Elizabeth Gorham Hoag
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Elizabeth Gorham Hoag

Elizabeth Gorham Hoag (1857-June 8, 1875) was one of the five founding members of Sigma Kappa sorority.

Along with Mary Caffrey Low, Ida Fuller, Frances Mann and Louise Helen Coburn, Hoag helped to form Sigma Kappa at Colby College in Waterville, Maine on November 9, 1874. The five women were the only female students at Colby at that time. Colby was the first New England college to allow the admittance of women.

Being the only women in the college, the five of them found themselves together frequently. In 1873-74, the five young women decided to form a literary and social society. They were instructed by the college administration that they would need to present a constitution and bylaws with a petition requesting permission to form Sigma Kappa Sorority. They began work during that year and on November 9, 1874, the five young women received a letter from the faculty approving their petition. They sought for and received permission to form a sorority with the intent for the organization to become national.

Hoag was described as an only child, happy and joyous, who was very artistic and wrote musical plays. She lived with her widowed mother and her Quaker grandmother, who frequently found it necessary to say, "Thee talks too much, Elizabeth." Since Hoag's mother was the organist for the village church, Mary Caffrey Low knew her prior to Colby.

Born in 1857, she was 17 when she entered Colby College. She was a conscientious student who loved languages and literature but found math to be drudgery. She literally had to memorize her textbooks on that subject. Hoag designed the first Sigma Kappa emblem.

Hoag had tuberculosis and during the winter of her sophomore year, she grew sicker. The four other founders knew she would not live long and worked hard to prepare for their first initiation on February 17, 1875 so that Hoag could see her cousin, Emily Peace Meader, initiated. (Meader wrote much of Sigma Kappa's initiation music.) Late in March, Louise Coburn received this little note: "Adored Goody, I've gin' out. I shan't brighten our pleasant retirement with my presence this week anyway." It was signed, "An Imp still." Hoag lingered through the spring and died June 8, 1875, at the age of 18. Elizabeth was mourned not only by her sorority sisters, but also by her whole class. They voted to wear mourning bands until the end of the school term in July.

Sigma Kappa now celebrates Founders' Day every November 9, in honor of the five women who created the organization.


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