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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 1 Collection or Record:

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