The Establishment Of Sorority Houses: A Social Movement

Large white pillars, floral curtains, grand staircases, letters so large you can see them from outer space–there is literally nothing like the perfection of a sorority house. I had always assumed sorority houses were part of the package deal when it came to becoming a member of one. I mean, think about it. Today, Greek life is so strongly centered around “the house” that I’m sure it’s difficult for any of us to even imagine what our college experiences would have been like without our home away from home. No House Mom, no house rules to break, no front porch to pass out on–just trying to picture it is enough to make you feel waves of relief that you were born in the era of the sorority house. When I came across some juicy historical info while browsing the Internet for current events (aka looking to see if Leighton Meester and Adam Brody were really secretly married) I was like, “Time to get my history on, because this no house stuff sounds cray.”

Get this. Back in the day–1776 to be specific–a secret society was founded at William and Mary called Phi Beta Kappa. This was technically the first Greek fraternity. We’re talking Greek letters, badges, laws, secret rituals, the whole shebang. They got together and began the Greek lifestyle that would eventually evolve into the organizations we join today by forming the Union Triad of Kappa Alpha, Sigma Phi and Delta Phi. Blah, blah, blah, more boys hanging out, fraternities, etc. Next comes the interesting part of the story: sororities, duh. In 1850, Alpha Delta Pi established themselves as the first “sorority,” even though Gamma Phi Beta was technically the first organization to take on the term. It was all good. ADPi had their secret society just like the guys with all of the bells and whistles, paving the way for the rest of the National Panhellenic Conference to form. But still, there were no sorority houses.

According to a couple of resources, the first sorority house was built at Syracuse University for Alpha Phi in the 1890s, which was roughly 40 years after the establishment of sorority life.

This happened because universities were tired of throwing us together in dorms and were like, go forth into the world and get away from the other students who only want to study and do other boring things. They decided to keep us on campus so we could be close enough to monitor but far enough away not to cause too much trouble with our raging–kind of like the stepchild who lives in the garage because he likes to party.

They put us in sorority houses after 40 years of dorm life, and by doing so, the need for recruitment was born. Greek life transitioned from an academia based community to one that also placed importance in recruiting, socializing, networking, and partying. Our houses are a huge part of what makes Greek life so attractive, and they are literally the foundation for the system we use now to find our sisters. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

“House Bunny” would have just been “Bunny”.
“Animal House” would have just been “Animal”.
“Greek” on ABC Family would have been much easier to set up without all of the interior decorating.

Basically, all would have been wrong in the world, so appreciate your beautiful houses, girls, and thank your founders for putting up with the struggle for real.

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Wine2TheRescue is a legal marketing pro & blogger out of Washington, D.C. but is originally a sorority girl out of Northwest Florida. As a recent graduate and expert twenty-something, she spends most of her time trying to balance her work schedule with her daily required wine intake. It's a struggle she's learning to manage, but nothing she can't lean on her sisters for help with. She is also a contributing writer for Total Sorority Move and Post Grad Problems.

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