Katharine Lucinda Sharp

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Katharine Lucinda Sharp, President 1894-1896

Katharine (Kate) Lucinda Sharp, Upsilon Chapter, Northwestern (1865-1914)

The election of Katharine (Kate) Lucinda Sharp as Kappa’s next Grand President reflected the power manifested by the Chicago alumna group (Beta Theta) founded during Emily Burnham’s tenure. Kate was not a member of Beta Theta, but that group’s members thought it was time for the Fraternity to return the presidency to someone farther west and to acknowledge the growing importance of its alumnae.

At the 1894 Convention, Kate was elected from the floor as a Beta Theta, the only associate chapter (alumnae association). Kate in fact was a charter member of Upsilon, Northwestern, initiated in 1882; she had attended the 1882 Convention at which Tade was elected to a second term. At this Convention, however, Kate was 29 (considered “old” for the Grand Council), long out of college and already known as a near-pioneer in the new field of library science (she earned a master’s in the subject and became nationally known).

When elected, Kate was regarded as winsome, intellectual, generous and companionable, original in thought and decided in her actions – a natural leader.

During Kate’s presidency (1894-1896), the position of Grand Marshal was removed from Council; added to Council was the Editor of The Key. Other than 1933-35, this was the only term with no extension of chapters, despite petitions from 12 schools. Kate stressed conservatism in extension and the withdrawing of charters from chapters that were “weakening to the Fraternity.” She was, however, a force behind the charter eventually granted to Beta Lambda, Illinois, in 1899. (Kate’s portrait in bronze was given in 1922 by the Library School Association to the Library of the University of Illinois, which Kate founded and directed.)

At the 1894 Convention, Upsilon member Carla Sargent (Fisk) sought and gained approval for her Sigma-within-the Delta design, which later became the pledge pin, now known as the new member pin. The day after Convention, she and Kate both were initiated into the Second Degree. But it was the third and last time for this exclusive ritual, for Kate was not wholly in sympathy with it and it had come to be viewed as a “caste”; it was, however, the forerunner of general Fraternity examinations voted in by Grand Council in 1895. Elementary and advanced chapter exams were to be given annually “to raise the standard of Fraternity intelligence among the entire undergraduate membership.”

As the first charter member of Upsilon to be graduated, Kate had received from her chapter a diamond badge. This key, to which a diamond circlet later had been added, was owned by Upsilon after Kate’s death until the 1930 Convention, when it was presented to the Fraternity to become the official badge of the President. It was used as such until 2000 and then retired to be displayed at Fraternity Headquarters.

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