In 1913, a group of women at Iowa State University joined together to form a local sorority called Zeta Iota. As their friendships became stronger, the group sought official recognition from a national sorority. In 1917 the group petitioned the national organization of Gamma Phi Beta, but because of World War I, their petition was delayed. Finally, in July 1918 the national office accepted their petition. However, before they could continue with their chapter’s installation, the flu epidemic of 1918 broke out on Iowa State’s campus and the women had to again postpone their plans because the campus was in quarantine. Finally, on December 21, 1918, the Omega Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta was installed at Iowa State.
Twenty-one members immediately began to work on building a new house on Pearson Avenue in late 1918. As a local sorority, the women had been living in a house at 2228 Lincoln Way. The house, remembered Florence Browne Quist, had no yard or landscaping. Built below street level, the basement usually filled with puddles of water when it rained. Because of all the water in their home, the girls received the name “Swamp Angels.” In addition, the members enjoyed the many dances Zeta Iota held in their home. The men wore suits and the women wore long party dresses, and dancers exchanged partners throughout the night.
Gamma Phi Beta promotes high scholarship and social culture, and participates in many campus activities. Their motto is “Faith and Good Will,” and the sorority’s early work was devoted to charity. During World War I, the Omega Chapter organized a Milk Bottle Campaign that gave over $7,000 to families in Belgium. They also helped with the annual Christmas party for less-fortunate children in Ames and pledged financial support to help a young girl with tuberculosis. One member of Zeta Iota, Horten Scwine, was a dietician and served in the Navy during World War I. She was in command of the food service at the Navy Base Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. During the flu epidemic of 1918, she contracted the disease and died of it. She received full military honors and became the only woman listed with the other male Gold Star members of World War I in the Gold Star Hall at the Memorial Union.
In 1962, the chapter received a major boost with an addition to their house. They added sleeping and study rooms, a dining room, laundry and typing room, as well as three bathrooms. Almost twenty years later, the chapter made the last payment on the mortgage, and on Founders Day, November 11, 1981, chapter leaders burned the mortgage in celebration.
Gamma Phi Beta Christmas, 2003
Gamma Phi Beta at Dance Marathon, 2004