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Philalethean Literary Society records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 101

Scope and Contents

The Philalethean Literary Society records document the meetings and events of Purdue University’s first women’s club. The record ledgers document the public and secret weekly meetings of the society from 1890-1920. These ledgers contain information on membership and offices, programs and presentations, as well as the society’s interactions with the male literary societies and University administration. The ephemera portion of the collection is comprised primarily of prototype and printed versions of programs for the society’s annual events as well as co-sponsored events (with the male literary societies). Also included in this portion of the collection are two versions of the Philalethean’s constitution and bylaws (one from 1890 and the other undated), and some clippings from the 1904 Debris. The collection might be useful for researchers interested in women’s history, Purdue University history, literary societies, extracurricular activities of female students, nineteenth and twentieth century material culture, and the impact of Deans McRae and Shoemaker. Types of material include: records ledgers, programs, photos, and printed materials.


  • 1877 - 1924


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

All copyrights belong to Purdue University.

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.


0.70 Cubic Feet (One full-width legal size manuscript box, one half-width letter size manuscript box)


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


This collection is organized chronologically by type into two series.
  1. Ephemera
  2. Record Ledgers

Acquisition Information

Collection was transferred from Purdue University Libraries.

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
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
First edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States