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Phi Sigma Sigma (ΦΣΣ), colloquially known as "Phi Sig," was the first collegiate nonsectarian fraternity, welcoming women of all faiths and backgrounds. Founded by 10 women on November 26, 1913, Phi Sigma Sigma is now an international sorority with 60,000 initiated members, 115 collegiate chapters and more than 100 alumnae chapters, clubs and associations across the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker.

Dedicated to the twin ideals of promoting the brotherhood of mankind and alleviation of the world’s pain, Phi Sigma Sigma strives to instill the values of leadership through service, lifelong learning and social inclusiveness in today’s young women and future leaders.


In 1913, Lillian and Ethel Gordon, two Jewish sisters attending the Normal College of the City of New York (later renamed Hunter College), attempted to join one of the local sororities. Because of their religion, however, they were turned away. The sisters struck upon a radical idea and - along with their friend and co-founding member, Fay Chertkoff - created a sorority which would be nonsectarian and all inclusive, welcoming women of all faiths and social backgrounds.

The sorority was originally called Phi Sigma Omega, until the women learned that name was already in use. On November 26, 1913, Phi Sigma Sigma was founded by the following members in its Alpha chapter at Hunter College:

  • Lillian Gordon Alpern
  • Josephine Ellison Breakstone
  • Fay Chertkoff
  • Estelle Melnick Cole
  • Jeanette Lipka Furst
  • Ethel Gordon Kraus
  • Shirley Cohen Laufer
  • Claire Wunder McArdle
  • Rose Sher Seidman
  • Gwen Zaliels Snyder

In 1918, Phi Sigma Sigma expanded by founding its Beta chapter at Tufts Universitymarker in Medford, MA, and the Gamma chapter at New York Universitymarker. In November 2009, the Delta chapter, at the University at Buffalo, was reinstalled; making it the oldest chapter active chaper. The second oldest active chapter is the Epsilon chapter at Adelphi University, in Garden City, NY, which was recolonized December 6, 2008. While other chapters were founded earlier and have been recolonized, the Xi Chapter at Temple University is the oldest chapter in continuous existence.

The official publication of Phi Sigma Sigma is The Sphinx, which first appeared in the early 1920s. The sorority's first song, "The Hymn," was written in 1921 by Pearl Lippman of the Alpha chapter and her husband, Arthur Lippman.

Phi Sigma Sigma has also established chapters in Canadamarker: Upsilon chapter (1930) at the University of Manitobamarker in Winnipegmarker, Delta Epsilon chapter (1981) at University of Windsormarker in Windsormarker, and Zeta Eta chapter (1991) at Carleton Universitymarker in Ottawamarker.


The sorority's official philanthropy is the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation, which supports the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). The Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation also provides scholarships and educational grants, as well as leadership programming to collegiate and alumnae members. The NKF has been Phi Sigma Sigma's primary philanthropic endeavor since 1971 because kidney disease was a leading health concern for women at that time. Since then, Phi Sigma Sigma has actively helped educate women, men and children about kidney disease, as well as the importance of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Indeed, the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation is a major sponsor of the National Kidney Foundation's biennial Transplant Games, a national Olympics-style event where organ-donor recipients compete in various athletic competitions, thereby highlighting the need for, and success of, organ donations and transplantation.

Following September 11, 2001, the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation established the Twin Ideals Fund to provide assistance to disaster victims. Named for Phi Sigma Sigma's twin ideals - to promote the brotherhood of man and alleviate the world's pain - the fund has contributed to aid organizations in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina.

Each year, thousands of Phi Sigma Sigma sisters participate in a philanthropic fundraising event known as "Rock-a-Thon," where they spend a marathon day gathering donations as they sit in rocking chairs located in highly public places, such as on campus, in malls and at community events. This event raises tens of thousands of dollars annually for the Foundation and NKF.

Collegiate and alumnae chapters also participate in various philanthropic events benefiting their communities. Examples of these include walking for multiple medical causes, gathering food and supplies for U.S. troops, coordinating local reading programs, fundraising so underprivileged women can attend college, providing shoes to needy children, and assisting Habitat for Humanity.

The Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation maintains a blog to keep sisters and friends of Phi Sigma Sigma updated on news, events and achievements.


  • On November 26, 1913, Phi Sigma Sigma was founded at Hunter Collegemarker in New York City.

  • In 1918, Phi Sigma Sigma expanded by founding the Beta Chapter at Tufts Universitymarker in Medford, MA, and the Gamma Chapter at New York Universitymarker. This prompted the first National Convention in New York City that same year. Delegates to the Convention adopted the fraternity's Constitution and elected the first Grand Council. Fay Chertkoff was elected the first Grand Archon.

  • In 1923, the first issue of The Sphinx, the sorority's official magazine, was published.

  • In 1930, Phi Sigma Sigma became an international sorority when it founded the Upsilon chapter at The University of Manitoba in Manitoba, Canada.

  • In 1936, Phi Sigma Sigma’s first double-letter guard, signifying the beginning of the Greek alphabet, was granted to Beta Alpha chapter at the University of Marylandmarker.

  • In 1957, the Phi Sigma Sigma Cardiology Laboratory was established at Yeshiva University College of Medicine in New York City. Phi Sigma Sigma presented a $20,000 grant to establish the laboratory.

  • In 1963, Phi Sigma Sigma celebrated its 50th year, the Golden Anniversary, in New York Citymarker. A centennial celebration is planned 2013 in New York City, as well.

  • In 1966, the sorority created its national Leadership Training School (LTS), an event scheduled during those years when no convention was planned. LTS has since been replaced with the sorority's ACHIEVE leadership and risk-management program, launched in 2006. ACHIEVE stands for "Achieve, Challenge, Honor, Integrity, Engage, Value and Excellence" - among the top values Phi Sigma Sigma sisters hold dear.

  • In 1968, the separation of Hunter Collegemarker’s two campuses prompted the original Alpha chapter to divide. Alpha Alpha was installed at the new Herbert Lehman Collegemarker in the Bronx, while Alpha chapter remained on Hunter College’s Park Avenue campus. Neither is active at this time.

  • In 1969, in an effort to provide greater focus on the philanthropic activities of Phi Sigma Sigma, the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation was created by Jeanine Jacobs Goldberg, who led the foundation as its first president.

  • In 1999, the National Make a Difference Day Award was presented to Phi Sigma Sigma in recognition of its commitment to volunteer service and community involvement. Phi Sigma Sigma sisters still participate in Make a Difference Day, which is a national event promoted by USA Weekend magazine.



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