How Did Fraternities Start?

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If you are a student at a university or college, you will be well-known with the word ‘Fraternity’. Usually, if you follow the meaning of this word in the dictionary, it will tell you that fraternity means a group of people who share a common profession or interest. The members of that fraternity group have common goals in life and also have the same aspirations. All of them learn together and grab the knowledge to ease the growth of the entire fraternity. It is the common experience of the members who are tied by the depth of the same knowledge together.

Usually, fraternities are the part of college and universities, but this word has the ‘Greek’ tradition. In ancient Greek, the society was developed in every segment, like education, culture, music, art, and every sector of society. Since then, the Greeks used to develop the idea of bonding between them with the same thought process, education, music, and lots of other areas of development. The idea of fraternity came from that tradition and till now, all the leading colleges and universities are based on this thing. Though the Greek society was the father figure of ‘Fraternity’, this tradition becomes important later in the American, rather in world history too. So, today, you will get to know more about the history of the fraternity.

How Did Fraternities start?

It was the mid to late 19th century, when students started to form groups on the basis of their interest. They formed it to discuss the current affairs and also to arrange debates so that they could increase their knowledge on certain issues. Earlier, there were strict guidelines of the colleges and the universities which the students had to maintain. Once they began to form the groups where they can share their common interest and discuss the issues, outside their course of study, they became more knowledgeable. They found that classroom lectures were not enough to know this vast world. That’s why they wanted to explore the other sides of their academic curriculum and also discussed more things which were not possible within the limited time of periods. Soon, they began to form literary societies to fulfill their urge to know more.

Once they set up such groups, they started meeting on a regular basis and grew deeper relationships between themselves. They started depending on each other for various matters, emotionally and intellectually. Throughout the nineteenth century, intellectual advancement was the sole priority of fraternity life. But, from the end of this century, the members concentrated on a variety of extracurricular activities, like organizing game events, sports, parties, dances, and so on.

But, such fraternities were only for men so far. Soon, the women also felt the necessity of a fraternity for them, especially in the women colleges. If you check out historical records, you will find, that the names of the women colleges were based on the Greek and classical names. Soon, the first women fraternity was founded in 1851 and it was named as Alpha Delta Pi. The women fraternity was named as sorority and Gamma Phi Beta was the first sorority to be founded in 1882.

Since the beginning, each fraternity had different types of rules and guidelines to follow. To create different types of environment in the colleges and the universities, the fraternities were based on different forms. According to history, there are certain fraternities where it was the norm to meet at the dormitory of the institute weekly and discuss social and intellectual matters.

The Chapter House

Though the idea of fraternities was becoming popular every day, there was no established group in reality. That happened in the 1890s when the Chapter House became the face of the fraternity movement and it had the physical presence for the first time. The Chapter House Movement first gave the actual shape of a fraternity in colleges and universities and soon it became popular worldwide and lots of institutions were accepting the format.

Before the Chapter House, the fraternities were rather small with a maximum of 30 members in the group. Therefore, the meetings were arranged in a dorm or hall. Besides that, the fraternities were not financially stable as there were little members who could donate money to rent a room or do anything bigger.

Later, after the 1890s, the alumni started donating money and services to the fraternity and thus secure a house for the chapter. Soon, the meetings of the members became a common phenomenon. As the members began to meet more often than ever, soon they concentrated on legal issues, mortgage payments and other improvements in the activities of the fraternities. There were active members who started dealing with regular matters of the fraternities which were far away from intellectual discussions, debates, and other aspects of knowledge. Rather, the regular members used to focus on the cleaning and maintaining their houses, even upon building it.

As the fraternity house became the point of meeting of the members more often, they started concentrating more on the recreational activities. The members also became conscious about the financial sides as now they have to maintain an entire property.

What Is ‘Rush’?

At the initial days of fraternities, people were given invitations to join a specific fraternity. Later, the number of organizations increased and soon there was a competition. Each organization wanted to make their list of members full and that’s why became more interested in the freshmen. This period of time gave the birth of the concept ‘Rush’ where the organizations used to compete with each other to increase the number of their members. Today, ‘Rush’ has the other name, ‘Recruitment’, where the chapter takes an important role to find the best members for the fraternity.

Traditions of Fraternities

The fraternities have different traditions. The first fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa (1776) used to keep their norms and details secret. Later, in 1831, they disclose their bylaws and secrets. Till today, the fraternities have their own traditions to follow. While some of the fraternities prefer to keep their constitutions and traditions secret, there are certain fraternities which prefer to publish them. There are many fraternities which began their journey on the basis of philosophy and literature from Ancient Greeks and Romans, chivalric traditions, Christian and Jewish scriptures, and so on.

At the initial stage, such lessons were important, but with time, these classic entities lost their importance and the tradition soon changed and people were losing interest in those teachings. Soon, lots of fraternities started losing the actual importance of knowledge and intellectual lessons and the maximum importance fell upon the theatrical ceremonies and other aspects. According to experts, this time in the history of fraternity is known as the ‘Hazing’ period from the roots.

Not only there is a tradition of fraternities, based on the motive of the institutions, but there were also traditions of fraternity items. There are certain fraternities which initiate badges, crest or any such items that only the members can wear.

Difference between Fraternity and Sorority

From so far discussion, the definition of a fraternity is quite clear to all. Fraternity is a group where similar minded people get together to increase their intellectuality and scholastic knowledge. Usually, the fraternity was first introduced only for men as the word has come from the Latin word, ‘Frater’ which means brother. There is always a sense of brotherhood in every type of fraternity.

When women felt the importance of forming such groups for the same purpose, they also began such groups. In the 1880s, both the groups were known as fraternity as that was the only word known at that time to address such groups. It was 1882 when the first women fraternity came into existence, and that also brought a new word for it, ‘Sorority’. This word has also come from the Latin word ‘Soror’ which means sister. Till today, there are lots of sororities which are referred with this term, but all their official works are done in the name of the fraternity.

Fraternities and sororities have a long and interesting history which was not that much known to all. With this thorough discussion, today you get to know the background of these institutions. ancient Greek Civilization was the pioneer in many things. From education to architecture, art to literature, the ancient Greek and Roman Civilizations have enriched all the existing cultures and traditions of this world. the word ‘Fraternity’ and its advancement also have seen by the world just because of Greek civilization. Today, whenever you go to any college or university, you check out the brochure to know the fraternity of the institution. This only happened because the Greek Civilization gifted it to the world.

The history of the fraternity has faced lots of turbulence and tough times. Starting from the Civil War, World War I and II, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression, etc. have tried to stop the way of fraternity, but it is the will of common people who want to know the past of the fraternity so that you can be a part of it.

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