Sigma Gamma Rho
FoundedNovember 12, 1922; 101 years ago (1922-11-12) by Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little and 6 others
Butler University; Indianapolis, Indiana
EmphasisAfrican American
SloganGreater Service, Greater Progress
Colors  Royal Blue
FlowerYellow Tea Rose
MascotThe Poodle
PublicationThe Aurora
NicknamesSGRhos, Lady Sigmas, Sigma Women, Sigmas, Pretty Poodles
Headquarters1000 Southhill Drive, Suite 200
Cary, NC 27513

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (ΣΓΡ) is a historically African American sorority, international collegiate, and non-profit community service organization that was founded on November 12, 1922. The organization was formed as a club in 1920, by seven African American women in Indianapolis, Indiana. At its inception, the sorority was created to support Black women pursuing degrees in education.[2][3] It was incorporated within Indiana in November 1922 as a sorority for school teachers and held their first national conference in 1925.[3] The sorority became a national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929, when a charter was granted to the Alpha chapter then established at Butler University that year.[3] The sorority was incorporated as a national collegiate sorority in 1930.[4] Sigma Gamma Rho is the only sorority of the four historically African American National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities founded at a predominantly White institution instead of at Howard University.The sorority's slogan is "Greater Service, Greater Progress".[5][6]

Sigma Gamma Rho has over 100,000 members with more than 500 undergraduate and alumnae chapters in the United States, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Canada, Germany, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands, Tokyo and the United Arab Emirates.[5][6]

Sigma Gamma Rho has affiliate groups for women at different stages in life: Rhosebuds (elementary-age girls), the Rhoer Club Affiliates (teenage girls), and the Philos Affiliates (friends of the sorority). It has launched programs such as Sigma Teen Towns in the 1940s and formed partnerships with the March of Dimes, USA Swimming and others.[5]


Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was organized on November 12, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana, by seven young African American women: Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian Irene White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, Bessie Mae Downey Rhoades Martin, and Cubena McClure.[4]

The group, with the help of Robert Lee Brokenburr, became incorporated as a sorority for school teachers in Indiana in 1922. Brokenburr told the group: "You young ladies have started something Great and Wonderful for the Women of our Country.[4]" When it was incorporated in 1922, the membership was intended for teachers. However, in 1929, A charter was granted to the sorority's Alpha chapter once the group met the requirements for membership for establishing a sorority at Butler University and in 1930 new articles of incorporation were filed that allowed women of all professions as members as long as they had or were attending a recognized college.[4] Since its inception, the dynamic women of Sigma Gamma Rho have built and sustained a well-known and well-respected reputation for leading positive change to help uplift the community through sisterhood, leadership, and service.

In 2022 the Sorority held their Centennial Celebration at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.[7] In partnership with the Indiana Historical Bureau, the Sorority dedicated a historical marker outside of the Bona Thompson Memorial Center in Irvington, Indiana, the city where the Sorority began.[8]

Membership and structure

Sigma Gamma Rho has welcomed more than 100,000 collegiate and professional women from every profession. The sorority has more than 500 chapters in the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands,Tokyo and the United Arab Emirates. The organization also has active affiliate groups devoted to empowering women at different stages in life. The Rhoer Club Affiliates (teenage girls) and Philos Affiliates (friends of the sorority) also assist alumnae chapters with various service efforts and programs.

Sigma Gamma Rho’s commitment to service is expressed in its slogan, “Greater Service, Greater Progress.” The sorority has a proud history of providing positive and proactive community outreach nationally and internationally. The programs, partnerships, and sponsorships represent Sigma Gamma Rho’s commitment to promoting the greater good in education, service, and leadership development. In 2004, the National Headquarters moved from Chicago, Illinois to its current home in Cary, North Carolina. Sigma women are dedicated to helping each other and their personal success is recognized in The AURORA and through various awards.[9]

International Grand Basileus

Listed below are the International Grand Basilei[10] since the inception of the sorority on the campus of Butler University. An asterisk (*) denotes a deceased person.[11]



Since its inception, Sigma Gamma Rho has promoted unity among women and for years many alumnae chapters worked with individuals who were not members of Greek-lettered organizations. These women were organized into auxiliaries that had various names until 1954 when the sorority officially approved the organized affiliate group and accepted the name of "Philo" (meaning, "friend") as their official name.

In 1980, the Philos[13] were organized on a national level and have grown to represent hundreds of women organized on a regional level as well. The Philos have contributed countless hours of community service and thousands of dollars to aid Sigma Gamma Rho's aim to enhance the quality of life within every community.


The Rhoer Club is an affiliate of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. The Rhoer Club consists of a diverse group of young ladies between the ages of twelve and eighteen who demonstrate high scholastic standards. Rhoer Clubs are organized, maintained, and sponsored by local graduate chapters within each of the geographical regions of the Sorority.

The program consists of training and guidance in education, community service, vocation, fine arts, and social affairs. The program also provides the young women with the energy, support, commitment, and encouragement of the Sorors of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. to help them develop and succeed in their life’s endeavors.


The Rhosebud Club is an affiliate group consisting of a diverse group of girls ages 8 through 11 years of age. Delicate like the petals of a rosebud, this affiliate group is handled with special care and attention.

