March 22, 2024

Growing Delta Zeta –  Elizabeth Coulter Stephenson, Order of the Laurel

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Delta Zeta Women's Membership Organization | Delta Zeta Sorority

March kicks off Women’s History Month, and this year’s national theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Throughout Delta Zeta’s history, we have had many members who lived this through their actions on behalf of the sorority. A cherished tradition from Theta Upsilon, which merged with Delta Zeta in 1962, the Order of the Laurel honors members for sorority service of unusual merit and covering a period of many years. According to the Delta Zeta Constitution, Article XX, National Awards, Section 3, The Order of the Laurel was established to honor those members for sorority service of exceptional merit covering a period of many years.

At the 1985 Convention, then National Treasurer Anne Marie Jones Gavin, Delta Iota – Tufts (MA), announced that Elizabeth Coulter Stephenson had been awarded the Order of the Laurel posthumously.  She was born on March 14, 1881, in the country near Oxford, Ohio, and was the second of five children. Upon graduating from Oxford College in 1902, Miss Coulter received the Bachelor of Arts degree and was given second honors in the classical course. The following fall, she entered Miami University and numbered among her friends the Founders of Delta Zeta.

Her interest in Delta Zeta began one spring day in 1903 when Anna Simmons approached her in the main hall of Miami University and asked her to become a member of Delta Zeta, explaining the purpose of the budding organization. This appealed strongly to the girl known as Bess Coulter by her classmates so that there was little hesitation in accepting the invitation. 

In March 1903, she was the first one initiated into Delta Zeta. Upon graduating from Miami University with a degree in Bachelor of Pedagogy, she went to teach in the high school in Franklin, Ohio. The summer of 1904 saw her in Miami summer school. In the fall of 1904, Miss Coulter resumed her work in the Franklin High School, where she continued to teach until 1906.

Her first real work for Delta Zeta was the reorganization the Sorority in 1906. All her spare time in the summer and fall of that year was spent in correspondence with alumnae of Delta Zeta laying plans for the reconstruction of the organization. This resulted in the first National Assembly of Delta Zeta in 1907 in Dayton.

During this time, she accepted a position as a proofreader in a large publishing house in Cincinnati. She was employed there for three months after which time she was persuaded by Professor Dyer, the Superintendent of the public schools in Cincinnati and her former instructor at Miami, to go back to teaching. In January 1907, she began to teach in the public school of Cincinnati where she taught until 1909, but spent the year 1907-1908 at Cornell University where she received her Master of Arts degree for advanced work in English. In 1909, she went to teach in the Norwood High School near Cincinnati. This was her happiest and most successful year of teaching, although it was her last for her marriage to Mr. Henry Lee Stephenson, a prominent merchant of Portland, Oregon, took place July 14, 1910.

While at Cornell, Miss Coulter, established the second chapter of Delta Zeta while the Alpha Chapter was being reorganized. The founding of this chapter was one of the happiest events of her life. Not one refusal met her invitation, to become a charter member of Beta Chapter, by the girls who were then and have even since been her devoted friends.

Our second National President, she was elected to the Grand Presidency in 1912, even as she was just recovering from a serious illness much of the correspondence had to be done in bed, Mrs. Stephenson went to work with a will. Her idea was to get every Delta Zeta to work her very hardest for the Sorority. She regarded as her most important work from Delta Zeta the reorganization in 1907, founding the Beta Chapter, founding of the Kappa Chapter and the making of a National Constitution.

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