In 1913, when college was primarily for wealthy men, academic women were a
new breed and skirt lengths were no higher than six inches above the floor. In
this climate, ten Hunter High School friends, committed to strength in
friendship and the act of giving, founded Phi Sigma Sigma at Hunter College in
New York City.
The Founders of Phi Sigma Sigma came from a variety of religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. They wished to stay together as the group they had become while still in high school, but found that because of their varied backgrounds they all could not join one of the existing sororities on campus. The women approached Dean Higgenbottem, the Dean of Women at Hunter College, and inquired about starting their own sorority, one that would promote open membership to all women of character regardless of background.
Under the leadership of Fay Chertkoff, the first Archon (President) of Alpha Chapter, the Founders obtained permission and Phi Sigma Sigma was born on November 26, 1913, quietly, unobtrusively, and without thought of expansion. Phi Sigma Sigma was the first non-sectarian sorority, the only one open to diverse membership from its inception with a ritual not based in scripture. First in the minds of these ten women were the twin ideals which endure today. To the brotherhood of man and the alleviation of the world's pain, each Founder extended herself to her fullest capacity to live up to the mottoes the group chose.
The Founders attained high scholastic standing in an effort to stress the importance of scholarship and the advancement of womanhood. Each served in philanthropic activities such as filling baskets for the needy, assisting in hospital nurseries, and volunteering in homes for the aged. Phi Sigma Sigma's Founders affiliated with and raised money for the Godmother's League and Foster Mothers of America. The Founders also donated to a variety of charities consistent with Phi Sigma Sigma's character as a nonsectarian sorority.
For five years, Alpha chapter was content to continue locally without thought of expansion. Then a friend of Rose Sher Seidman who attended Tufts College contacted Rose with interest in the sorority. The thought of expansion not only became an idea, but a reality. In 1918, the Founders installed Beta chapter at Tufts College and Gamma chapter at New York University. The year 1918 also saw the first national convention, held in New York City, at which Fay Chertkoff was elected as the first Grand Archon of Phi Sigma Sigma.
This laid the foundation and planted the seeds which enabled Phi Sigma Sigma to grow and blossom into a garden of roses spread across North America and Canada. Clearly, as Phi Sigma Sigma prospers today, the Fraternity is as meaningful and exciting as it was on the day it was founded.
Disclaimer: The statements, views and opinions presented on this web page are those of the authors and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of California State University, Dominguez Hills.