"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

97 Years of Rushing at KU

     FOR 97 YEARS, FRATERNITY AND SORORITY rushing has taken place at K.U. But the changes have been many. There were four women's fraternities by 1902. (We were taught to call them "Womens Fraternities".) Pi Beta Phi -- Kappa Alpha Theta -- Kappa Kappa Gamma -- and Chi Omega were there in 1902, and it was ten years later before another "national" came on the campus.

     Rushing started out those 97 years ago, by some of the members approaching the father of the rushee to see if he would consent to his daughter joining. If he disapproved, the girl was not asked. A sorority was purely a social organization in those years. Thirty years later, emphasis was placed more on grades and campus activities. When the Pan Hellenic Council was formed, set rules were established for rushing.

     In the summertime, selected high school seniors were entertained. In Lawrence they were invited to picnics, hikes to Cameron's Bluff, Lake View, or line parties to the Airdome. Actives living over the state, wrote letters all summer to rushees coming up to school. Official rushing began in the fall and the first date would be made for a "Train Date". Transportation to Lawrence was entirely by train and the rushee would be met at the train by several "sisters". Her trunks would be loaded on the horse-drawn express truck and she would get into a hack, also horse-drawn, to be taken to her temporary home until she pledged some sorority. The day of pledging she would move her things to her chosen sorority house.

     Staying at the right house was important from the sorority standpoint. The hosts could exert a lot of influence by putting their favorite sorority in a good light. Alumnae played a powerful part in rushing, not only in helping rush, but in dictating who should be rushed. Lawrence girls as members were an extra dividend. No town girls lived in a sorority house, but their fathers helped on money problems and gave the sorority good credit rating in town.

     The University had no voice in sorority rushing rules. All rules were made by Pan Hellenic which consisted of two representatives from each chapter. Dances, teas, and dinners took up many days of fun and excitement. The rushing rules were strict, but it did not prevent many a rusher from being "spiked" (pledged sub rosa) before official bid day. She was given the sorority colors to pin to her garter or maybe on her camisole. In those days, sisters always pledged what the older sister had joined. And she was usually "spiked" so she could try to influence some hard-to-get rushee.

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     The same tradition prevailed in the fraternities. If a boy did not want to go to the same fraternity as his brothers, family pressure was brought to bear and he would know he would cause a lot of unhappiness if he did not go the family way.

     A "preferential dinner" took place the night before the bids went out. The girls attending were practically "sewed up" for that sorority, but some of the most sought after girls, would perhaps go to another house after the dinner. Formal bids to join were addressed and delivered in person to the rushee. A representative of each sorority rode in the "Bid Wagon" to deliver the written bid to the candidate. The "Bid Wagon" was a tally ho drawn by four spirited horses -- two white leading two black. It seated eight people and it was hired from Donnelly's Livery stable. It was quite a thrill for a rushee nervously waiting, to hear the clatter of horses hoofs on the brick pavement and see the tally ho drawing up with a flourish to deliver her bid.

     When automobiles became more prevalent, bids were taken around by each sorority in a member's car. Still later, when preferential bidding came into effect, the rushee went to Strong Hall where a table was set up in the hall, manned by rush captains or alumnae, and her bid was handed out to her.

     The University of Kansas and a sorority had a special appeal to many parents. They took the place of a finishing school for their daughter. Often the latter was beyond the reach of their pocketbooks.

     There were no dormitories then and a rooming house for their shielded offspring did not seem to carry the social prestige nor protection of a sorority and its housemother. A housemother in those days functioned as genteel hostess, housekeeper and watch-dog over the girls. Thirty to thirty-five members were capacity for a house, as against 70 and up today. During the World War I years, fraternities and sororities had a hard time, financially and membership-wise. The boys were at war and the girls didn't come to college.

     A contract with a house mother read like this: "It is necessary to provide a Matron whose duties shall be: First: To act as chaperone. Second: To be responsible for the cooking and serving and ordering of the meals at the time specified by an authorized member of the Fraternity. Third: To be responsible for the cleaning of all rooms on the first floor, bath rooms, hallways and such general cleaning and renovating as may be necessary. Therefore, in consideration of the party of the first part agreeing to pay the party of the second part the sum of Twenty Dollars per month with board and furnished room, from September 10, 1909 to June 10, 1910 inclusive ---- ."

     Nothing like this today. Now there is some kind of informal letter of agreement, and the salary is somewhere around $250 to

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$300 a month. The house mother still chaperones parties and most of them still plan the meals and supervise the help.

     Closing hours rules used to be 10 p.m. on week nights. The house would then be locked up (by the house mother), and the only way a girl could get in later than that, would be by the fire escape or wake up her roommate to let her in. Today, there is a "Security Hour" of 10:30 p.m. when the front door is locked. Every girl has a key and she sets her own hours.

     Serenades from menfolk were popular after closing hours in the old days, even just a few years back. Now, that romantic tradition is no longer. They might not find anybody but the house mother at home.

     Rushing is now under the guidance of the Dean of Women's office of the University. Her office works with the Pan Hellenic Council. Every rushee pays a $5 fee to register for rushing. She must be a Sophomore or upperclassman to be eligible and she has to call at each of the 13 sorority houses the first day of rushing. The hours are from 9 to 4. This year all of the rushees will stay at the Holiday Inn together.

Printed in Journal-World August 21, 1970

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