Delta Sigma Theta
In 1936, there were no chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in Montgomery, Alabama. There were, however, two Delta Sorors who shared the dream of sorority and brought it to Montgomery, Alabama. Soror Juanita Ewing and Soror Amy E. Henderson, faculty members at Alabama State Teachers College (now Alabama State University) undertook a year-long mission of organizing a Delta chapter on that campus and of fulfilling requirements to establish a graduate chapter in Montgomery. Once permissions were obtained from the college and from the sorority, twelve carefully screened undergraduate women were selected to undergo a period of training as Pyramids in preparation for initiation and chartering a campus chapter. Sharing this training with them were three graduate women who, along with the graduate Deltas already present in Montgomery, were to become the charter members of the graduate chapter.
On May 7, 1937, the twelve undergraduate (now known as collegiate) and three graduate (now known as alumnae) Pyramids experienced a day of activities culminating with their initiation and the chartering of Beta Eta Chapter. Soror Sue Cowan, who was Director of the Southern Region when the process began, conducted the ceremonies. Names of all fifteen of the new sorors are listed on the Beta Eta charter without any indication of a difference in their status as graduates or undergraduates. On May 31, 1937, just 24 days after their initiation, six of the new Beta Eta Sorors graduated from Alabama State Teachers College. These sorors, who had become college graduates, thus became eligible for alumnae chapter membership.
In August 1937, Soror Cowan returned to Montgomery to conduct chartering ceremonies for the alumnae chapter. This new chapter, named Alpha Lambda Sigma, consisted of Sorors Ewing and Henderson, along with the three graduate ladies initiated with the Beta Eta sorors on May 7th, Sorors Mabel Robinson, Wilhelmina McClain, and Cleonia Taylor, the three newly graduated Deltas who lived in Montgomery, Sorors Thelma Austin, Fannie Streety and Almedia McGee, and three additional sorors who had gone through Pyramid preparations and were initiated on the day of chartering. They were Sorors Sarah Branch, Marie Childs and Lynnette Dobbins. These 11 sorors constituted Alpha Lambda Sigma Chapter in 1937. Soror Mabel Robinson was elected as the first president of the chapter. (This account of our chartering is based on information provided by our late charter member, Soror Thelma Austin Rice.)
Soon after it was chartered in August 1937, Montgomery Alumnae Chapter (then known as Alpha Lambda Sigma Chapter) began to serve as a force for good in the community. Under the direction of its first three presidents, Sorors Mabel Robinson (Love), Cleonia Taylor, and Wilhelmina McClain King, who were also charter members of the chapter, we developed our internal organization and bylaws, designed programs in concert with the projects of the national organization, and conducted fund raisers to support our projects. The first Jabberwock, presented circa 1943, offered skits from other organizations, highlighted the talents of Deltas, and allowed the community to learn more about the projects that Deltas conduct. Our chapter continued to sponsor Jabberwocks for approximately the next 35 years. In addition to serving as the chapter’s main fundraising activity, Jabberwock participation by other organizations including fellow Greeks, school classes, and junior clubs sponsored by Federated women’s clubs fostered the development of a spirit of camaraderie with those community groups.
In subsequent years, the sorority has undertaken many community projects in support of the sorority’s national goals. Activities have included Library Projects, Mental Health, Scholarships, Economic Advancement, Job Opportunities, Mental and Physical Health, Family Guidance, participation in JACS (Joint Action in Community Service) Volunteer Service, contributions to YMCA, Boys’ Club, and United Negro College Fund, NAACP, and relief efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters. We have provided tutorial services and workshops on Test-taking Skills and Critical Thinking and have acted as Partners in Education with several area schools, and we have provided scholarship assistance to numerous college students. We have worked on rehabilitation of women prisoners, and have provided gifts for children of incarcerated parents. Our Summit projects addressed problems of single mothers, of the family, of Black males and preparing our sons for manhood. Our chapter has sponsored candidates’ forums, and encouraged voter registration and participation in the electoral process.
In 1978, our chapter embarked upon a new venture, part fundraiser, part cultural extravaganza, which was named “Crème de la Crème,” a name denoting that it would consist of the best of the best. This program has showcased talented community performers and has brought well known professional entertainers to Montgomery. In addition, it serves as the culminating activity for our “Crème Pearls” (11th or 12th grade young women) and Gentlemen of Distinction (the high school young men who act as their escorts in the Crème pageant). Also included are younger girls, known as “Dazzling Diamonds,” and younger boys, known as “Masters of Distinction.” In addition to preparations for their appearance on the Crème program, these young people are exposed to a variety of learning experiences, including workshops on such topics as self-esteem, handling finances, safe utilization of technology, and preparing for college, and they engage in bonding, cultural and fun activities in the months preceding the program. The Crème Pearls and Dazzling Diamonds are assisted by sorority committees in fundraising. The funds raised are used to support community projects and to provide scholarships to those and other young women to attend college. In addition, we have used the Crème program to highlight the contributions of sorors and of community leaders with awards including the Delta of the Year, the Fortitude Award, and awards to Citizens of the Year.
In October 2011, the chapter sponsored its initial Dorothy I. Height Awards Luncheon and Oratorical Contest. Included also were an art show, highlighting work of young people and a silent auction. Awards were presented to those persons who best embodied areas which our late past national president, Soror Dorothy Irene Height espoused, recognizing outstanding contributions in citizenship, civil rights, leadership, and social work. In later years, the Dorothy Irene Height program has been used to highlight activities of students who were involved in the chapter’s Signature Programs.
We include among our members sorors who have distinguished themselves in numerous professions including education, law, medicine, business, public relations, communications, and public service. It has been our privilege to utilize our talents to improve the lives of others while upholding the ideals of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. The Montgomery Alumnae Chapter is a vibrant active sisterhood of over four hundred sorors, who take very active roles in the life of the Montgomery community. This is evidenced through elected political offices, community boards of directors, school governance, educational leadership, health providers, and other fields of high visibility and leadership. The high ideals of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Montgomery Alumnae Chapter are carried forward in the growing Montgomery metro area through active participation in our community.
From 1937 through 2018, there have been 27 presidents and 31 presidential administrations for MAC. (Four of our presidents each served two different times in non-consecutive terms.) Throughout our history, our chapter has diligently carried out community service programs that support the national sorority goals. We have provided activities for young women and young men, supported education through scholarships and through educational experiences, encouraged political awareness and involvement, supported efforts for international relief, partnered with educational institutions to further their missions, supported activities for improvement of physical and mental health, and encouraged economic growth and development in our community. As we continue to work in our impact area of Montgomery and surrounding communities, we are optimistic that the Montgomery Alumnae Chapter will continue to provide positive influences as we conduct activities that fulfill the mission of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Note: This history was prepared by Thelma C. Ivery, Ph.D., Chapter Historian and Chair of the Heritage and Archives Committee.
Our Charter Founders
Sorors Not Pictured
Soror Margaret Forston
Soror Emma Kate
Soror Elle B. Jones
Soror Wilhemina Gray Jones
Soror Fannie Streety
Soror Mamie L. Thompson
Soror Alice L. Walker
Soror Willie Pearl Wright