The History of Beta Eta
Beta Eta Chapter of Sigma Kappa was conceived in December 1942 when two women in the junior class at Massachusetts State College, now UMASS Amherst felt that the time had come to form a new sorority on the campus. At that time there were five sororities, all of which has been founded as local sororities (like Iota Gamma Upsilon) about ten years earlier and three of which had joined a national sorority in 1941 and 1942.
Those two young women, Elizabeth M. Jordan and Dorothy L. Maraspin, chose Sigma Kappa as their goal, they contacted the Province President and eagerly set to work. Olive Sweetman, a sister of the Alpha Zeta chapter of Sigma Kappa and the wife of one of the college professors served as an advisor for the newly forming chapter. The special advisor was Katherine L. Baker, Delta, of Medford Massachusetts, who was another grant support and was always ready with new ideas and inspiration by mail, phone, and in person. The secret society was divulged only to the girls selected to join the group and to the College President and Dean of Women.
College procedure required first the establishment of a local sorority with the permission of the Student Life Committee. Later, when the local chapter felt in a position to prove its strength, it might submit another petition to the Student Life Committee for permission to join a national sorority.
The new group shortly had eighteen members, a constitution, by-laws, and a great deal of spirit, and they submitted a request to the Student Life Committee to recognize it as a local sorority on the campus. Meetings and all business of the group were kept secret until May 12, 1942, when approval was granted. An announcement was published in the college weekly and the women proudly wore pins for the first time. After a great deal of work establishing scholarship programs, budgeting of financials and other sorority business the chapter was ready to move forward.
In February 1944 the Student Life Committee voted favorably to permitting the women to petition Sigma Kappa, and the women put the finishing touches on the petition on which they had been working during the year.
Installation was held in Amherst the weekend of April 15, 1944. Beta Eta chapter was honored by the presence of all the Grand Council members; Mrs. Ruby Carver Emerson, daughter of Mary Low Carver, (one of the founders of Sigma Kappa); Mrs. Beth Bousfield, chairman of the Maine Seacoast Mission; and over 150 Sigma Kappa’s from alumnae and college chapters. On Friday night, April 14, forty-six students and three honorary members were pledged by Mrs. Ruth Ware Greig, Grand President. The honorary members were Mrs. Robert B. Parmenter, Mrs. William C. Santuary, wives of Massachusetts State College faculty members, and Miss Eleanor Bateman, an alumna of Massachusetts State College with the Department of Agriculture at Boston. A workshop was held Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon thirty of the students and the three honorary members were initiated by Mrs. Greig. Saturday night a beautiful initiation banquet was held at the Lord Jeffrey Inn. Sunday afternoon a formal tea for college faculty, representatives of the other sororities on campus, and families of the Beta Eta sisters. An exciting dream had come true and the Beta Eta girls were proud as punch to be sisters in Sigma Kappa Sorority.