The founding of sororities began well over 150 years ago, when the term sorority hadn’t even been conceived, giving each of the 26 NPC member organizations a deep and rich history. Every member of one of these 26 organizations has her own story and journey within the greater Panhellenic community. Recently the story of one lifelong sorority member was brought to attention after her daughter-in-law Launi Elliott, a member of Delta Delta Delta, found a Zeta Tau Alpha membership badge among her mother-in-law's things after her passing. Elliott then contacted the NPC office in Indianapolis for guidance on returning the pin.
NPC office staff connected Elliott with the Zeta Tau Alpha International Office to shed some light on the history of the badge. Here’s the story of the owner and the badge:
The badge belonged to Edith May Lyons, or May as she was often referred to. May was initiated on May 4, 1929, as a charter member of the Beta Rho chapter at the University of Manitoba located in Canada. May went on to receive her master’s degree in science while also participating in research at the University of Toronto.
May’s badge had been found in a leather case that held a pearl-accented badge attached to a Beta Rho gold guard. Also in the case was a white violet 50-year member pin, truly highlighting that sorority isn’t for four years - it is for life. Within Zeta Tau Alpha, it is customary to return a members badge after she passes, bury it with her if requested or pass it to a legacy member. Seeing as there were no legacy members to pass the badge too, Elliott thought it best to return the badge. Now the badge and its contents have been safely returned to the Zeta Tau Alpha International Office. May’s badge will sit proudly in the ZTA Historical and Educational Center, set to open later this year at the International Office.
In correspondence with Elliott, Zeta Tau Alpha Archivist Patti Cords Levitte stated the Balfour leather case was in “the best condition I’ve ever seen for one of those – usually they are falling apart from age.” Levitte also stated that having “the badge of a charter member to display is very special.”
May’s story is a great reminder of why sorority women wear our badges proudly each year on International Badge Day. This year International Badge Day will take place on Monday, March 4. Sorority women around the world will be proudly displaying their badges and their pride in being a lifelong sorority woman.