The following is an excerpt from our archives piece in the Fall 2016 Trident. Be sure to read the full article in the magazine.
*Editor’s Note: Although she is more familiarly known to members as “Sarah Ida Shaw,” she dropped “Sarah” from her name after her marriage. The Past Presidents quoted in this article used “Ida Shaw Martin” in their recollections of Tri Delta’s Founder.
Tri Delta Founder (Sarah) Ida Shaw Martin made a career contributing her knowledge and vision not only to Tri Delta but also to the larger Greek world. She made time to meet with the Fraternity’s leaders and mentor them through its early growth years as well as the leaner times during war and depression. She offered advice, made introductions to other Greek organization leaders, and articulated her idea of what the Fraternity needed to accomplish.
Over the years, many of our early leaders shared their experiences and impressions of Tri Delta’s Founder.
Amy Olgen Parmelee, Northwestern, Grand/National President 1906-1915
“The Sixth National Convention of Tri Delta marked a turning point in the lives of three of us who were destined to have a part in the years of the organization’s most rapid development. Louise Fitch, convention manager, was elected to the Council as vice-president, and I was made secretary.
Immediately following that convention I received a little note of congratulation from Ida Shaw Martin who I recognized as a Founder. That letter and my reply was the beginning of an unusual and voluminous correspondence and one that proved to be exceedingly fruitful.
Soon Louise Fitch was sharing my letters and exchanging letters directly with Mrs. Martin. And it was Louise who had the first opportunity to meet her in person, to hear from her own lips the story of how Tri Delta came into being, of the struggles of the early years, of her vision for an international organization, and to look over her collection of material destined for the archives of the fraternity.
Through correspondence and the stopovers in Chicago which Louise always made during the years of fraternity visiting I felt that I knew Ida Shaw Martin very well, it was not until 1909 that I was privileged to have her as a guest in my home on her first and only trip back to the middle west and we Tri Deltas had the honor to present her to the members in attendance at the Eighth National Panhellenic Congress. After that was over, Bessie Leach Priddy, Louise Fitch, Bertha Du Teil (Nebraska, Grand/National Treasurer) and I continued to meet in informal council session and learned much from her.
To appreciate her contributions, to evaluate them, to understand their peculiar quality and magnitude one must know something of her personality — of the richness of her mind, of her deep learning, of her love of color, of beauty, of symbolism and mysticism. We must recall that she was a student of Latin and Greek, of mathematics and astronomy, that she wrote her thoughts in beautiful English and in a characteristically delicate and clear hand.”
Louise Fitch, Knox, National President 1915-1919
“The letter [I received] from Ida Shaw Martin telling how Delta Delta Delta came to be is still one of my most prized possessions. I took it on my various visiting trips and read it to chapters, and they were as impressed as I. I think I could even now repeat it word for word.
Two years after my graduation, I became a member of the Council along with Amy Olgen Parmelee and Bessie Leach Priddy, where we worked together in various offices for some twenty years. Mrs. Martin, or ‘I-S-M’ as we always called her, was a great inspiration to this young Council member; and her suggestions, her countless fascinating plans, her deep sense of humor made working for Delta Delta Delta hours and days and weeks without end a privilege, an education and a great pleasure.
Again and again, Ida Shaw Martin sent us detailed plans for some phase of the organization and always with the comment, ‘I can do the symbolisms, the visions — you see if they are practical.’ Many times they were not, then. Invariably they were years later. It kept us busy trying to look ahead as far as she could and trying to sense the import of her ideas and her ideals. It was a fascinating experience for me.”
Ernestine Block Grigsby, Colorado, President 1934-1938
“Ida Shaw Martin read Ritual into everything, her house, a bouquet of flowers, and she lived Ritual. Her background as a child was in a ritualistic family — ‘a family of builders,’ as she said. She told me that she knew Delta Delta Delta would grow and that it has grown to be what she had envisioned.
She was petite — blonde earlier, gray now; with dainty ankles and well-manicured little hands and keen eyes. She was very, very proud. She dressed carefully, and her clothes were part of her mood.
Perceiving that the end of her life was not too distant, she made many little gifts of a sentimental nature; and the one we cherish most is the pendant of opals and diamonds as a token to be worn by each president. Her diamond engagement ring was given to be worn by each succeeding editor; a gold mesh bag went to the treasurer, and dolphin guards of her design were present to be worn by the vice-president and the secretary. The tokens are a reminder of her loving spirit, and her bestowal revealed the importance of Tri Delta in her life.”
Zoe Gore Perrin, Colorado, National President 1942-1946
“Born in the Middle West, she caught the spirit of the West and its vigor; and she had a deep and abiding love for its prairies and its people all her life. Steeped in the story of women’s share in the expansion of the western land, she sensed deeply the part we must always play in the guidance of democracy; and she set for us goals of self-sacrifice and service.
In October 1937, I was fortunate to be included when Ernestine Grigsby, President of Delta Delta Delta; Florence Grant, treasurer; and Mary Bake, manager of the Central Office, visited in her home. We anticipated hearing a great deal about the founding and early days of Delta Delta Delta. But Mrs. Martin was not interested in the past. Her concern was for the future of the fraternity she had founded, and we four found ourselves overwhelmed with an avalanche of questions as to what was being done in the Fraternity to keep it in tune with the developments which were coming with startling rapidity in the educational world.”