A Guide to the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. San Antonio Alumnae Chapter Records, 1934-1998
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is a public service organization of predominately African American college educated women. The San Antonio Alumnae Chapter as established on August 16, 1933, under the name of Psi Sigma Chapter. On August 23, 1958, the chapter was renamed San Antonio Alumnae Chapter. The chapter follows the philosophy upon which the national organization was founded, committed to engaging in public service, concern for social welfare, academic excellence and cultural enrichment.
Activities of the chapter are based upon the national agenda known as the Five Point Thrust:
On the night of August 16, 1933, Bella H. Cameron, Irene T. Holley and Lillian Thompson became the first initiates. The first officers were: Myra Lillian Davis Hemmings, President; Arlyne B. Wyatt, Vice President; Bernice Whitfield, Recording Secretary; Silicia W. Weston, Treasurer; Vessie Brown, Corresponding Secretary; Ruth Bellinger, Journalist; and Inez Bumbrey, Sergeant-At-Arms. Of these notable women, Myra Davis Hemmings (1887-1968) is revered as one of the twenty-two young women who founded Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Alpha Chapter) at Howard University, Washington, D.C. in 1913. Hemmings was born in Gonzales, Texas and she attended Riverside High School in San Antonio, Texas, graduated from Howard University in 1913 and received the Master of Arts Degree from Northwestern University Speech Department in 1947. She was an English teacher for over fifty years with the San Antonio Independent Schools.
In addition to being a charter member and first president of San Antonio Alumnae Chapter, Hemmings served as National Journalist, National Chairman of the Finance Committee and eventually she served as Director of the Southwest Region. Under her leadership, the chapter became known for its theatrical fundraising events. In 1986, the chapter named its meeting house the Myra Davis Hemmings Resource Center (MDHRC) in her honor. The center is also known as the Delta House. A scholarship is awarded annually in Hemmings's name to a college-bound female student majoring in the arts.
San Antonio Alumnae Chapter hosted Delta's 1947 National Convention at which Dorothy I. Height was elected 10th National President. The chapter subsequently hosted the 1982 and the 2001 Southwest Regional Conferences which was held at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. The election of Marvette J. Thomas, Southwest Regional Director, was the highlight of the 2001 Conference.
At the 1968 National Convention when the Sorority's 50th Anniversary was celebrated, the chapter won the prizes for its extraordinary scrapbook as well as the exquisite embroidered tablecloth made by chapter members.
Zeta Upsilon, a city-wide college based chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. was established in May 1969 under the sponsorship of San Antonio Alumnae Chapter.
For nearly sixty years, 328 North Pine Street was known as the"Eastside YWCA." Chapter members worked to acquire the property and eventually restored the house. On September 7, 1986, the community joined San Antonio Alumnae Chapter in the formal opening and dedication of the beautifully refurbished old Victorian style house. The Mortgage Burning Ceremony occurred on September 19, 1993, after only thirteen years of indebtedness. The chapter maintains a library in MDHRC, which includes materials relating to minority studies.
San Antonio Alumnae Chapter, March 12-14, 1993, hosted the first Texas Statewide Founders Day. Special guest, 20th National President Bertha Maxwell Roddey, was the keynote speaker. The chapter traditionally celebrates Founders Day annually in the month of January. In 2004 our sorority sister, Ericka Dunlap, Miss America, was our special guest and keynote speaker.
The chapter purchased and installed the grave marker and monument at the formal resting place of (*Soror) Founder Myra Davis Hemmings. The first graveside ceremony occurred on January 27, 1996 during Founders Day Weekend.
The 70th anniversary of San Antonio Alumnae Chapter was celebrated in 2003.
Under the Five Point Thrust programs, the chapter successfully presented the national sorority's emphasis on the 1980s School America program to the San Antonio community. Other major activities have been mental and physical health screenings for the community, voter registration, special presentations highlighting speakers in the various professions including media personnel; the arts; politics; social services; law and military life. In the month of March, the chapter participates in such national activities as annual Sisterhood Month and International Day of Service (AIDS Awareness Initiative) to benefit the community.
National level programs for girls sponsored by the chapter are the Dr. Betty Shabazz Academy and Delta Gems (formerly known as Delteens). These programs are designed to encourage girls to seek careers in mathematics, science and technology.
(Note:"Delteens," organized in 1996 was designed to meet the needs and enhance the self-esteem of African American youth; and to emphasize the importance of taking responsibility; and the importance of making proper choices. Another opportunity designed to serve young people is the Mentoring Project at Gates Academy.)
As a Participating Member Organization (PMO) of the San Antonio Fiesta Commission, the chapter sponsors annual self-image workshops called "Growing Up Female" for girls in grades six through twelve.
