By Sally Cutler (Alpha Chi, Butler University), Historian and Archivist
While Alpha Chi Omega started out with just seven young women as members – all students in the School of Music at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana – growth has always been top of mind for our sisterhood. Just days after the October 15, 1885 founding, our Founders had recruited eight of their fellow music students to join them as Alpha Chi Omegas.
By the end of the 1885-86 school year, the Fraternity had grown from the seven Founders to 22 members, including five teachers and artists chosen as honorary members, which was common practice at the time.
While membership was limited to students in the School of Music in the beginning, within a few months this requirement was changed to include liberal arts students, provided they were registered for some course in music. Today, the music course requirement no longer exists, although collegiate and alumnae members continue to appreciate the Fraternity’s ties to the fine arts.
This was just the beginning of growth and change for an organization that has continued to grow and evolve for more than 137 years. As an example, just two years after our founding, the Beta chapter at Albion College in Albion, Michigan joined the Fraternity’s chapter roll when it was established in 1887.
To highlight our organization’s growth over the years, here’s a snapshot of the growing number of Alpha Chi Omega members through time:
NUMBER OF NEW MEMBERS:
1916 – 232
1940 – 1,690
1970 – 2,910
2020 – 7,699
100,000th initiate – 1981
200,000th initiate – 2005
300,000th initiate – 2021
WHERE DOES ALPHA CHI OMEGA STAND IN 2023?
310,000 members initiated since our founding
19,000 collegiate members
226,000 alumnae members
149 active collegiate chapters
172 active alumnae chapters
In 1919, national officer Maude S. Steiner (Theta, University of Michigan) described the importance of cultivating the interest of potential members and of promoting Alpha Chi Omega so the Fraternity could continue to grow. Her message continues to ring true more than 100 years later:
“The best method of all seems to me to make your fraternity mean so much that everyone wants to be an Alpha Chi that knows you … Talk Alpha Chi when you are with young women who may be going to college. It is surprising how many people have been won to Alpha Chi by knowing one fine girl or a little of our high ideals.”
What’s next for Alpha Chi Omega? How large will our reach be, for instance, when we celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2035? We may not have the answers to these questions today, but one thing we do know is that our sisters are empowered to work together to continue to grow Alpha Chi Omega.