History of Pi Beta Phi

    Pi Beta Phi was founded on April 28, 1867, at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. Our 12 founders had the vision to form the first secret society for women patterned after men’s groups at a time when only five state universities admitted women. These courageous women set the stage for a thriving organization continuing to enrich the lives of many during their collegiate years and beyond.

    Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women distinguishes itself in the fraternity and sorority world by leading the way as one of the first of seven founding members of the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC). Pi Phi was also the first to organize a national philanthropic project, form an alumnae department and establish an Alumnae Advisory Committee (AAC) for each collegiate chapter.

    Today, Pi Beta Phi continues to encourage women to develop meaningful relationships as they reach for their personal goals. Collegiate membership in Pi Beta Phi and the relationships it yields help members adjust to college life by providing a sense of belonging, mutual support and leadership development. As an alumna, members are part of a network of sisterhood and friendship of more than 200,000 sisters worldwide.


 Meet the Founders  

History of Pi Beta Phi - Young Founders

  • Nancy Black Wallace (1845–1918) 
Pi Beta Phi’s first secretary and an enthusiastic extensionist. She installed the third chapter of I.C. Sorosis at the Seminary in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
  • Libbie Brook Gaddis (1850–1933) 
The youngest founder, she established Pi Beta Phi’s second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan College.
  • Clara Brownlee Hutchinson (1850–1931)
 Gentle and shy, she was Emma Brownlee’s younger sister. In challenging circumstances, she showed an admirable strength of character.
  • Emma Brownlee Kilgore (1848–1925) 
A true leader and Pi Beta Phi’s first president, she was the only founder to live continuously in Monmouth, Illinois. The Fraternity coat of arms is derived from the Brownlee family crest. 
  •  Ada Bruen Grier (1848–1924)
 A teacher and minister’s wife, she formed friendships in Pi Phi that lasted her entire lifetime. Her son, the Rev. James Harper Grier, became president of Monmouth College.
  •  Margaret Campbell (1846–1939) 
Pi Beta Phi’s first treasurer and a promoter of philanthropic work.
  •  Jennie Horne Turnbull (1846–1932) 
Quiet and charming, she planned her life around her work as a minister’s wife and Pi Beta Phi. Jennie was a charter member of the Philadelphia Alumnae Club and had Illinois Alpha granddaughters.
  •  Rosa Moore (1849–1934)
 Generous and sensitive to the needs of others, she spent her days in social work and missionary endeavors.
  • Jennie Nichol, M.D. (1845–1881) 
Jennie was a pioneer among physicians; she was one of the first women to study medicine.
  •  Inez Smith Soule (1846–1939)
 Independent, beautiful and known for her keen wit, she established a long Pi Phi legacy through a Pi Phi daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.
  • Fannie Thomson (1848–1868)
 Radiating happiness, with a beautiful voice, in her short year of membership she was a faithful and enthusiastic member. The first Pi Beta Phi Convention was held at her house in Oquawka, Illinois, in August of 1867.
  •  Fannie Whitenack Libbey (1848-1941)
 It was in her home that the groundwork was laid for Pi Beta Phi. She always remained young at heart and found great joy in meeting with the women of Pi Beta Phi.