From charitable efforts to a roster of celebrity alumnae, these impressive sororities are standouts across America.
The largest sorority in the National Panhellenic Conference (based on number of initiates), Chi Omega has more than 345,000 initiated members, 180 collegiate chapters, and 243 alumnae chapters. Founded in 1895 at the University of Arkansas, Chi Omega's popularity extends to celebrities as well; famous alumnae include Lucy Liu, Sela Ward, and Joanne Woodward.
The oldest sorority of the Divine Nine—the historically black sororities and fraternities that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council—Alpha Kappa Alpha was born in 1908 at Howard University as the first Greek letter sorority founded by African-American college-educated women. Notable Alpha Kappa Alpha women include Maya Angelou, Katherine G. Johnson (one of the NASA scientists in Hidden Figures), Althea Gibson, Phylicia Rashad, Wanda Sykes, Star Jones, Alicia Keys, Kamala Harris, Coretta Scott-King, Rosa Parks, and Alice Walker. AKA prides itself on supporting members' personal and professional development, advocating for social change and being of "Service to All Mankind," and has grown into a global sisterhood with more than 290,000 members in the US, Liberia, the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands, Germany, South Korea, Bermuda, Japan, Canada, South Africa, and the Middle East. In 2016, Alpha Kappa Alpha donated more than $5 million to various community organizations and via scholarships, and served more than two million families annually.
With nearly 220,000 women internationally, Kappa Alpha Theta isn't hurting for members. However, it boasts an unusually high number of famous alumnae. Celebrities who have pledged Theta include Tory Burch, Sheryl Crow, Laura Bush, Barbara and Jenna Bush, Melinda Gates, Amy Grant, Ann-Margret, Dylan Lauren, Cindy McCain, Katie Lee Joel, Stephanie Marsh, Sarah Clarke, Rue McClanahan, Claire McCaskill, Lynne Cheney, and Kerri Strug.
The largest Greek letter sorority for black women, Delta Sigma Theta was founded in 1913 at Howard University—only two months later, the founding sisters participated in the Women's Suffrage March in Washington D.C. (Thousands of members are pictured above retracing their route in the capital on March 3, 2013.) Over the last century, DST has grown to more than 1,000 chapters, and operates on a "five point" program designed to promote economic and educational development, international and political awareness and involvement, and physical and mental health. Sorority programs and initiatives include Delta Academy to enrich education for young teens, and Mary Help of the Sick Mission Hospital, which provides prenatal and maternity care to women in Kenya. Delta Sigma Theta also established the Delta Research and Educational Foundation (DREF) as a public charity supporting scholastic achievement, public service programs, and research initiatives focused on African-American women. DST sisters have included Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Barbara Watson, Patricia Roberts Harris, and Ruby Dee Davis.
Founded in 1851 as the Adelphean Society at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, the country's first secret society for women changed its name to Alpha Delta Phi in 1905. That year, it expanded to Salem College, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; it later changed its name in 1913 to Alpha Delta Pi. The sorority has now grown to include 155 active chapters in the U.S. and Canada.
In 2016, Phi Mu's University of Alabama chapter unveiled a gorgeous three-story, 39,444-square-foot sorority house that cost the princely sum of $13 million. Each semester, 68 women live in the house, whose highlights include a baby grand piano, marble floors, an elevator, and a chandelier that originally hung in New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Boasting more than 155,000 members, Alpha Omicron Pi also has more active chapters (190) than any other sorority in the country. Founded by four women at Barnard College in 1897, AOΠ hopes to promote values including integrity, tolerance, generosity, and personal dignity, aiming to enrich women through lifelong friendship.
While Sigma Sigma Sigma's official symbol is a sailboat, initiated members wear a badge adopted in 1903 featuring a golden triangle, a gold Sigma in each corner, and a skull and crossbones in the center. The symbolism of the skull and crossbones is only revealed to Tri Sigma members after initiation—although it's not a leap to guess, as the sorority's motto is Faithful Until Death.
Delta Delta Delta has supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital since 1999 (with support for children's cancer charities since the 1970s). Tri Delt has raised more than $45 million for the hospital, and in July 2014 the sorority announced a fundraising commitment of $60 million over 10 years—the largest fundraising commitment in St. Jude's history.
Kappa runs a leadership and self-esteem program for middle-school-aged girls called GIRLS Academy—the first of its kind among Greek organizations—designed to combat objectification of women and promote empowerment. During half-day retreats, girls discuss personal challenges, participate in community service, and write about dreams they hope to accomplish.
With the motto, "Do Good," Delta Gamma—founded in 1873 in Oxford, Mississippi—is inextricably linked with philanthropy. DG's foundation gives annual grants and benefits Service for Sight, which is devoted to protecting the gift of sight, and funds four schools founded by Delta Gamma for blind or visually-impaired children. Anchor Splash, its annual swimming competition fundraiser, is a social highlight at many colleges. Last year, DG sisters donated 227,171 service hours, and over the past 10 years, the Delta Gamma Foundation has donated more than $4.3 million. Delta Gamma also offers a Sisters Helping Sisters scholarship program, which has given more than $2.2 million to help collegiate women with student loan debt.