ALPHA CHAPTER AT BROCKPORT NORMAL SCHOOL
Founded October 4, 1870 Dissolved June, 1939
“We should ever hold out to the world a bright light fed from the fountain of good motives.”
- M. Elizabeth Adams, MD - Alpha 1880
Thanks to the great efforts of Mr. Charles Cowling, archivist at the Drake Memorial Library at SUNY Brockport, the AUAA is discovering Arethusa’s formation. Mr. Cowling has kindly agreed to help us in our research efforts. He has informed us the Drake Memorial Library contains a notebook of the Arethusa Society that covers the period form 1870 to 1881. This notebook contains the minutes for the first meetings, the original constitution, rosters of members and other items. The library also has in its possession flyers, programs, posters, etc. for the society from 1870 to the WWI era.
Mr. Cowling has sent us a photocopy of an issue of The Normalia, a student newspaper that featured an article about the Arethusa Society. This issue of The Normalia was published December of 1907.
The following is an excerpt from the article entitled, The Founding of Arethusa, written by Emma J. Chriswell. (The first Vice President of the Society.)
“Inspired by the desire for the benefits of a literary society and perhaps in a measure influenced by the example of the young men who had organized Gamma Sigma during the previous year, the young ladies in the fall of 1870, after due consultation with the teachers, decided to form such a society for themselves.
… The Preceptress in a social, friendly way made plain the objects and aims of school societies as conducted elsewhere, and encouraged them to form one. As soon as she left the room the girls began to talk it over and proceeded to appoint a committee to provide a constitution and by-laws. They also elected their officers a that first meeting, even to librarian, though it was many long months before the society could boast of a single book aside form the record book.
A good many names were discussed, and it was no till some time later that Arethusa was agreed upon. The society motto, Per Aspera ad Astra, suited the majority when first presented.
… in January of 1871 the new society was made proud and happy by being given a room on the first floor of the middle building opposite the reception room. Its furnishings were most simple — no carpet at all first, two wooden chairs, a desk at the south end. A door opened into the room occupied by Gamma Sigma.
The meetings… An essay on some assigned subject was always forthcoming which was often freely discussed by the members. Usually, too, there was a debate as well as songs and recitations. A critic was always appointed to notice the inaccuracies in grammar and pronunciation or any mannerisms, and at the close of the evening she gave her report.
At the end of the first year the financial condition was somewhat better; so the new members taken in the fall of 1871 found a slight improvement in the surroundings.”
Brockport Collegiate Institute (established 1842)
This school was incorporated by the Regents in 1842. In 1866 it became one of four state normal schools. In turn the Brockport State Normal School later became SUNY Brockport.