By Archives Coordinator Beth Dees Applebaum, Texas Christian
“A loving daughter is a pearl of great price. It was the beautiful thought of a loving Delta Delta Delta that led to the organization of our Tri Psi Sorority, the only Greek-letter sorority for mothers in the world and to which all Delta Delta Delta mothers are eligible.”
—Lula M. Pollitt, one of the 11 founders of Tri Psi.
It all started when Delta Lambda Chapter was installed at Butler College in Indianapolis. The newly formed chapter began meeting at members’ homes and of course their mothers jumped in to help. This group of mothers eventually came up with the idea of forming their own “Delta Lambda Mothers’ Organization.” On Oct. 2, 1914, 11 mothers met and over tea worked out preliminary plans for the organization, choosing among other things, the chrysanthemum as their flower, and green and gold as their colors.
Edith Webb, daughter of one of these 11 founders, went to work as a secretary to Tri Delta Founder Sarah Ida Shaw Martin after graduation. When she learned about this group of Indianapolis mothers, Ida Shaw Martin suggested that the group form their own Greek letter organization. The mothers group agreed to do so as long as Ida Shaw Martin would serve as their counselor and guide. The organization, which at Ida Shaw Martin’s suggestion changed its name to Psi Psi Psi, is the only Greek letter mother’s sorority and the only international sorority for mothers of fraternity women. Ida Shaw Martin, who never had a Tri Delta daughter, became Tri Psi’s Honorary Founder.
As the group continued to work with Ida Shaw Martin, the flower was changed to the violet, the mother of the pansy. She also suggested the color violet in addition to the green and gold. She designed the pin, and in July 1916, she sent a ritual and constitution. Alpha Chapter of Tri Psi in Indianapolis held Initiation that year. One year later Beta Chapter at DePauw was organized, and in 1920 Gamma Chapter at Franklin. At this point Ida Shaw Martin, who acted as Executive Secretary the first few years, suggested a national organization, and Tri Psi’s first Convention was held in Indianapolis on May 20, 1920. Forty members attended, and Hortense Hudson, National President of Tri Delta, was the banquet speaker. Tri Psi became international in 1933 with a chapter at Toronto.
In the 1939, as Tri Psi celebrated its 25th anniversary, founder Lula Pollitt reflected, “Twenty-five years have passed since 11 mothers spent an afternoon in forging a link that was destined to be lengthened into a chain. Methods have changed, but never the motives or human hearts.” Founder Mettie Curme also observed, “Little did we realize in the simplicity of [our] early days that we were destined to form the nucleus of the great and far-flung organization which Tri Psi now is . . . may Tri Psi go on and on to even greater achievements, yet never quite losing touch of the spirit in which it was founded — the spirit of helping others.”
The purpose of Psi Psi Psi is “to be a strong and dependable ally to Tri Delta.” Its members take pride in living up to this purpose, and they are appreciated by Tri Delta collegians and alumnae alike. In its 100 years of existence, Tri Psi has supported Tri Delta members and chapters, as well as provided scholarships and other aid. In addition to donations, gifts and many hours of service each chapter provides for its Tri Delta chapters, Tri Psi sorority has two major ongoing projects. Each year Tri Psi awards $1,000 scholarships to members of Tri Delta entering their junior year. Chapters may nominate one member in good standing to apply for the scholarship each year. Additionally, Tri Psi’s Memorial Loan Fund was established in 1957 to provide low-interest loans to Tri Deltas doing graduate study. Tri Deltas entering or already enrolled in graduate school may apply for a loan of $3,000 at two percent interest which is to be repaid within five years.
Tri Psi’s publication, The Triad, comes out every July and has been published since 1928. Tri Psi Conventions are held annually and are open to any member of Tri Psi. The organization is open to all mothers, step-mothers and foster mothers of Tri Deltas. Potential members may contact the local Tri Psi chapter for further information on membership. If there is not a local chapter, a minimum of six mothers may form a new chapter, or become a member at large.
It is evident throughout the correspondence that Ida Shaw Martin felt that the mother-daughter bond was a very special connection and that she wanted Tri Psi to reflect this connection. In 1929 she wrote, “Tri Psi is the most unique and to my thinking the most romantic thing that has ever happened in the Greek letter world. [Some] mother sororities are merely ‘tie-ons’ for the tail of sorority kites. Tri Psi has wings of its own on which to soar to unbelievable heights.”