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Philalethean Literary Society (1877-1936) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Philalethean Literary Society (1877-1936)


Historical Note: The Philalethean was a women’s literary society at Purdue University that was founded in 1877 after a petition by women students for the founding of a literary club.  Prior to their recognition and sponsorahip by the University, the group was known as the Cereal Society and hosted annual programs in 1876 and 1877.   The first president of the Philalethean was Derexa Morey Errant.  Errant also held the honor of coming up with the name of the society, which she borrowed from the Philalethean society at Vassar (where she had previously attended).  At its inception, the Philalethean was the only University sponsored extracurricular activity for women.  The society’s activities were modeled after those of the Irving Literary society (the only male literary society on campus at the time), and focused on literature, music and debate.  The Philalethean found strong support from early Deans of Women, including Emma McRae and Carolyn Shoemaker.  McRae’s contributions were memorialized by the McRae Medal, which was awarded to a senior member of the Philalethean at their annual banquet for the duration of McRae’s tenure at Purdue.  Shoemaker, who was both a member and advisor for the society, instituted a Philalethean award that she awarded to an undergraduate woman of outstanding literary achievement each year.  Eventually the Philalethean was joined by two other women’s literary societies, the Eurodelphian and the Anonian.  Shoemaker was also responsible for the merging of the Philalethian and the Eurodelphian in 1933, in the interest of strengthening both groups through increased interest and membership.  Members of the Philalethean contributed significantly (along with the Irving and Carlyle Literary Societies) to the founding and production of both The Purdue and The Exponent.  The last appearance of the Philalethean in the student handbook is in the 1935 edition.  It appears that as the extracurricular activities available to women became more diverse, interest in the Philalethian declined.
Sources:

Philalethean Literary Society records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Debris Yearbooks, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Student Handbooks, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

The Purdue, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

The Exponent, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Purdue University, 50 Years of Progress, Purdue History in Print Collection, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Board of Trustees Minutes, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Note Author: Virginia Pleasant





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