The local chapters of Sigma seek to play a role in helping to cultivate girls as they grow into young ladies who are well-rounded and will embody the qualities needed to be good students and productive citizens.

National Programs

Operation BigBookBag

Operation BigBookBag [14] is a program designed to address the needs, challenges and issues that face school-aged children who are educationally at-risk, in local homeless shelters and extended-care hospitals and facilities. Through this program, chapters and members collect and donate educational materials, equipment and school supplies.

Women’s Wellness Initiative

The Women’s Wellness Initiative is a consolidated effort that allows chapters to focus on health issues that impact women; specifically, women of color. The Women’s Wellness Initiative was developed after the Sorority’s participation in the United Nations/March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness panel in New York. Acceptable educational and programmatic efforts under this Initiative include, but are not limited to Breast Cancer Awareness, Intimate and Domestic Violence, Heart Health, Diabetes Health, Mental Health and other issues that target women. WWI programs can be conducted at any time during the sorority year.

Swim 1922

Swim 1922 was created to address the unfortunate truth that according to the CDC, approximately 10 people drown every day in the U.S.A. An even more startling fact is that 70 percent of African American children and 60 percent of Hispanic children in the U.S. do not know how to swim. Additionally, African American children are three times more likely to drown than Caucasian children. Through the partnership with USA Swimming, Sigma Gamma Rho’s Swim 1922 campaign aims to address this disparity by having. Olympians and members of the sorority teach the community about water safety and how to swim. With USA Swimming, Sigma Gamma Rho has touched close to 20,000 lives, directly, with the projection of changing multiple generations to come. Swim 1922 programs are conducted during May–August of the sorority year.

Project CRADLE Care

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s Project CRADLE Care is one of the essential programs designed to raise awareness of disparate and inequitable maternal and infant health outcomes Black women endure through community outreach, advocacy, education, and implicit bias training. In so doing, Sigma aim to mitigate outcome and life-course disparities in our communities.

Through Project CRADLE Care, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and the March of Dimes collaborate to address the issues that adversely affect Black women and their children ranging from chronic physiological stressors and underlying health conditions to structural racism and implicit biases in our healthcare system.

Annual Youth Symposium

Held simultaneously, on the second Saturday of March by Alumnae Chapters across the nation, our Youth Symposium serves as a unifying effort during Sigma Week. The Symposium (supported by undergraduate chapters and affiliates) is designed to highlight some of the prevalent concerns that negatively impact our youth (drugs, teen violence, abuse, low self-esteem, suicide, teen pregnancy, human trafficking, etc.).


Main article: List of Sigma Gamma Rho chapters

The sorority has chapters across the United States and around the world.

Hazing controversies

The New York Times wrote about two hazing incidents involving the sorority. In 2008, a pledge at San Jose State University filed a civil suit against the sorority after being severely beaten, harassed, and threatened to keep the abuse a secret. Four sorority members were arrested and served 90 days in county jail. In 2010, at Rutgers University, six Sigma Gamma Rho women were arrested and charged with a felony after striking one pledge over 200 times which forced her to seek medical attention.[15]

In March 2022, the sorority was expelled from Bowling Green State University following reports of "severe hazing"; the sorority committed at least six policy violations of the BGSU Code of Student Conduct including aggravated assault and forcing pledges to steal alcohol and marijuana.[16]

Notable members

See also


  1. ^ "About".
  2. ^ Members, certificate of incorporation, by-laws. Indianapolis, IN: State of Indiana. 1922. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.50483.
  3. ^ a b c Indiana Historical Bureau (September 1, 2022). "Sigma Gamma Rho". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Schwartz White, Pearl (1974). Behind These Doors-A Legacy: A History of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority. Chicago, IL: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
  5. ^ a b c Anson, Jack L.; Marchenasi, Robert F., eds. (1991) [1879]. Baird's Manual of American Fraternities (20th ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Baird's Manual Foundation, Inc. p. IV-81–85. ISBN 978-0963715906.
  6. ^ a b William Raimond Baird; Carroll Lurding (eds.). "Almanac of Fraternities and Sororities (Baird's Manual Online Archive)". Student Life and Culture Archives. University of Illinois: University of Illinois Archives. Retrieved November 12, 2022. The main archive URL is The Baird's Manual Online Archive homepage.
  7. ^ "Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. | 100 Year Celebration". Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  8. ^ IHB (September 1, 2022). "Sigma Gamma Rho". IHB. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  9. ^ "Her Story - Notable Sigmas".
  10. ^ "Office of the Grand Basileus". Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
  11. ^ "Past Grand Basilei". Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
  12. ^ "Cleo Higgins". Bethune-Cookman University Oral History Collection. Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  13. ^ "Philo Affiliates".
  14. ^ "National Programs - Service Gallery".
  15. ^ Lewin, Tamar (October 6, 2010). "Hazing Accusations Against a Sorority (Published 2010)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
  16. ^ "BGSU statement regarding the permanent expulsion of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority". Bowling Green State University. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  17. ^ "Prince George's County, Maryland State's Attorney". Maryland Manual On-Line. Retrieved September 6, 2022. Member, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., 1996-.
  18. ^ Becque, Fran (March 28, 2022). "Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry, Sigma Gamma Rho". Fraternity History & More. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  19. ^ "Local sorority members react to Sandra Bland's death". WOIO. July 22, 2015.