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The Centennial Anniversary of Sigma Gamma Rho: A Historical Look at the Sorority and Butler University

A Century of "Greater Service, Greater Progress"

The exhibit The Centennial Anniversary of Sigma Gamma Rho: A Historical Look at the Sorority and Butler University  is the result of an ongoing collaborative effort between Sigma Gamma Rho and Butler University Libraries. More than five years ago, Sally Childs-Helton (Special Collections and Rare Books Librarian) initiated conversation with Sigma Gamma Rho leadership to determine how Special Collections could support the Sorority in documenting their history leading up to the centennial anniversary in 2022. The Sorority collected materials from several past Grand Basilei including photographs, ephemera, publications, and a selection of administrative records. These materials comprise the Sigma Gamma Rho Centennial Collection housed in Special Collections at Butler University.

The exhibit examines this historical collection’s materials. The Board and Boulé minutes, internally-written histories, chapter and regional newsletters and pamphlets, and articles from The Aurora gave insight into the Sorority’s early years, and this information inspired the exhibit’s focus on the founding, Butler University, and the United States in the 1920s, which was in the wake of the suffrage movement and heightened racism post-WWI. Created with Sigma Gamma Rho’s 2022 centennial celebrations in mind and Sorors as a primary audience, the exhibit also aims to be an educational tool for Butler University students to learn more about their University and Indiana in the early twentieth century. Both the Sigma Gamma Rho Centennial Collection and the Centennial Anniversary of Sigma Gamma Rho exhibit are accessible to Sorors, open to researchers, and available to students to learn more about the Sorority’s impact on Black women, contributions to the field of education, and legacy of “Greater Service, Greater Progress.”

The exhibit—like the collection donation—would not have been possible without the immense amount of contributions and support from Sigma Gamma Rho Sorors and Library colleagues. Thank you to Megan McKee (Special Collections Assistant) for her invaluable editing, research, and writing experience that added such detail to the exhibit. Thank you to Lisa Bennett (Metadata Associate), Sally Childs-Helton (Special Collections and Rare Books Librarian), Janice Gustaferro (Metadata Librarian), and Elizabeth Murphy (Metadata Associate) for reviewing drafts and continuing to support the growing digital collection and digital exhibit. Thank you to Soror Ida Jones (University Archivist at Morgan State University) for providing exhibit feedback and greatly appreciated input on this introductory panel. Thank you to the Sorors who provided critique on the exhibit’s contents and shared their knowledge and experiences: Donna Nicol (Professor and Department Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills), Deborah Walsh (past Northeastern Region Syntaktes), and Tamika Williams-Clark (International Grand Epistoleus). Thank you to all for your time and expertise.

Evan N. Miller, Special Collections Associate, Special Collections, Rare Books, and University Archives, Butler University Libraries