Mary “Minnie” Moore Stewart

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Kappa's first president and founder, Mary "Minnie" Moore Stewart (Nelson) (Field).

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Family: Born October 19, 1852, in Oquawka, Ill. Parents were Isabella C. and James H. Stewart, a prominent lawyer, county lawyer and early acquaintance and supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Moved to Monmouth in 1861 and built their home across from Monmouth College at 1015 Euclid.

Education & Career: Graduated from Monmouth Academy 1869; entered Monmouth College, 1869; active in A.B.L. Literary Society as reciter; received AB, 1872. Teacher in Monmouth public schools 1882-89; high school principal in Eustis, Fla., 1890-93.

Kappa Record: Originated the idea of Kappa Kappa Gamma in 1869 after leading suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, visited Monmouth. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton became an honorary member of I.C. Sororis which was later named Pi Beta Phi). Invited Lou Bennett, Jennie Boyd, and Anna Willits to organize what she thought was the first Greek fraternity for women. Listed on Fraternity rolls as Alpha 3. Home was the site of many early meetings, especially for writing the first constitution and signing the charter Spring 1870. Said to have selected the iris as the official flower. Presided over the first KKG initiation. First president and first Grand President, 1870-72 (Alpha was Grand Chapter 1870-75). First extension chairman: co-founded Beta, St.Mary’s School (Knoxville, Ill.), 1871. Alpha delegate to 1882 Convention (Madison, Wis.). Signed with two others the 1883 letter to Monmouth College stating that Alpha was an alumna chapter only.

Personal Data: Described as popular, having “sunny, warm-hearted disposition”; enjoyed singing and painting. Married first William W. Nelson in 1873 and had two children: Harvey, 1873, was the first Kappa baby, given a silver cup engraved “Kappa” by Alpha (cup is on loan from Alpha Deuteron Chapter to The Stewart House, where it is on display); Isabella, 1875; both children died in 1881, five months apart; divorced in 1878; married second Lucius A. Field in 1889; no children. Brother, William, graduated from Monmouth College (AM 1863, AB 1867) and was member of Delta Tau Delta. Younger sister, Lucretia (Crissie), initiated by Alpha, December 1877, as sub-freshman, age 15, after Monmouth College banned Greek fraternities; died 1878, probably of typhoid fever. Older sister, Isabella (Belle), received AB 1869 from Monmouth College; initiated at age 80 by Gamma XI, UCLA, October 25, 1930, as the last KKG honorary member, so voted by the 1930 Convention; letter of August 18, 1928, states that she helped Minnie with details of KKG, including creation of the motto because Minnie was too busy studying. Minnie spent her final six months trying to trace and locate all members of Alpha for Fraternity historical records. Died June 21, 1898, Cincinnati, Ohio; buried in Stewart family plot with her two children in Monmouth Cemetery on September 21, 1898; tombstone reads, “If I am bereft of my children! I am bereft.”

Note: Minnie maintained that the first KKG Convention was held in Monmouth in 1871, an assertion disputed by two other Founders but supported by Ida Woodburn McMillan, charter member of Delta, Indiana, 1872, and organizer in 1900 in Monmouth of the local Kappa Alpha Sigma, which in 1934 became Alpha Deuteron Chapter.

The Stewart House: The Stewart House in Monmouth, Ill. was purchased in 1989 from the estate of Mary Huff, a member of Pi Beta Phi and great-niece of Minnie Stewart, by Kappas throughout the Fraternity. As the Fraternity Founders had been leaders, alumnae of Alpha Deuteron Chapter took the lead in raising enough money to purchase the house, established The Stewart House Foundation, applied for and received approval, which placed the property on the National Historic Register. In 2000, The Stewart House Foundation merged with the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation.

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