The History of the Montgomery (AL) Alumnae Chapter
In 1936, there were no Delta chapter in Montgomery. There were no undergraduate Deltas and too few graduate Deltas in the city to satisfy the sorority's requirements for chartering chapters. Two determined graduate Deltas undertook a year-long mission to change that situation and organize chapters of the sorority in Montgomery. Soror Juanita Ewing, a Science faculty member at Alabama State Teachers College (Alabama State University), and Soror Amy Henderson, who later joined the college faculty in Commerce and English, at first sought to establish a mixed undergraduate--graduate chapter, but that request was denied by the college. College officials did consent to an undergraduate chapter on the campus, and with permission from the sorority, 12 carefully screened undergraduate women were selected to undergo Pyramid training in preparation for initiation into Delta. In order to achieve the required minimum number of sorors for graduate chapter, three women who were in recent college graduates were also screened and selected to share the preparation period with the undergraduates.
On the morning of May 7,1937 the fifteen Pyramids were taken to a faculty home on the college campus where they went through a day of activities culminating with their initiation and the chartering ceremony for Beta Eta (BH) Chapter. Soror Sue Cowan, who had been responsible for chartering numerous chapters throughout the country, came to Montgomery to conduct the ceremonies. The twelve sorors who constituted the new BH Chapter were Sorors Thelma Lee Austin, Mae Jean Clark, Margaret Fortson , Elle Bennett Jones(the first Beta Eta president),Emma Kate Gray, Wihelmina Gray, Almedia McGee, Mildred Motley, Fannie Mae Streety, Mamie Thornton, Alice Walker and Pearl Wright. The three graduates initiated with them were Sorors Wilhelmina McClain, Mabel Robinson and Cleonia Taylor. Names of all fifteen of the sorors are listed on the Beta Eta charter.
On May 31, 1937, just 24 days after their initiation, six of the twelve BH charter members graduated from college and thereby became eligible for membership in a graduate chapter of Delta. Those new graduates were Sorors Austin, Jones, McGee, Streety, Walker and Wright. As there were now sufficient graduate Deltas in Montgomery for a charter to be granted, Soror Sue Cowan returned to Montgomery in August to conduct the chartering ceremony for a graduate chapter, to be designated the Alpha Sigma Chapter. The charter members of the new chapter, known since 1956 as the Montgomery Alumnae Chapter (MAC), were the two sorors who began the process,Sorors Juanita Ewing and Amy Henderson, the three graduate sorors initiated on May 7, 1937, Sorors Wilhelmina McClain, Mabel Robinson,and Cleonia Taylor, three BH charter members who had just graduated and who then lived in Montgomery, Sorors Sarah Branch, Marie Childs, and Lynnette Dobbins. Soror Robinson was elected first president of MAC.
The charter members of both chapter took their membership seriously as they lived their commitment to Delta. Sorors Mabel Robinson Love, Cleonia Taylor, and Wilhemina McClain Walker were MAC's first, second, and third chapter presidents, respectively. Soror C. Taylor was also the seventh president and Soror Walker was the sixteenth president of the chapter. Soror Almedia McGee Stickney, who served the chapter in numerous capacities through the years, was the chapter Historian and Archives and History chair who prepared the 1984 chapter history. Soror Amy Henderson was the faculty advisor and role model for Beta Eta sorors for many years. Sorors Thelma Austin Rice and Sarah Branch Taylor became charter members of Beta Eta Sigma Chapter (now Mobile Alumnae). Soror Lynnette Dobbins Taylor became the sorority's fourth National Executive Secretary. Soror Mildred Motley Hardy, who was the third BH president, was the fifth president of MAC. She became one of the earliest of the sorority's life members, and was an active member and chair of numerous committees. Soror Wilhemina Gray Jones served on numerous committees. Soror Mae Jean Jones served on numerous committees and was for a time, the chapter pianist. Soror Mae Jean Clark Williams, who was the second BH president, continued her membership with our chapter. Soror Mamie Thornton Bonner and Emma Kate Gray became charter members of Huntsville Alumnae Chapter.
Because of the shared origins, Montgomery Alumnae Chapter and Beta Eta Chapter have been uniquely entwined through the years. The two chapters share several of the same members, and several other BH charter members joined MAC upon their graduation. Beta Eta faculty advisors have always been MAC members, and BH was the chapter of initiation for many MAC sorors. Our two chapters have sponsored numerous joint activities through the years including Founders' Days, fundraisers, clusters, seminars and workshops.
From 1937 through 2011, there have been 25 presidents and 29 presidential administrations for MAC. (Four of our presidents served two non-consecutive terms). Our chapter had diligently carried out community service programs that support the national sorority goals. Among those have been projects that informed the community on Mental and Physical Health, Family Guidance, Economic Advancement, Job Opportunities and International Awareness. We have funded college scholarships, and made financial contributions to the YMCA, Boys Club, United Negro College Fund, NAACP and relief effort in the aftermath of natural disasters. Our chapter has provided tutorial services, conducted workshops on Test-taking skills and Critical Thinking, and has acted as a Partner in Education with several area schools. Another project involved rehabilitation of women offenders, and we have provided Christmas gifts for children of incarcerated parents. Our Summit programs have addressed problems of single mothers, of the family and of preparing young black men for manhood. We have sponsored candidates' forums and have encouraged voter registration and participation in the electoral process. We have sponsored cultural programs including books signings and concerts, and have mentored many young women in Delta Academy or Delta GEMS. We provide educational, cultural and entertainment activities for Creme Pearls and Gentlemen of Distinction, high school young women and young men who assist us with Creme da la Creme, our chapter's major fundraising endeavor.
Montgomery Alumnae Chapter includes among approximately 400 members, sorors who have distinguished themselves in numerous professions, including education, law, medicine, business, public relations, state government, communications and public service, and we gladly utilize our talents to uphold the ideals of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Note: The description of events surrounding the chartering of BH and MAC is based on information provided by our late charter member, Soror Thelma Austin Rice, in a letter to former MAC president Soror Josephine Bolling McCall. This chapter history was prepared in December 2011 by Thelma C. Ivery, Ph.D., Chapter Historian and Chair of the Archives and History Committee.