by Robin Lee Beltramini, Iota (University of Illinois), Rituals, Traditions, and Jewelry Committee
Confession #1: I was more than a little hesitant to use Zoom to conduct Rituals and workshops. “We have secrets that could be hacked,” I cried. (They weren’t.)
Confession #2: Using Zoom for managing expectations of New Initiates who had done everything right to gain membership and then to share with them the meaning behind what they were a part of, was one of the best decisions the Fraternity has made in recent years. We owed those women!
How can I make such a turn? Because, viewing those screen panels was the most efficient way to demonstrate how far we have come without changing a thing.
In her letter to the Ohio Valley District Convention in 1938, Stella Perry wrote that the Founders knew exactly what they wanted in this new group that would share and expand their friendship. She states, “We wanted to be sure of a democratic fraternity, democratic in choosing members, democratic in internal government. . .” In this quote, and the other paragraphs of this letter, there is no reference for a need to look at religion, body type, bank balance, political leanings, race or even gender identity. In fact, “democratic in choosing members” speaks volumes.
With Zoom, as I conducted workshops and information calls, I saw and spoke with sisters who were studious and quiet, those who were eager to share, those who were creative. Some had accents to their speech. Some had physical challenges. A few lived and shared their religion through hijabs on their heads or crosses on their walls. Different races and ethnicities appeared as well. The diversity of membership could be seen at a glance—something that had not hit me nearly as clearly during attendance at several AOII Conventions.
The Founders shared their objective for the Fraternity: to encourage love among its members, choose members who will stand with character, dignity and scholarship and who will put the best interests of their college, university or community ahead of themselves or the Fraternity. That hasn’t changed.
We are the result of a friendship of four open-minded, caring white women in high-necked, long skirted dresses. We have grown into exactly what, I believe, they envisioned—a group of women who reflect our times, demonstrate our values, support each other and our communities, and work to make the world around us a kinder and more generous place to exist.
Stella always said that each one of us is a Founder. She, Helen, Jesse and Bess wrote for us a Ritual that outlined universal values, character attributes, methods for living our lives and treating others. The words they wrote have not “outlived their usefulness” AND our membership has grown, maintained and internalized those teachings for almost 125 years. We must continue as we began.
Final confession: I greatly prefer in-person contact with my sisters. However, from time to time, the visual of 30 faces and places on a single screen can be a happy eye-opener.