Saturday, December 01, 2012

Madree Penn White

The following reprint from the 1943 30th Anniversary Issue of the Delta Journal was written by my biological great grandmother, Madree Penn White, the driving force and inspiration behind the founding of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She wrote its first constitution and by-laws.


Delta Faces the Future

Before me there sweeps an array of days;
Dark days filled with bitterness; bright days
Too short for gladness; gray days glommed with
Melancholy. Another year of life
Draws to its close. What’s been written—is written.
Neither regret nor tears can wipe away
The pride of shame or foolishness of it;
Yet, the future lures, hope ever beckons on:
From out of the ashes of dead, dead days does
Faith arise, to give her strength to failing fingers
That they may write, on the new page life offers:
Purer concepts, kinder thoughts, better deeds.

Spring 1943 finds a world of tumult and strife, of bloodshed and horror. Men and nations are at each other’s throats. Mixed motives, mixed ideas, mixed purposes; everywhere the emphasis, seemingly is on destruction.

In the midst of these chaotic conditions one finds himself in dire need of something stable to cling to, something permanent, lasting and real upon which to build a new epoch in history.

It is a personal source of inspiration for me to turn to another spring in 1913, when a group of women at Howard University rejoiced over the decision of the Board of Trustees which had granted them the right to form an incorporated body of college women. Women who would extend their chain over the nation; women of high ideals for personal living and community service; women who raised a torch and dedicated themselves to following the gleam, thus were the Founders of Delta Sigma Theta.

Thirty years ago! Thirty years of growth. Thirty years in which thousands of Delta women have been influenced by these ideals, an in turn have influenced the lives of countless thousands they have touched, constructively.

To Delta in these trying times comes the challenge of making others see that ideals inspired by loftiness and interpreted by daily living give something tangible, worthwhile and stable to which one may cling, by which one may steer a course.

In thirty years of existence there has never been a larger opportunity for Delta to fulfill her destiny than now. To Delta—and to each and every Delta woman, everywhere—all my love and best wishes. Delta has come far, yet there are greater heights ahead for her to climb.

—Madree Penn White


From her obituary in 1967:

She won the distinction of being the first woman elected associate editor of the Howard University Alumni Journal. In conjunction with twenty-one other young coeds, she founded the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, January nineteen thirteen. At the same time, she gave first evidence of her militancy in the field of women’s suffrage and human rights. She enjoyed the honor of being the only Negro woman who, with Carrie Nation, in nineteen thirteen, was granted an audience with President Harding and later, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy. A national figure in journalism, she was recognized as an author of papers, short stories, poems, an editor and publisher.

She engaged in business and financial endeavors as vice president of an insurance company, oil company president, investment administrator, public relations and advertising.


I am descended from this remarkable woman. Yes.

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