By Liz Johns, Delta Omicron, National Archivist
Convention Time Travel: A 100 Year Jump to 1919
Pretty girls, peach melbas, chocolate parfaits, soft shell crabs; deeper
understanding of Greek mysteries, constitutional developments, chapter
notes; ice skating, midnight calls, elevators, taxis; … dignity, youth, songs,
love, glory in my sorority. All this was Convention to me!!!
This sounds like a pretty accurate description of Convention,
arrived in Kansas City. Lucy brought
dogs,” and “ice skating” for “The Sound of Music,” and this
four days, to cover transportation,
wouldn’t you agree? Substitute “soft shell crabs” for “Chicago could be describing the 2016 Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois. But this is actually a quote from a delegate in a letter written
after the 1919 Convention in Kansas City, Missouri (The Years
Remembered, 134). From this, it seems as though not much has changed after 100 years!
The purpose and general structure of Convention has not
changed much over the past century, and the experiences
of Tri Sigmas today at Convention are not unlike those of our
predecessors. Today there are more meetings, but also more
opportunities to connect with sisters from around the country; a little less than 100 women attended the 11th Convention in 1919, and around 700 are expected to convene at the 45th Convention in Las Vegas next year. Travel might look a bit
different, but the program, social activities and commitment to service should all be familiar. If you were to able to travel back
in time to 1919, with a change of clothes, you would fit right in at the Kansas City Convention!
In 1919, if you did not live within driving distance, you would
be purchasing a ticket at a train station rather than scanning
your smartphone app and trying not to drop it between the jet
bridge and airplane as you crossed over into a plane. Once you arrived at your destination, you still might compete with other passengers for a taxi ride to the hotel, or you could hop on a
streetcar, like Lucy Eaton, Gamma, Triangle Editor, did when she
44 the TRIANGLE | fall 2018
$60.66 ($847 today) with her for the
her hotel room, registration and other activities. She was dismayed at the 7 cents fare for the street car ride
from the train depot to the Convention location at Hotel Muehlenbach.
(In today’s dollars, that would be
about 99 cents.) In her hometown of
Birmingham, Alabama, streetcar fares
were only 5 cents at the time! Today, that same trip would cost
about $7.30 for an Uber ride, or, you could ride the new RideKC Streetcar for free, which I’m sure Lucy would appreciate. You
could even still visit the same hotel, although now, it is a Kansas City Marriott. Lucy did note, “The Muehlebach was the most thoroughly cosmopolitan of any of our Convention hotels to date!” (The Years Remembered, 132).
Celebration of service has been a tradition at Convention
since 1917. The first Social Service Chair, Florence Vickers, Iota, began her work shortly before the 1917 Convention in Chicago. This Convention was held just a few months after the United
States entered World War I, and the sorority was focusing its
service efforts with the Red Cross and War Relief. But by 1919,
with the war over, and a new social service chair, Jouette Berner Harwig, Pi, the focus had shifted towards children. A letter of thanks from a French child who had been supported by Tri
Above: Lucy Lykes Downey Eaton, Gamma, Triangle Editor (1908-1921). Lucy attended the 1919 Convention in Kansas City, MO, travelling by train from Birmingham, AL.