Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded on January 13, 1913 by twenty-two collegiate women at Howard University. These students wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence and to provide assistance to persons in need. The first public act performed by the Delta Founders involved their participation in the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington D.C., March 1913. Delta Sigma Theta was incorporated in 1930.The original artwork is a life sized painting on canvas created by artist Tarleton Blackwell. The original hangs in the National Headquarters Office in Washington, D.C.
In 1939, three members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. living in Denver, Mae Adams, graduate of West Virginia State University; Elaine Brown Jenkins, graduate of The Ohio State University and Jessie Whaley Maxwell, graduate of Bishop College, caught the vision that led the sorority’s 22 founders at Howard University to boldly insist on creating an organization with a broad scope for change and progress; a national organization shaped to its purpose. The women saw in Denver the need for the kind of social activism and sustained, substantial public service being fostered by their glorious sisterhood through more than 60 undergraduate and graduate chapters spread throughout the country. Elaine Brown Jenkins was designated to write Grand Chapter to explore the possibility of establishing a Delta chapter in Denver.
Grand Chapter responded to the letter by sending Grand Chapter Secretary Edna Kinchion to the city of Denver. Kinchion met with the women and on February 18, 1939, in the home of Elaine Brown Jenkins, led them in an initiation of 5 more women into the sorority and the formation of the Beta Phi Chapter. The neophyte members were Kathryn Cohron, Eleanor Critz, Ruby Cohron Wright, Claudine McCloud and Marian Morrison Robinson. Immediately following the initiation, the first officers were elected. Elaine Brown Jenkins, President; Mae Adams, Vice President; Marian Morrison Robinson, Recording Secretary; Kathryn Cohron, Correspondence Secretary; Jessie Whaley Maxwell, Treasurer, Claudine McCloud, Journalist; Ruby Cohron, Parliamentarian and Sergeant-at-arms and Eleanor Critz, Custodian.
The following Sunday morning, at Denver’s Shorter A.M.E. Church, Grand Chapter Secretary Kinchion presented the new Beta Phi Chapter* of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The topic of Secretary Kinchion’s presentation was, “Our Responsibility.” The event set the tone of committed service that continues to guide the Denver Alumnae Chapter and established the practice of group worship known as “Delta Day at Church,” a joyous chapter tradition for the past 73 years.
The remarkable spirit of cooperation, respect, and support that exists between Denver Deltas and other Denver Greek letter organizations was also forged on this day. In addition to receiving greetings from the other organizations during the service, on Sunday evening the Deltas were honored with an open house held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Wood. The sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority decorated the house beautifully with flowers and the porch was illuminated by a beautiful wood carving of the Delta emblem presented to the Chapter by the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
With a foundation in place, the women of Beta Phi–many of whom were educators in the Denver Public School system–proceeded to make their mark of Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service in the Community. On May 5, 1939, the first Jabberwock and Scholarship presentation was held at Cole Junior High School. Ramona Rahming McHenry was crowned the first Jabberwock Queen and later became a Delta.
The 40′s – War & Peace
During the 40s the black population of Denver and membership in the sorority increased steadily. Under the leadership of Chapter presidents Mae Adams, Mary Lou Blanchard, Bernita Buckner, Carrie Wright, Marian Bailey, Pauline Robinson and Esther Nelson, the chapter played an active role in the community. Highlights of the decade included conducting a Young Adult Forum at New Hope Baptist Church during Negro History week; hosting Sopranos Lou Edna McEnroe Savage and Dorothy Manor; and hosting the first Regional meeting in 1949, where the 14th National President Dorothy Irene Height presided.
The 50′s – Arts & Letters
The late Patricia Roberts Harris, the first African-American woman to serve in a Presidential Cabinet position as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a distinguished Delta, came to Denver to conduct an Internal Development Workshop. This motivated the women of Beta Phi to continue meeting the challenges of the time. The Chapter exemplified the sorority’s commitment to education by providing full college tuition scholarships to Leona Riley Dixon, Lorene McConnell Peters and Beverly Miller Riley, each of whom became Deltas and great contributors to the Denver community. In the spirit of the Founders’ march for women’s suffrage, Beta Phi conducted a massive voter registration drive, registering more than 1,000 northeast Denver residents. Since the sorority holds the advancement of arts and letters as equally important to education, social action, and political involvement, the Delta-Rettes chapter choir was formed. In addition, Theola Jennings directed the Chapter’s first production, “A Night in Fairyland.” Under the leadership of presidents Jennie V. Woodson, Rachel Beasley Noel, Cecilia Jenkins Bryant, Louella Flannigan, Lela Shanks, Erma Ford and Rachel Walters, the Chapter continued to play an important role throughout the decade in Denver, and in the region by hosting the sorority’s first Central Regional Conference at Denver’s Olin Hotel.
The 60s – New Identity
In a decade marked by the fight for Civil Rights, Presidents Beverly Biffle, Ann Goodrum Wright, Lorene McConnell Peters, Conway Moore, Betty Brown Germany and Jeneva McQueary led the Chapter’s participation in boycotts and marches as the movement played out in Denver, and led sorors in mourning the loss of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. A delightful counterpoint to this turbulent time was the establishment of the Crimson and Cream Ball. A signature Denver social event for several decades, the Ball gave Beta Phi an opportunity to thank members in the community who supported the Chapter’s activities.
The continuing growth of the Chapter caused the monthly meetings to move from the home of sorors to Liggins Tower, and led to a new identity for the Chapter. In 1969, Beta Phi, theretofore a city-wide chapter consisting of both alumnae and undergraduate sorors, became a graduate chapter renamed Denver Alumnae and the Zeta Pi chapter was chartered for undergraduate sorors.
Chapter history to be continued…
*Beta Phi was renamed the Denver Alumnae Chapter after delegates voted during the sorority’s 24th National Convention (1956) to abandon the practice of using the Greek alphabet to name both collegiate and alumnae chapters, and name all current and future alumnae chapters based on their geographic location.