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Philalethean Literary Society (Purdue University)



  • Existence: 1877 - 1936

Historical Information

The Philalethean was a women's literary society at Purdue University that was founded in 1877 after a petition by women students for the creation of a literary club was sanctioned by the University. Prior to their recognition and sponsorship by the University, the group was known as the Cereal Society and hosted annual programs in 1876 and 1877. The first president of the Philalethean was Derexa Morey Errant. Errant also held the honor of coming up with the name of the society, which she borrowed from the Philalethean Society at Vassar (where she had previously attended).

At its inception, the Philalethean was the only University sponsored extracurricular activity for women. The society's activities were modeled after those of the Irving Literary Society (the only male literary society on campus at the time), and focused on literature, music, and debate. The Philalethean found strong support from early Deans of Women, including Emma McRae and Carolyn Shoemaker. McRae's contributions were memorialized by the McRae Medal, which was awarded to a senior member of the Philalethean at their annual banquet for the duration of McRae's tenure at Purdue. Shoemaker, who was both a member and adviser for the society, instituted a Philalethean award that she awarded to undergraduate women of outstanding literary achievement each year.

Eventually the Philalethean was joined by two other women's literary societies, the Eurodelphian and the Anonian. Shoemaker was also responsible for the merging of the Philalethean and the Eurodelphian in 1933, in the interest of strengthening both groups through increased interest and membership. Members of the Philalethean contributed significantly (along with the Irving and Carlyle Literary Societies) to the founding and production of both The Purdue and the The Exponent newspapers. The last appearance of the Philalethean in the student handbook is in the 1936 edition. It appears that as the extracurricular activities available to women became more diverse, interest in the Philalethean declined.


MSP 101, Philalethean Literary Society records, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Collection of literary society constitutions

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 143
Scope and Contents The Collection of Literary Society constitutions documents the constitutions and amendments of three literary societies at Purdue University, as well as the Purdue Pharmaceutical Society.  The literary societies included are: Irving, Carlyle, and Philalethean.  This collection might be useful for researchers interested in information on any of these societies or literary societies in general, extracurricular activities of students, and Purdue history.  The collection is comprised of a ledger...
Dates: 1882

Philalethean Literary Society records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 101
Overview This collection contains records ledgers, photos, and event programs documenting the activities of the Philalethean Literary Society, as well as their published constitution.
Dates: 1877 - 1924

The Purdue student newspaper (1880s) collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 245
Scope and Contents Includes a complete run of The Purdue student newspaper of the 1880s, which ran from 1882-1888. A total of 54 issues appear in the collection, separated into six volumes. Volume 1 has eight issues, published monthly from November 1882 until June 1883. Volumes 2 through 6 have nine issues each, published monthly from October to June. There is also a Special Edition issue published in June 1888, in addition to the regularly published June issue for that year. Also present in the...
Dates: November 1882 - June 1888