Back in the 1900s, 1904 to be exact, it was customary for high school boys and girls to organize into fraternities and sororities. Not to have old North High fall short in this respect, May Lied invited five girls to the home of her parents at 1445 Worthington Street, Columbus, OH, for the purpose of organizing what has become this national non-academic sorority.
North High School allowed this first chapter called Alpha to hold their meetings at the school and also allotted a page in the school paper for sorority news. May Lied's father assisted in all ways to make the group a success; such as helping with their by-laws, constitution, and aims. The original group was incorporated in the state of Ohio on the 15th day of February in 1904 as PHI BETA PSI. The members were: May Eva Lied, Anna McSweeney, Mildred Daniel, Katherine Marie Ruder, Gertrude Brown, And Edith Ellen Wolf. The purpose was to promote fraternal relations among its members.
They met with difficulties, no doubt, but with a firm belief in their high ideals and aims, they soon began to expand and organize chapters in other cities. By the year 1907, the group was holding a National Convention in Columbus and chapters were found in Chillicothe, Coshocton, Newark, and Canton, Ohio, and in St. Louis, Missouri. Allis Mangan of Alpha Chapter was elected the first Grand President. The delegates decided that all chapters should use the same solemn pledge during initiation and that pledge pins should be alike. We find the sorority colors were red and white.
By the year of 1917, twelve chapters had been installed and Alpha Chapter felt that they must go inactive. The original members had scattered and others had become disinterested. However, these had been profitable years, for strong seeds had been planted. In 1905, Beta Chapter in Chillicothe had been organized; Theta Chapter in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1909 (who remained active for many years); Kappa Chapter in Springfield, Illinois in 1912 (who in 2015 is still active); and in 1913, Lambda Chapter in Bradford, Pennsylvania was organized through the efforts of Edith Wolf. In May of 1929, we were once again represented in Columbus when Iota Alpha Chapter was organized. May Lied Smith was asked to become an active member in PHI BETA PSI, and she accepted.
Indiana held the first State Convention in April of 1924. Theta Chapter was planning a spring dance and thought it would be fun to invite all Indiana chapters. At this meeting, Phi Chapter of Columbus, Indiana was installed and Dorothy Kelly was elected as State Chairman. This brought the total chapters organized in Indiana to seven and nationally to 21. Ohio organized as a State Organization in 1925. The ties of friendship were strong, for PHI BETA PSI continued to grow. Such as Pi of Kokomo, Indiana in 1922; Delta of Arcadia, Indiana in 1923; Alpha Beta of Waterloo, New York in 1926; Beta Alpha of Vero Beach, Florida and Delta Alpha of Long Beach, California in 1928; Mu Alpha of Portland, Oregon in 1930; Zeta Alpha of Wichita, Kansas in 1938; Epsilon of Montclair, New Jersey in 1945; and Eta of Louisville, Kentucky and Sigma Alpha of Phoenix, Arizona in 1949. California held its first State Convention in February of 1948, and Kansas followed in April of that same year.
The first publication of the sorority was called "The Mercury" edited in 1914 by Margaret Bertelme of Kappa Chapter, our first National Grand Editor. In 1932, there was one issue of The Mercury and also a monthly bulletin sent to each member. The bulletins proved so popular that in 1934, the convention Grand Editor, wrote and published the first "Handbook for Pledges."
Our National Conventions have been important to the success of PHI BETA PSI, for through these meetings new ideas have been introduced and accepted. Eight chapters were represented at the 1913 National Convention, and delegates heard a By-law introduced concerning the launching of the Sorority upon charity work, and also gave their permission for a Grand President's pin to be secured. In 1914, the official coat-of-arms was adopted and the mercury cap was accepted as the official pledge pin. Our handclasp was adopted in 1915, and our present password in 1916. In 1917, the delegates saw fit for us to celebrate Founder's Day each year. Initiation robes were decided upon for all chapters and June Clark Voss, Grand President, at the 1918 National Convention, conducted the first Model Initiation. This same convention found the delegates taking an oral examination given by the Grand President. In 1926, the transfer system was established. Until 1933, individual chapters had entertained the National Conventions, after that year the delegates were to vote for suitable sites. In 1934, our Memorial Service was entered in the Ritual and in 1938, our Memorial Fund was established. Our national song "Hail Phi Betes" was selected in 1948.
Our aims through the years have been to promote fraternal relationship among our members, to assist in civic improvement in our communities, to do all kinds of charity, and of course, to further our National Project.
In 1939, our members felt that we should have a National Project and after hearing the investigations of the committee, the 1940 group agreed to purchase an Iron Lung at a cost of $ 1,372.65. This Iron Lung was immediately put to use in Indianapolis, Indiana; and later permanently placed with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. In June of 1941, a permanent National Project was adopted, that of establishing a fellowship to be used for Cancer Research. Chapters assisted this fund and in December 1941, we were able to place $1,000.00 with the International Cancer Research Foundation. By 1946, our members felt the need so great in this field that our National Project dues were raised to $ 1.00 per active member per year. Through the collection of these dues and extra donations from our chapters, our Sorority has contributed $ 24, 875.00 toward Cancer Research during the years 1941 to 1952. For the past several years, Dr. John B. Preer, Jr. has been using our fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and we are endeavoring to set a $4,000.00 annual amount.
Today grants are presented to six doctors in the field of cancer research. One hundred percent of all memorials and donations made to the National Project, Cancer Research, are granted to Cancer Research. Since 1973, over $ 8,634,157.00 has been given in grants to Cancer Research.
Today, we are one of the largest non-academic Sorority groups in the country and feel that we are well known as a national, non-academic sorority. In 2002 we were granted 501(c)3 status under the Internal Revenue Code as a non-profit charity organization. May we continue to grow in the years ahead, but always with that fine spirit and purpose that held and gripped that first group of girls who met in 1904, to form a fraternal friendship across these United States; and as we reach out to grasp the hand of a friend, find our own growing stronger with the contact.