citizens with its interest in the environment. Through Inherit the Earth, collegians, alumnae, and older citizens work together to improve local environments. All three groups participate in a service project that will also create awareness of environmental issues and solutions. For example a chapter might establish a “Celebrate Recycling Day” or adopt a section of highway to regularly clean.
— Read More History on Sigma Kappa on Wikipedia
Sigma Kappa (ΣK)
- Founded On: November 9th, 1874 – Colby College
- Type: Social Sorority
- Colors: Maroon and Lavender
- Flower: Wild Purple Violet
- Nicknames: SK-Sigma-Kappa
- Chapters: 116 Chapters
- Website: www.sigmakappa.org
- Motto: Μια Καρδιά, One Way — “One Heart, One Way”