Since its founding in 1870, Kappa Kappa Gamma has inspired women to dream boldly and live fully. From October 13, 2019, until October 13, 2020, Kappa Kappa Gamma will mark 150 years with a global celebration for all Kappas. Join us as we honor and explore our history, celebrate who we are today, and envision and embrace our future.
“On a little wooden bridge spanning a small stream that flows through the northeastern corner of the campus, two college girls one day held a schoolgirls’ conversation out of which grew the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity.” That’s how Thomas H. McMichael, who served as president of Monmouth College from 1903–36, once described Kappa’s earliest days. It was the late 1860s, and that now-famous conversation between Mary Louise “Lou” Bennett and Hannah Jeannette “Jennie” Boyd was more than just a passing fancy. It was the start of something big.
Lou and Jennie were both members of ABL or Amateur des Belles Lettres — Monmouth College’s first literary society for women. But Lou and Jennie felt it lacked a certain something, and they soon began to seek "the choicest spirits among the girls, not only for literary work, but also for social development," beginning with their friend and fellow ABL member Mary “Minnie” Moore Stewart. Now a trio, Lou, Jennie and Minnie met for a “pow wow” in the A.B.L. Hall, deciding to have “something new” — an organization that they considered to be the first Greek-letter fraternity for women. “The world seemed to be moving too slowly and nothing short of a Greek-letter fraternity would satisfy us,” Lou wrote later.
Doubling their number, the women recruited Anna Elizabeth Willits, Martha Louisa “Lou” Stevenson, and Susan “Sue” Burley Walker to join in founding the Fraternity. Those pioneering six have grown to nearly 300,000 initiated members from 172 chapters in the United States and Canada.
Mary Louise “Lou” Bennett is listed first on Kappa’s permanent Fraternity roll of membership, as Alpha 1. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she grew up in Monmouth with her uncle, Dr. Alexander Young, a professor of Greek and Hebrew at Monmouth College. Lou had a reputation for being helpful and was an active debater in the Amateur des Belles Lettres (ABL) Literary Society.
She became a teacher after graduating from Monmouth in 1872. She is credited with the phrase, “the Fraternity was the mighty oak that sprang from the little acorn of Alpha.” The longest surviving Founder, Lou attended the reinstallation of Alpha Chapter in 1934 and lived until the age of 95. She is buried with her husband, Rev. Joseph Boyd, and her co-Founder and sister-in-law, Jennie Boyd, in Hickory Grove Cemetery in Green Cove Springs, Florida.