Our founders were among the fewer than 1,000 Negroes enrolled in higher education institutions in 1908, and the 25 women who received bachelor of arts degrees from Howard University between 1908 and 1911. Nine juniors and seniors constituted the founding members.
Seven sophomores who were extended an invitation for membership without initiation were endowed with founder status. Led by Ethel Hedgemon (Lyle), the nine Howard University students who came together to form Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority were the scholastic leaders of their classes. Each also had a special talent or gift that further enhanced the potential of this dynamic group.
The Nine Founders were: Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Ethel Hedgemon (Lyle), Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe and Marie Woolfolk (Taylor).
To ensure the continuity of the organization, seven honor students from the Class of 1910, who previously had expressed interest, were invited to join without initiation.
Those seven, “The Sophomores,” included: Norma Boyd, Ethel Jones (Mowbray), Alice Murray, Sarah Meriweather (Nutter), Joanna Berry (Shields), Carrie Snowden and Harriet Terry.
After attending a sorority meeting in 1912 where she heard proposals from then-current members to change the group’s name, colors, symbols and motto, Nellie May Quander (initiated in 1910 and; president of Alpha Chapter from 1911-1912), realized the need for an intervention to preserve the premise of the sorority that she and its founders held dear was an urgent matter. Quander quickly formed a committee, initially comprised of a trio including herself and members Norma E. Boyd and Minnie Beatrice Smith, — and later expanded to include three sorority officers, Julia Evangeline Brooks, Ethel Jones (Mowbray) and Nellie Pratt (Russell),— whose mission was to seek and acquire incorporation.
These women, committed to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, expanded to solicit the support of other like-minded undergraduate and graduate members who held true to the vows they had taken upon their initiation. The effort culminated in the successful protection and subsequent perpetuity of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority through its incorporation on January 29, 1913, with Quander, Boyd and Smith as signers of the petition. It was the first Black Greek-letter organization to attempt and successfully complete such a measure. The incorporation of the sorority positioned it to broaden its service concept offerings while ensuring the preservation of its founding principles and brands.