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Bettie Locke, one of the first coeds and the chief founder of Kappa Alpha Theta, America's first college sorority, was born in 1850 in New Albany, Ind. She grew up in Brookville, where her father, Dr. John W. Locke, was president of Brookville College. He came to Greencastle in 1860 to be professor of mathematics, moved to Baldwin, Kan. in 1865 to be president of Baker University, and then returned to Indiana Asbury in 1866. In 1872 he became president of McKendrie College.

With one year in the preparatory department at Baker and tutored by her father and another college professor, Bettie Locke entered Indiana Asbury in 1867 at the age of 17. When she and the other young women entered chapel that fall, one suggested that they sit in the rear. Bettie Locke replied "What, women take a back seat? Never." So they marched to the front while the men stamped their feet. Bettie herself recalled:

We were not especially good looking. It might have been easier for us if we had been. But we were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us - if we could just win out.

A male student in her own class of 1871 wrote:
...she was highly regarded as well as duly respected by the men of the class. She did good, solid work as a student and was one of the best. In daily classroom appearance she occupied a front seat, consistently ready for recitation, attentive, alert, interested in all that might be presented by professor or said by the person reciting; ready and clear of statement in her own recitation. She was of sober mien, with a pleasant manner. She was of medium height, possibly slightly below the average, not of slender bodily build, but not inclined to stoutness; her step was elastic, her bearing erect.




According to Bettie Locke's own recollections, the founding of Kappa Alpha Theta came from a suggestion made by her father after her brother's fraternity rejected her request to become a member. As a result four young women met secretly on January 27, 1870 to organize their own social fraternity, or sorority. As historian George Manhart narrated it,
Bettie Locke, standing in front of a mirror, initiated herself, and then the three other girls. The four appeared in chapel on March 14, wearing their kite-shaped pins, larger than the pins of any of the fraternities.... Thus was born what is generally considered the first college ... sorority in the country.

Student rooming house on South College Avenue
in Greencastle of coeds Alice O. Allen and Hannah
Fitch, and where Kappa Alpha Theta was founded.


Bettie Locke taught school for four years before marrying E.A. Hamilton, a Lawrence College graduate, in 1876. After living in Illinois and Kansas, they settled in Greencastle, where Hamilton died in 1922. Bettie Locke Hamilton lived here until her death in 1939 at the age of 89, the oldest living graduate of Indiana Asbury. Her two daughters both graduated from DePauw University.

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