Mothers’ clubs, or what today are more often known as parents’ clubs, have been an important part of many Phi Tau chapters for years. But a concept unique to Phi Kappa Tau is Phi Eta Sorority, an organization whose membership was comprised of the mothers of Phi Kappa Tau men that was founded at the University of Southern California, at Los Angeles on January 17, 1927. The members of Pi chapter conceived the idea of a national organization, believing that the mothers thus banded together would become not only a strong ally but also a source of mutual pleasure and benefit to the mothers themselves.
After much planning and discussion, the members of Pi submitted the plan to their local mothers’ club. After due deliberation, committees to draft the constitution and ritual were appointed. Both were then printed and bound. When an agreement had been reached upon the Greek-letter name, designs for a badge were submitted and that of Lyman Hazzard, USC ’25, was chosen. An attractive coat of arms, containing much Phi Eta symbolism, was designed by Raymond Harvey, USC ’28. Mrs. Libby Rohr Cutting, mother of Henry Rohr, USC ’25, was the first grand president. Great credit is due Henry Rohr, who worked to bring the sorority to the attention of other chapters of Phi Kappa Tau. He presented the organizational plans to the 1927 national convention of Phi Kappa Tau, the first and only Phi Kappa Tau convention held outside of the United States, and the fraternity at that meeting approved the concept and organization of Phi Eta.
Working with Phi Tau
The relationship with Phi Kappa Tau is described in an introduction to its constitution: “Politically and socially, the policy of Phi Eta toward Phi Kappa Tau chapters is ‘hands off.’ The policy of noninterference with the fraternity should be constantly guarded. It is ours to furnish the ‘mother touch.’ Any gossip regarding fraternity affairs is forever taboo.” Locally, the objectives of Phi Eta were to stand for cooperation with every worthwhile movement of the university or college of which the local Phi Kappa Tau chapter had a part.
The sorority had rapid growth. By the end of 1928 seven chapters were established, and twenty-one chapters were listed in the Laurel Wreath, a magazine published in January 1935. But the effect of World War II was serious. In June, 1947, at the national convention, Phi Kappa Tau withdrew recognition from Phi Eta, which had only a few chapters operating, and encouraged the remaining few chapters to continue operating as local mothers’ clubs.
Records of Delta chapter of Phi Eta at Colorado and the correspondence of Josie Klotzbach, mother of Willis O. Klotzbach, Lafayette ’34, and president of Phi Eta’s Sigma chapter at Lafayette, have been preserved in the fraternity archives and provide insight into this unique organization, which has been out of existence for nearly fifty years.
Charter of the Phi Eta Sorority
That we, the undersigned officers of
the Phi Eta Sorority, by virtue of the authority
vested in us, do hereby impose trust in members
of the local Mothers Club of xxxxx Chapter
of Phi Kappa Tau, that they will always be
guided by the ideals of Phi Eta.
Knowing that such trust will be
faithfully fulfilled, we do with this charter grant
the privilege of being recognized as xxxxx
Chapter of Phi Eta with permission to conduct
and carry on any and all business necessary to
the permanence and best interests of said chapter.
Given at xxxxx, xxxxx this xxxxx day
of xxxxx in the year of our Lord one thousand
nine hundred xxxxx.
Witness our hands and the great seal of the sorority.
Grand Secretary Grand President
From Old Main to a New Century, Charles T. Ball
The Golden Jubilee History of Phi Kappa Tau: Fifty Years of Fellowship, Jack L. Anson
Phi Kappa Tau – Alpha Delta Records
Phi Eta – Nu Records