Women at MSU: The Themian Society

As a new member of Campus Archaeology I have begun my research in the University Archives. Looking through the keepsakes of Irma Thompson with Amy Michael, one document specifically stood out to me: a booklet about the Themian Society. The booklet, published in 1922, commemorates the society, which was the second social organization for women at Michigan State University, then the Michigan Agricultural College. The booklet features information about the society, the school, and letters to the national chapter from faculty members, including the Dean of Women, who praise the accomplishments of the local chapter.

Booklet from Themian Society
Booklet from Themian Society. Courtesy MSU Archives

The Themians were a literary society for women on campus founded by eleven women in January of 1898. One of the founding members, Irma Thompson, was one of the main efforts in the establishment of the society and was the first secretary. Irma and her family moved to the area while she was in high school in order for her to attend college. Here she majored in the Women’s Course and participated in many campus activities, including the Themian Society.

The name of the Themian Society was chosen after Themis, the Grecian goddess of justice, as the society was dedicated to help in societal matters and “cultural advancement”. In order to become an active member in the society, the women were required to have an average grade of eighty or above and they needed to participated in at least two campus activities of their own choosing. Additional societal events took place throughout the year, including a formal banquet named the Themian German, a ball, and faculty teas.

In 1900 after the construction of Morrill Hall, the women’s dormitory on campus, the Themian Society was given a room specifically to hold its meetings, which was still in use at the time of this booklet’s publication. The Themian Society later became nationally known as Kappa Kappa Gamma, with MSU’s local chapter of Delta Gamma, which is still active today.

Rules for the Themian Society
Rules for the Themian Society. Courtesy MSU Archives

Also included with the booklet was a document called the “Themian Themes”, which outlined the constitution for the Themian Alumnae Association. Here it states that the annual dues for the National Association of Alumnae were one dollar, which included a subscription to the “newspaper”.

As an officer for a women’s group on campus, Graduate Women In Science, it is interesting to discover the history of this group on campus and how it differs from societies and sororities for women today. I hope that through my work through Campus Archaeology I will be able to continue to research the experiences of women here at MSU.


Author: Nicole Geske

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