The chapter's major fundraiser has been the Delta Queen of Hearts Coronation. An elegant reception is held in honor of the queen's court at this event in the spring of the year. On such occasions, deserving high school graduating senior young women are awarded scholarships intended to help them along their paths to successful futures.
From time to time, chapter members have held offices in the sorority on national, regional, state and cluster levels.
The chapter consciously continues to enrich the organization and provide nourishing experiences for individual members through leadership training events. Some of the activities that Sorors participate in are Deltones (singers); Delta Dear/Delta Darling activities; Delta Woman of the Year Awards; Membership Roundup Parties and other social events. May Week activities include the May Day observance when the chapter recognizes outstanding elementary and middle school students as well as community friends and supportive businesses.
Arts and Letters projects include Delta Authors on Tour (participating Deltas from across the nation); book signing events and book reviews. As the chapter promotes excellence in public service and human welfare, the chapter's record of community involvement in constructive projects and programs is exemplary. The chapter holds NAACP Golden Life Membership status. Among other community interests supported by the chapter are the San Antonio Food Bank; San Antonio Boys and Girls Club; YWCA; Girls Scouts of the San Antonio Area; and churches. In support of the American Cancer Society's 2006 Relay for Life, volunteer members raised $2,500.00 for the cure for cancer. As"Team Delta," volunteer Sorors achieved first place status as well as the"Most Spirited Award."
Since 1986, the chapter has sponsored the grand annual Poinsettia Ball which is a fund raiser supporting the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). More than $100,000.00 has been raised in support of historically Black colleges and universities.
The chapter combines efforts with the local Pan Hellenic Council Chapter by participating in activities that benefit the community and strengthen relationships between other Greek letter organizations.
Dr. (*Soror) Helen Elsie Austin, Eighth National President, moved to the San Antonio community at the age of ninety-six to be with her family, Soror Austin's presence in our area added a warm and distinguished aura within the local sisterhood. Her passage to Omega Omega Chapter occurred on October 26, 2004.
Written by the Delta Sigma Theta historian, January 2007.
Administrative and membership records, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, and a scrapbook of an African American public service sorority established in San Antonio in 1933. The collection is divided into seven series: History,Administrative Records, Membership, Events and Programs, Conferences and Conventions, Publications, andScrapbook. While the collection spans seven decades of the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter's existence, the records are often brief and incomplete. Meeting minutes and financial records are absent from the collection altogether, and only fragmentary material documents the sorority's public service events and programs emphasized under the national Five Point Thrust program agenda. The records are strong, however, in documenting the sorority's membership, annual Queen of Hearts Coronation/Jabberwock performance fundraisers, and Founder's Day celebrations.
History and Administrative Records provide a strong sense of the Grand National Chapter's beginnings and organizational structure, with a less extensive, but helpful overview of the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter's founding.
Membership is a strong series in that it contains a near complete run of directories/yearbooks from 1959-1994. Also of particular interest are papers and newspaper clippings of a select number of prominent members, along with a file of clippings recognizing individual sorors within the community.
One of the strongest series in the collection is Events and Programs. The records in this series are not clearly defined under the categories of the national Five Point Thrust program agenda. Instead, the bulk of the records in this series reflect the sorority's largest and most publicized events: Queen of Hearts Coronation/Jabberwock Performance fundraiser; and Founders' Day celebrations, at which the Delta Woman of the Year is announced. Both of these annual events are well documented with programs, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Only limited information is available under the subseries"Other Programs and Events" in the form of newspaper clippings and a few photographs and programs. This subseries includes community service programs and events such as the annual Poinsettia Ball, musical and educational teas, scholarship award program, and career workshops.
Another strong series is Conferences and Conventions, which contains souvenir programs, newspaper clippings and photographs from Southwest Regional conferences and national conventions for various years. Of particular local interest is the small amount of Southwest Regional conference planning materials from 1982 when San Antonio hosted the conference.
An informative source to learn more about activities of the Grand National Chapter and other regional chapters is the sorority's national newsletter, The Delta, under Publications. However, only a few newsletters of the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter and the Southwest Regional newsletter are available in the collection. Several issues of the San Antonio area African American newspaper, Snap, document the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter's activities, events, and representation in this media.
A Scrapbook is of particular interest in that it provides ephemera of the sorority and additional newspaper clippings, photographs, and programs from particular events dating 1949-1965.
This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.
Permission to publish material from the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Records must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
[Identification of item], Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. San Antonio Alumnae Chapter Records, 1934-1998, MS 73, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
Received as a gift from the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta in 1997.
Processed by Toni Jeske, May 1999.
Detailed Description of the Collection