Emma Brownlee Kilgore was the first president of I.C. Sorosis. She graduated from Monmouth College in 1868 and married Dr. Jahiel C. Kilgore on October 25, 1870. She was the only founder to live continuously in Monmouth. She and Dr. Kilgore were childless.
In later years, Fraternity historians found her to be the greatest source of information concerning the Fraternity’s founding. She attended the 1897 Madison Convention and a delegate described her as “a charming little woman, abounding in reminiscences of those early days of ‘67, and her explanations and elaborations were much enjoyed by the listeners, as she is possessed of a quaint humor and a ready wit.”
Her wit comes through in several letters we have in the archives.
In a letter written from a Chicago address on December 23, 1907 she answers Historian Jeannette Zeppenfield’s question about the first convention.
“The old I.C.s are lovely shirks. Whenever they receive a letter ‘making history’ they send it to me – ‘please answer immediately’ and feel their duty is accomplished and their consciences are at rest. But unfortunately for Lib Gaddis’ reputation for promptness her victim was in Chicago and thus the delay. I hasten to write; the trouble is you later day saints except too much of your founders who were common mortals.”
In a letter written in 1911 to “My dear girls,” she writes, “The most important things on earth were once small. If we I.C.s who met in 1867 could have seen Pi Beta Phi of today, what would have been uppermost in our minds? We did not comprehended the ball we set in motion. When the postman hands me the Arrow my hand and heart grow large when I say, ‘Yes, that is ours.’ I can see the girls as we met in Ada’s and Lib’s room…The young men were very anxious to know the meaning of I.C. We soon informed them it might mean Ice Cream.”
In 1913, before women had won the right to vote, she responded to a letter sent by the Arrow Editor asking for 200 word responses to “Why are you a suffragist?” Emma wrote,
“Before the day of women’s fraternities I had very pronounced views favoring Woman Suffrage.
1st Because it is right.
2nd Who has the “right” to say no?
3rd “Taxation without Representation”
4th Could we corrupt Politics?
5th No member of the Pi Beta Phi fraternity wishes to be classed with the insane and idiotic brother. Why do you want me to write two hundred words? The above is sufficient to convince right-minded people, and I do not care to write to the other class.
Fraternally and maternally,
Emma Brownlee Kilgore
P.S. If any Pi Phi wishes to answer the above facts, they can address me at 912 Boulevard, Miami, Florida.”
She attended several conventions after the one in 1897. She had planned to attend the 1925 Lake of Bays Convention, but alas, it was not meant to be. She passed away before the convention took place.