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The Founding of Arethusa

In the fall of 1870 at Brockport Normal School, a group of young women were inspired by the desire for the benefits of a literary society. This may have been perhaps in a measure influenced by the example of the young men who had organized Gamma Sigma during the previous year. After due consultation with the teachers, the women 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 not till some time later that Arethusa was agreed upon. The society motto, Per Aspera ad Astra, was then decided upon.

In January of 1871, the new society was made proud 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.


Founded October 4, 1870

Dissolved June, 1939

Ella D. Barrier

Notable founding mothers were Julia Byrns (President), Emma Chriswell (Vice President), and Ella D. Barrier.

Ella Barrier was known as a black feminist. In 1900, she and her sister traveled as African American representatives at the Paris Exposition, and to the First Pan-African Conference in London, in a delegation that included Anna Julia Cooper and W. E. B. DuBois. She was active in the Colored Women's League in Washington.

*Asterisk denotes an active chapter.

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