What does Zeta and SGRho have in common?

Fannie Rosalind Givens!

In the early 1920s Fannie Rosalind Givens and her namesake daughter Fannie Rosalind Givens travelled as missionaries to Europe and Africa. The elder Fannie was a notable portrait artist who would join Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and become one of the earliest black women to work for the police department in Louisville, Kentucky. The younger Fannie would pursue a career as a teacher, and join a sorority founded by a group of black teachers at Butler University in Indiana, Sigma Gamma Rho.


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By 1931 they achieved something remarkable: both ladies were serving their respective sororities as Grand Basileus. The younger Fannie married Horatio O’Bannon and would be elected as Fannie O’Bannon to serve as Sigma Gamma Rho’s 3rd Grand Basileus from 1927-1931. She would also notably design the coat of arms for the sorority. The elder Fannie would become Zeta Phi Beta’s 7th Grand Basileus, elected at the December 1930 Boulé and serving until 1933.

O’Bannon has been credited with steering Sigma Gamma Rho through the difficult years of its organizational infancy. These difficulties were heightened by the Great Depression as many women had less discretionary funds with which to pay dues. Zeta Phi Beta would confront the same set of circumstances, and Givens held the sorority steady through the cash-strapped years. According to 1930 census records, the two women lived in the same household, which begs the question, was there any consulting, or attempts to consult?

“So where’s your Boulé going to be this year?”

“Not telling.”

“Why not?

“Because you’re not a member, duh.”

With the crippling effects of the Great Depression, it seems reasonable to believe that there was a certain degree of strategizing to ensure the success of both sororities, simply because as a mother, Givens would not want her daughter to fail and as a daughter, O’Bannon would not want her mother to fail. At the time Zeta did not have a centralized headquarters yet and if the same is true for Sigma Gamma Rho, wouldn’t that mean that the two sororities actually shared a headquarters?


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