Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




From 1851 through June, 1993, more than 2,800,000 women have been initiated into the twenty-six National Panhellenic Conference sororities. Not only are members active during collegiate years, but many continue participation through alumnae groups. Upholding the principles of community service and moral development, sorority women volunteer time and talent in a myriad of ways that benefit local communities and the greater society as a whole. Sororities also provide women important leadership training and experience.

The research design of this project takes a sociohistorical perspective. The study utilizes the population ecology model for organizations to examine three representative sororities: Chi Omega, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Pi Beta Phi from the period 1870-1930. The evolution of these sororities from the time the first women's fraternities appeared on campus through the decade of the 1920s was studied.

Population ecology analysis is conducted on three levels: individual, population, and community. Occurrences at one level have consequences at other levels. The patriotic environment of World War I, the post-war opportunities, complete with the right of women to vote in 1920, the greater acceptance of women in professions traditionally reserved for men: all of these were changes in the greater community in which sororities existed. The paper examines the ways in which the organizational structure was strengthened because of these changes, and as a correlate, in what ways it was weakened, or was forced to adjust.

The effectiveness of an organization is based upon its ability to attain its goal. The actions formulated by the organization must be appropriate to the environment in which they are carried out. The sorority system that evolved over the sixty year period had to be adaptive to an ever changing social environment in order to survive. Had the sorority failed to adapt, it would have ceased to exist. The process of adaptation is examined and analyzed using the population ecology model.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access