Founding the Sorority
Mary Lou Allison invited six Black women educators to a meeting on November 12, 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana. These women were Nannie Mae Gahn, Vivian White, Bessie May Downey, Cubena McClure, Hattie Mae Dulin, and Dorothy Hanley. Most were graduates of two-year teaching schools or would soon graduate, and five would go on to earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Butler University or other institutions.
The group had been meeting in their homes on weeknights and on Saturdays since the early 1920s when Allison brought them together to discuss her vision of a social organization that would promote professional growth for teachers and serve the greater community, especially students. United by a belief in the power of education to effect racial uplift, the women founded Sigma Gamma Rho.
Robert Lee Brokenburr, noted Indianapolis Black attorney, legislator, and civil rights leader, worked with the group as a legal adviser. In December 1922 he filed the Sigma Gamma Rho incorporation papers for the Sorority as the Grand Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho. Its object was to urge members to further their education and to encourage them to inspire others to do so as well. Membership was restricted to “persons who are school teachers in recognized schools.”