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Philalethean Literary Society Records, Purdue University

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 101
Records of the Philalethean Literary Society, the first literary club for women students at Purdue University.


  • 1877-1920


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All copyrights belong to Purdue University.


0.70 Cubic Feet

0.70 cubic feet (2 mss. boxes) other_unmapped

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 mss._boxes


This collection contains records ledgers, photos, and event programs documenting the activities of the Philalethean Literary Society, as well as their published constitution.

Biographical or 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 founding of a literary club.  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 advisor for the society, instituted a Philalethean award that she awarded to an undergraduate woman 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 Philalethian 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 Exponent.  The last appearance of the Philalethean in the student handbook is in the 1935 edition.  It appears that as the extracurricular activities available to women became more diverse, interest in the Philalethian declined. Sources: Philalethean Literary Society records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Debris Yearbooks, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Student Handbooks, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University The Purdue, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University The Exponent, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Purdue University, 50 Years of Progress, Purdue History in Print Collection, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Board of Trustees Minutes, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University

Note written by Virginia Pleasant

Arrangement Note

This Collection is organized into two series: Philalethean Literary Society Ephemera, 1877-1924  (0.2 cubic feet)  The Philalethean Literary Society ephemera are composed primarily of programs from events that the society sponsored or cosponsored.  Also included are published versions of the society’s constitution and some photo clippings from the 1904 edition of Debris. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically and by type.   Philalethean Literary Society Record Ledgers, 1890-1920 (0.5 cubic feet) The Philalethean Literary Society ledgers document the meetings of the Philalethean society.  The minutes include administrative and attendance information, as well as subject matter for society presentations. Materials in the series are arranged chronologically except when loose papers were previously filed out of order.

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

Irving Literary Society records Emma Montgomery McRae papers Deans of Women papers

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.  All newsprint has been photocopied and in most cases original newspaper clippings have been discarded. Metal fasteners have been removed when integrity of documents will not be threatened.
Philalethean Literary Society Records, Purdue University
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 W. State Street
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States