On the Southwestern campus in 1903, there were already established men fraternities, but no such organizations for women. A group of girls with similar intentions as the nine founders of Zeta Tau Alpha, wanted to add to their friendship the stronger bonds of a fraternity. In spite of the unwritten rule against women’s “fraternities”, the girls formed a group and called it a sorority. They gave their club a name, Beta Psi, even though they had no knowledge of sororities or Greek life. They chose the name based on the way the words sounded together, and the foreign look of the Greek letter Psi (ψ). By the second year, the group was well established and had developed a real fraternity spirit. In February of 1906, Beta Psi was inspected by May Bolinger (Orgain), and on May 31, 1906, shortly after the installation of Kappa Chapter in Austin, she installed the Lambda Chapter of ZTA. Today, the Lambda Chapter is proud to represent over 100 years of extraordinary women bound together by the ideals of Zeta Tau Alpha.

National History

In Farmville Virginia, at the State Female Normal School, nine remarkable women formed a friendship that knew no boundaries. These girls, only 14-16 years of age, wanted to form a bond that would continue beyond college. The formation of two female Greek organizations at their school inspired the nine friends, Maude Jones (Horner), Alice Bland Coleman, Ethel Coleman (Van Name), Ruby Leigh (Orgain), Frances Yancey Smith, Della Lewis (Hundley), Helen M. Crafford, Alice Grey Welsh, and Mary Jones (Batte), to form an official organization of their own. For over a year, the girls met informally by candlelight in the bathroom to assure secrecy for their discussions and organizations until they were ready to declare themselves an official organization.

However, upon their declaration, they still did not have a name. “???” was used as a temporary name. This name came about when a member of another group met with the Founders. Raising her eyebrows and forming her fingers in the shape of a question mark, she asked, "Who are you?" In unison, the group replied "Yes, Who? Who? Who?” which is where the three question marks came from. While still using the name of the three question marks, the nine founders took three pledges, Odelle Warren (Bonham), Ellen Baxter Armstrong, and Grace Elcan (Garnett).

Maude’s brother, Plummer Jones, and Frances’s brother, Giles Mebane Smith, were both members of Greek men’s organizations and were familiar with Greek lore and agreed to help develop the status of the group. Giles (Phi Theta Psi and Phi Beta Kappa) gave Zeta Tau Alpha its name, motto, and suggested the badge. Plummer (Kappa Alpha and Phi Beta Kappa ) wrote the first official Constitution & Bylaws of Zeta Tau Alpha, the Pledge Ceremony, and the Ritual. Upon great consideration, the nine founders chose the name, motto, badge, constitution, and decided on the patron goddess, Themis.

Zeta Tau Alpha is known as a fraternity, not as a sorority. The Founders intended Zeta Tau Alpha be designated a "fraternity" to distinguish the organization from the sisterhoods organized in connection with men's fraternities, called "sororities". Zeta Tau Alpha has no "brother" fraternity. Maude Jones Horner wrote, “It is the object of this fraternity to cultivate a higher ideal of womanhood and to encourage all those womanly traits existent in our kind, to give a firmer foundation to those friendships founded on college companionship, to promote sympathy in both sorrows and pleasures, to furnish aid and sisterly advice in our school life."

Zeta Tau Alpha, Lambda Chapter
© 2008