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          The Association for Women in Communications

HomeAWC History: 1909

AWC Timeline: 1909

The time was 1909 and the place was the University of Washington, the second university in the nation to establish a journalism department. In April of that year, journalism professor Merle Thorpe encouraged his seven female students to join forces on the first women’s edition of the college newspaper, the Pacific Daily Wave. Helen Ross was the editor and Georgina MacDougall and Helen Graves were assistant editors. This experience inspired Georgina MacDougall. “All of a sudden” she developed the idea to start an honorary women’s journalism fraternity. She immediately took her ideas to Helen Ross. They wanted the fraternity to become a breeding ground for the best of the best female writers in the future. They recruited the other five female journalism students: Blanche Brace, Helen Graves, Rachel Marshall, Olive Mauermann and Irene Somerville. Together they formed the Alpha chapter of Theta Sigma Phi with the mission to raise the standards of journalism, improve working conditions for women in the profession and inspire the individual to greater efforts. To symbolize their mission, they adopted an official insignia, which was a reproduction of the matrix on a linotype machine. The matrix was chosen for its broader meaning as “a place where something takes form or develops.” By 1910, the Alpha chapter had granted a charter to the Beta chapter at the University of Wisconsin, marking the beginning of Theta Sigma Phi’s history as a national organization. Theta Sigma Phi started another legacy in 1915, when the Alpha chapter published Volume 1, Number 1 of The Matrix, “a magazine for women in journalism.”