“Oh, what a wonderful time to be a Delta!” will likely be chanted across the globe in the next week as the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta celebrate 100 years of sisterhood, scholarship, and service. Founded on January 13, 1913, by 22 Howard University women students, Delta Sigma Theta has grown to become the largest predominately African American sorority in the world, with more than 900 chapters in the United States, Germany, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Japan, South Korea, England, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
During the centennial celebration, I and other Deltas from all over will gather where it all began — Washington, D.C. — to celebrate the sorority’s accomplishments and achievements. Looking back on Delta’s history, I am most proud of its start. In 1913, our founders courageously participated in the Woman Suffrage Parade, which marked the sorority’s first national public act as well as its devotion to women’s rights at a time when women’s voices were routinely silenced.
“We marched that day in order that women might come into their own, because we believed that women not only needed an education, but they needed a broader horizon in which they may use that education. And the right to vote would give them that privilege,” founder Florence Letcher Toms later commented.
In a similar push for women’s education, AAUW took quick action after our founding to commission research proving that, contrary to popular thought, higher education does not negatively impact a woman’s health. The connections don’t end there. In 2010, AAUW posthumously honored Dorothy Height, former national president of Delta Sigma Theta and founder of the National Council of Negro Women, as a Woman of Distinction at our annual National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.
Both organizations have strived for years to level the playing field for women. During this time of celebration, it gives me great pleasure to be a member of both Delta Sigma Theta and the AAUW community. Both parties’ accomplishments have inspired and motivated me to know that I too can one day help in breaking through barriers for women everywhere.
The sorority’s 100th anniversary will be celebrated with events throughout the D.C. area. Deltas will continue the celebration by re-enacting the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade in March and holding the official centennial celebration in July. As Delta celebrates a century of service, we encourage our local communities to help us paint D.C. in crimson and cream — the official Delta colors — this coming week and to remember that, even 100 years later, the drive toward women’s rights continues.
This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.